Women’s Autonomy and Feminist Aspirations

Journal of Philosophical Research 21:331-340 (1996)
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Autonomy has risen in esteem, then fallen, only to rise again in recent theorizing about women in society and culture. In this paper, I further bolster the renewed feminist interest in autonomy. I characterize feminist social aspirations in terms of three very abstract goals and then argue that women’s individual autonomy promotes at least two of them in crucial ways. Women’s autonomy will improve the quality of the close personal relationships that pervade women’s traditional moral concems (the first goal) and it will enable women the better to resist traditional, gender-based constraints on their lives (the second goal). My conclusion is tempered, however, by the view that individual autonomy interferes to a significant degree with the solidarity and collective action by women needed to effect feminist social change (the third goal) . In passing, I gesture toward a conception of autonomy as a certain kind of narrative of self-development



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Marilyn Friedman
Washington University in St. Louis

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