‘Am I That Name?’: Feminism and the Category of ‘Women’ in by Denise Riley

Women In History

By Denise Riley

Writing approximately alterations within the inspiration of womanhood, Denise Riley examines, within the demeanour of Foucault, moving historic buildings of the class of "women" when it comes to different different types principal to suggestions of personhood: the soul, the brain, the physique, nature, the social. Feminist events, Riley argues, have had no selection yet to play out this indeterminacy of girls. this is often made simple of their oscillations, because the 1790s, among ideas of equality and of distinction. to totally realize the paradox of the class of "women" is, she contends, an important situation for a good feminist political philosophy.

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Extra resources for ‘Am I That Name?’: Feminism and the Category of ‘Women’ in History

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They are for the most part wise enough to love their Chains and to discern how very becomingly they sit .... ' sorts of Men; or let them aim at the Title of Good Devout Women, since some men can bear with this. 44 The determination to be a woman, to live into the expectations aroused by the categorisation, has its uses. Yet even this, she argues, affords no reliable protection: But how can a Man respect his Wife when he has a contemptible opinion of her and her Sex? When from his own Elevation he looks down on them as void of Understanding, and full of Ignorance and Passion, so that Folly and a Woman are equivalent terms with him?

Yet why, she wonders, are there so few works by women authors, with the honourable exceptions of a few like Mrs Philips and Mrs Behn? Because, she believes, potential women writers may be thwarted at the outset, persuaded by custom never to enquire so far into themselves and their own Abilities, as to bring such a thought into their Heads. This last I fancy is the true Reason, why our Sex, who are commonly charged with talking too much, are Guilty of writing so little. 33 Vanity and incompetence are vices generously scattered throughout the population of men, too; she digresses to satirical denunciations of the Pedant and the Country Squire among others, to attacks on the Beau, the Bully, the Poetaster, the Coffee-House Savant and the tedious breed of Natural Historians, 'Vertuoso's' who never know when to subside.

It is true that the trajectory of 'man' in the nineteenth-century human sciences often winds him backward to the riddles of his origins, or alternatively, reels him out towards the double question of his ends, in the senses of his purposes and his extinction. 7 But nineteenth-century 'women' do not suffer so much from uncertainty about their teleology- but rather about their realisation. What might they become; what might they not become? The very durability of this imaginative projection of a time for and of 'women' bears witness to its power.

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