When posed with the question “What is woman?” it seems a daunting task to lay an umbrella statement to describe an entire gender. Upon further reflection, however, it seems that this overwhelming inability to answer the question, may in fact, be the answer to the question itself. Within the past two decades Maria Lugones and Elizabeth Spelman, Caroline Whitbeck, Geraldine Finn, and Helene Cixous have addressed the meaning of woman. There is not a concrete answer to “What is woman?” either produced by women or produced through men’s perceptions of women.
The message of Lugones and Spelman in Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for “The Woman’s Voice,” is that the entire worldwide experience of women cannot be universally articulated. Blanket definition of woman is impossible due to the many characteristics of women that make the gender so diverse, specifically race and economic status in society. “The women’s voices most likely to come forth and the women’s voices mostly likely to be heard are, in the United States anyway, those of white, middle-class, heterosexual Christian women” (Lugones and Spelman 21). Since “feminist theory” has been established without encompassing the inherently different experiences of non-white/non-Anglo women “much of the theory has failed to be relevant to the lives of women who are not white or middle class” (Ibid. 21). This displacement of a large population of the world’s women from feminist theory is extremely threatening to the development of a woman’s voice, in so far as this voice is key to fighting the battles that feminism sets out to fight: the end of re...
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...a Cohen. The Signs Reader: Women, Gender and Scholarship. Edited by Elizabeth and Emily Abel. University of Chicago Press: Chicago. 1983. 279-297.
Finn, Geraldine. On the Oppression of Women in Philosophy – Or, Whatever Happened to Objectivity?. Feminism in Canada: From Pressure to Politics. Edited by Angela R. Miles and Geraldine Finn. Black Rose Books: Montreal. 1982. 145-173.
Lugones, Maria C. and Elizabeth V. Spelman. Have We Got a Theory for You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for “The Woman’s Voice.” Women and Values: Readings in Recent Feminist Philosophy. Edited by Marilyn Pearsall. Wadsworth Publishing Company: California. 1986. 19-31.
Whitbeck, Caroline. Theories of Sex Difference. Women and Values: Readings in Recent Feminist Philosophy. Edited by Marilyn Pearsall. Wadsworth Publishing Company: California. 1986. 34-51.
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