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is presented as a neutral standard against which instances are judged. This is a problem both within and without feminist theory, where norms are wrongly taken to be common to other individuals of the kind, generalised from a singular standpoint; usually identities and experiences of privileged women generalised as representative of all women.4

If we were worried about the apparent individualism of this and its congruence with particular political forms, we might reply that one can resist closure of definitions and make explicit interests governing assignment of group identity without embracing this sort of nominalism. It is perfectly consistent to be a nominalist and a feminist, Nicola Stoljar presents a sound case for nominalism within feminism, but if one also wishes to describe the mechanisms behind the classification of individuals into groups then one also needs to have an ontology that includes mind-independent mechanisms and an epistemology that operates with some notion of justification. Both these are the target for Moira Gatens.

The reluctance of contemporary feminists to identify themselves with a theoretical patronym, such as Marxist feminist, is an indication, according to Gatens, of the profound distrust and suspicion feminists display towards socio-political theories. Feminists no longer have faith in the utility of these theories to explain or clarify status of women because they are marred, not by superficial sex-blindness, but something altogether more profound.


reason: rationality defined against the feminine and traditional female roles (cf Lloyd / Grimshaw). So for Marxism: scientific pretensions, telos, dialectics.


dualisms: eg reproduction / production, family / state, individual / social. Neither liberalism nor Marxism, she says, is able to think outside these dualisms. Dualisms are inherently hierarchical, with the feminine aligned


power: taken to be something one has or doesn’t have, principally manifested in regulation and control of politico-economic relations.

4 E. Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (London: Woman’s Press, 1990) 1-5

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