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structural domination and structural freedom: a feminist perspective

Jennifer Einspahr
Feminist Review
No. 94 (2010), pp. 1-19
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40664126
Page Count: 19
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structural domination and structural freedom: a feminist perspective
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Abstract

After an initial period of feminist theorizing concerned with understanding patriarchy as a structure of male domination, many thinkers turned away from theorizing domination as such and focused instead on women's (constructed) subjectivity, identity, and agency. While this has fostered important insights into the formation of women's preferences, desires, and choices, this focus on subjectivity and subject formation has largely overshadowed deeper understandings of patriarchy as a structure of male domination while producing elisions between agency and freedom. In this article, I move to show how domination as a structural concept can help us to reclaim the idea of 'patriarchy' as a source of women's systematic oppression while freedom as non-domination, derived from early republican conceptualizations of freedom, can help us to disambiguate freedom from agency by taking as central the relative positions of actors within social and political structures. Structural freedom as non-domination is thus useful for feminist thinkers in that it gives us critical purchase on the dynamics inherent in unequal social and political relationships and can be linked clearly to the institutions and ideologies that shape and justify interactions between more powerful and less powerful groups. Further, from this point of view intersecting structures of domination can be analysed rather than intersecting identity categories, allowing us to take intersectionality into account and avoiding the need to ground feminist action on a unitary 'category woman'. Finally, this analysis points toward the radical democratic connexion between freedom and participation in the creation of the material and symbolic structures that frame our collective lives.

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