Feminine Subjectivity: from Possibility to Reality

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“One is not born, but becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

- Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1952), p. 249.

Feminine Subjectivity: From Possibility to Reality

During the past forty years, theories of subjectivity were common in art and social science discourses. All of these different theories, as opposed to the past Cartesian model of subjectivity, were almost agree on this hypothesis that the subject is not a complete self-contained being who flourishes in the world as an expression of its own unique essence. However there are different approaches to theorizing the subject. Some of these theories try to establish a model for presenting the nature of the individual subject by showing how it has been evolved and shaped. This approach is mostly identified with psychoanalysis and the work of Freud and Lacan. The second approach, which mostly identified with Foucault, Bourdieu and Baudrillard, believes that the subject is not a knowable and constant entity and in fact the subjective behavior is not revealed to us by nature but it exists within the demands that power/knowledge places on our individual body. However neither of these two approaches includes the important issue of gender in subjectivity discourse. Both of these approaches, whether presenting the gender as a kind of subjectivity formed by the nature (which identifies feminine as a by-product of the necessarily dominant masculine) or identifying gender roles under the influence of power/knowledge discourse, lean toward the same result, which is ‘the gender distinction’. In this essay I am going to examine the feminine subjectivity in the late 1950s and 1960s and also the issue of the gender distinction by drawing on Marsha F. Cassidy’s book, What Women Watched (2005) and...
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