Why Feminism?: Gender, Psychology, Politics

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9780745623467: Why Feminism?: Gender, Psychology, Politics
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Why Feminism? aeoA comprehensive and lively exploration of feminism in the contemporary world. aeo Examines the shifts in feminist thinking from the emergence of womana s Liberation through to the present day. aeo Provides a vigorous defence of feminism but criticizes some of more a fashionablea accounts of gender relations. Full description

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This major new book explores the peculiar place of feminism in contemporary culture.

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From the beginning of the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960s there has been an acute tension in feminist theory; feminists have been arguing simultaneously for the abolition of gender difference and for the unique nature of women; for social equality and a better understanding of subjectivity. In Why Feminism? Segal traces an intellectual history of the movement and its internal conflicts--with a view to showing why, despite its many apparent failures, feminism remains crucially significant and challenging.

In pursuit of this thesis Segal examines in turn the intellectual origins of feminism and its move into the academy; competing theories of gender; the dangers of the new biologism and the current fixation with genetics; debates about memory and the psyche; the deficiencies of psychology; the emerging focus on masculinity; and--last but not least--the fraught relationship between feminism and psychoanalysis.

Segal is well equipped for her complicated task. First of all she is extraordinarily well read--it's not just that she has read everything, she has thought about it as well! She is a socialist feminist at heart but writes with respect and generosity about ideas with which she does not agree (except for the Genome Map, which she treats with a forceful disdain). Even in these muddy waters, and without finding many certain answers, she writes with great clarity and a sense of political awareness--pure theory at least trying to be of service to social and political transformation.

None of which makes this an easy read. It can't be. This is a history of ideas where both the history and the ideas themselves are extremely complex, nuanced, uncertain (the final chapter is titled "Only Contradictions On Offer"). But if you seriously want to know (seriously enough to put some work in) what feminist theory has been and is now thinking about and why this might matter, it would be hard to think of a better place to go. --Sarah Maitland

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