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Judging Women: Twenty-Five Years Further Toward a Feminist Theory of the State

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Chambers, CE 


This paper engages with the work of Catharine MacKinnon to consider three ways of understanding the phrase "judging women." First, when is it acceptable or necessary to make judgements about what women do? The paper argues that feminist analysis urges compassion and empathy for women, but also highlights the ways that choices are limited and shaped by patriarchy. Thus we cannot and should not avoid all judgment of women’s—and men’s—choices. Second, when can women engage in the act of judging? It is sometimes claimed that it is anti-feminist to engage in such judgment, and that feminists must above all else avoid being judgmental. The paper rejects this idea and argues instead that feminism should insist on women's right to exercise judgment: women’s voices matter. Third, how are we to judge who counts as a woman? MacKinnon’s work offers profound, sustained, rich analysis of these questions, but does not fully resolve them.



Catharine MacKinnon, feminism, judgment, gender, women, sex, choice, essentialism

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Feminist Philosophy Quarterly

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The University of Western Ontario