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Sexual Objectification: From Complicity to Solidarity

Worsdale, Rosie (2017) Sexual Objectification: From Complicity to Solidarity. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis defends the diagnostic accuracy and political usefulness of the claim that women are complicit in their sexual objectification. Feminists have long struggled to demarcate the appropriate limits of feminist critiques of sexual objectification, particularly when it comes to objectifying practices which women both consent to and experience as empowering. These struggles, I argue, are the result of a fundamental misdiagnosis of what happens when women are sexually objectified, whereby the abstract notion of 'treating as an object' is called upon to explicate the kind of phenomena which can only be properly understood in light of a more general set of social norms of masculinity and femininity. A more accurate diagnosis of sexual objectification, I argue, is provided by Catharine MacKinnon's radical feminist theory, according to which sexually objectifying acts are manifestations of the social process through which women are made into objects of male sexual gratification. One important implication of this account is that women themselves play a role in perpetuating the norms through which sexually objectifying treatment of women is enabled: insofar as they participate in the re-constitution of the social context which facilitates their sexual objectification, they are complicit in it. Although this idea lacks intuitive appeal from a feminist perspective, I argue that understanding the nature of the contribution women make to perpetuating their objectification enables a better understanding of what practices of resistance are necessary for effectively combatting the sexual objectification of women. I defend the explanatory power of the complicity account of objectification in light of two pressing debates in contemporary feminist philosophy: the question of how women can disidentify from femininity given the strong attachments they develop to it, and the question of how feminism can continue to appeal to the motif of solidarity considering the anti-essentialist commitments of recent feminist theory.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Rosalind Worsdale
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2018 11:23
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2018 11:23
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/21377

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