Dissertation, Michigan State University (2019)

Youjin Kong
Oregon State University
This dissertation addresses the question of how to reconceptualize “women” in order to do a more intersectional feminism. Intersectionality—the idea that gender, race, class, sexuality, and so on operate not as separate entities but as mutually constructing phenomena—has become a gold standard in contemporary feminist scholarship. In particular, intersectionality has achieved success in showing that the old conception of women as a single, uniform concept marginalizes women and others who exist at the intersecting axes of multiple oppressions (e.g., women of color, women in the global South, working-class women, and/or queer and trans people), and thus, demonstrating the need to develop a new way of conceptualizing women. However, the question of what such a new conception would be remains unanswered. Specifically, if feminist theory today is to destabilize the old notion of “women” that relegates multiply oppressed women to the margin of feminism, and yet still needs to use some notion of “women” to critically analyze how the social structure of sexist oppression operates to subordinate women and to dismantle this oppression, how should the concept “women” be reformulated? In this dissertation, I argue that we need to understand women as a concept that is open to constant redefinition, which is socio-historically situated in the actualities of oppression. This is what I refer to as the “situated redefinition” model of women, which is formulated in more detail as follows: The Situated Redefinition Model of Women (SR) – The concept “women” should be always open to being redefined in a way that it could better serve political goals grounded in the actual, daily lives of the marginalized. That is, “women” should be always open to new meanings and provisional definitions that the marginalized would find more useful to achieve political goals, which grow out of their concrete experiences in the current intersecting structures of oppression. My central argument is that we need to understand the concept “women” according to the situated redefinition model, in order to employ this concept for doing intersectional feminism. To support this thesis, the dissertation is divided into two main parts. By engaging with the intersectionality literature, critical race feminisms, Asian/American feminisms, and recent critiques of intersectionality, the first part of the dissertation elucidates what exactly it means for feminism to be more “intersectional.” The second part develops the situated redefinition model and articulates why this model is needed to do intersectional feminism, drawing on the social/political philosophy literature on non-ideal theory, postmodern discussions of universality, and feminist discussions of identity politics. Broadly, this dissertation seeks to shed new light on how we understand and use the concept women for feminist ends. My conceptual model offers a way for feminist scholar-activists to subvert the essentialist/exclusionary notion of “women” without abandoning altogether feminist-political deployments of the concept “women” for the purpose of ending sexist and intersecting oppressions.
Keywords Women  Intersectionality  Intersectional Feminism  Identity Politics  Non-Ideal Theory  Situated Redefinition
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Ideal Vs. Non‐Ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map.Laura Valentini - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (9):654-664.

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