Overcoming Objectification: A Carnal Ethics

Routledge (2011)
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Abstract

Objectification is a foundational concept in feminist theory, used to analyze such disparate social phenomena as sex work, representation of women's bodies, and sexual harassment. However, there has been an increasing trend among scholars of rejecting and re-evaluating the philosophical assumptions which underpin it. In this work, Cahill suggests an abandonment of the notion of objectification, on the basis of its dependence on a Kantian ideal of personhood. Such an ideal fails to recognize sufficiently the role the body plays in personhood, and thus results in an implicit vilification of the body and sexuality. The problem with the phenomena associated with objectification is not that they render women objects, and therefore not-persons, but rather that they construct feminine subjectivity and sexuality as wholly derivative of masculine subjectivity and sexuality. Women, in other words, are not objectified as much as they are derivatized, turned into a mere reflection or projection of the other. Cahill argues for an ethics of materiality based upon a recognition of difference, thus working toward an ethics of sexuality that is decidedly ­and simultaneously ­incarnate and intersubjective.

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Ann Cahill
Elon College

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