Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity: The Lives and Work of Intellectual Women

Overview

Examining the lives and work of historical and contemporary feminist intellectuals, Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity explores the feminist struggle to "have it all." This fascinating interdisciplinary study focuses on how feminist thinkers throughout history have long striven to balance politics, intellectual work, and the material conditions of femininity. Taking a close look at this quest for an integrated life in the autobiographical and theoretical writings of well-known feminists such as Mary ...

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Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity: The Lives and Work of Intellectual Women

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Overview

Examining the lives and work of historical and contemporary feminist intellectuals, Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity explores the feminist struggle to "have it all." This fascinating interdisciplinary study focuses on how feminist thinkers throughout history have long striven to balance politics, intellectual work, and the material conditions of femininity. Taking a close look at this quest for an integrated life in the autobiographical and theoretical writings of well-known feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Emma Goldman, and Simone de Beauvoir, alongside contemporary counterparts, like Azar Nafisi, Audre Lorde, and Ana Castillo, Marso moves beyond questions of who women are and what women want, adding an innovative personal dimension to feminist theory, showing how changing conceptions of femininity manifest themselves within all women’s lives.

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What People Are Saying

Mary Hawkesworth
In creating a conversation among pioneering feminist thinkers, who struggled to resist the demands of conventional femininity as a key component of their political activism, Lori Marso makes a critical contribution to building an "imagined community" of women as a strategy for continuing feminist struggles to achieve meaningful freedom. (Mary Hawkesworth, editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415979276
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 6/21/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Lori Marso is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Women's and Gender Studies program at Union College in Schenectady, NY.

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Table of Contents

1 Feminist genealogies : connecting women's lives 1
2 Women's situation, I : the material constraints of femininity 27
3 Women's situation, II : existential experiments with the feminine 59
4 Love in exile : reading the memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft and Germaine de Stael 83
5 A feminist search for love : Emma Goldman on the politics of marriage, love, sexuality, and the feminine 109
6 Maternal genealogies and feminist consciousness : Simone de Beauvoir on mothers, daughters, and political coalitions 131
7 Wanting it all : contemporary struggles for freedom and fulfillment 157
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2006

    An essential read!

    In Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity Lori Marso addresses a crucially important, though often ignored, feminist question: how can/do feminist intellectuals balance the demands of femininity with their feminist theories? In answering this question Marso returns to the canonical feminist texts that are at times cast aside by contemporary feminists who claim to have progressed far beyond first wave feminism. Marso reads the feminist theories of our feminist mothers alongside their memoirs and personal letters in order to uncover what comes to be an inevitable tension between living as a feminist and living as a woman. In-so-doing, Marso opens a space for all conflicted feminists who are forced to negotiate their own femininity in light of their feminist theories. By addressing these often ignored issues, Marso allows feminists the room to live as feminist women, with all the contingent complexities that may follow. Concomitantly, Marso addresses another crucial question for contemporary feminism: with all of the insights of diversity behind us, can/should feminists still hold onto the category women? By examining a number of very differently situated women, and in-so-doing revealing a common ground of struggle ¿ that of negotiating our femininity within parameters and confining structures not of our own making ¿ Marso breaths new life into the debate over the category `women¿ and its usefulness for feminist politics. Brilliantly theorized and eloquently written. A refreshing read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2006

    Excellent, Thought-Provoking, and Highly Recommended

    In Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity, Lori Marso crafts an articulate representation of how women intellectuals, in varied historical situations, have been affected by society¿s definition of femininity, even as they simultaneously sought to transform this definition in liberating ways. Marso brings to light the discrepancies in the lives and work of some of the most free-thinking and innovative mothers of feminist thought, specifically the self-doubt vocalized in their memoirs and private correspondence. In emphasizing these contradictions, Marso isolates the most centrally unifying aspect of feminist struggle: that all women constantly ¿were and are subject to the varying demands of femininity¿ (191), even feminist mothers like Wollstonecraft, Staël, Goldman, and Beauvoir. Furthermore, Marso brilliantly presents, advances, and defends her argument that the recognition of this very struggle ¿ ¿a common recognition on the part of women that our desires for freedom are limited by the constraints of femininity¿ (190) ¿ may eventually serve to unite women in effective political coalition across the lines of generation, race, sexual preference, and class. Eloquently communicated, well-supported, and profoundly innovative, the central argument of Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity is likely to resound with diverse groups of readers: from well-versed feminist intellectuals, to women who may never have formally studied feminist thought but sense society¿s imposed definition of femininity in their daily lives. Falling somewhere in between the two extremes, I would whole-heartedly recommend Marso¿s book, not only as an interesting and entertaining read ¿ which it most certainly is ¿ but more importantly as a thought-provoking work that may also open doors to self-discovery. With this volume, Marso contributes an influential addition to feminist literature.

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