The Power of Perspectives: A Case for Feminist Leisure Theory

Article excerpt

Introduction

To the reader of feminist scholarship, and those with secondary interests in feminist intellectual values, an impressive body of theory has developed in academia over the last thirty years. The work which comprises feminist literature extends from the initial social and political developments of the 1960s that articulated concepts of oppression, sexism, and patriarchy, to the philosophical and psychoanalytical work of recent decades which has defined phallocentrism and speaks of the female as other. In the literature, feminist theoretical platforms have been developed to challenge traditional discourses in philosophy, sociology, politics, history, and science, resulting in expanded discourses which seek to enlighten or fail theory by feminist standards. Through feminist challenges to knowledge it is possible to progress to more representative theoretical frameworks which reflect female principles omitted from the inherited theories of malestream. The key to representative theory is accentuated in this paper as more than a claim for space within existing theory but as a call for new theory. Such theory would admit perspective and by this admission resist the cloak of universality which has enabled masculinist perspectives to be presented as universal truth. Feminism has practiced diversification through critique and construction, developing an ability to criticise its theory and thus prevent it from congealing into dogma. Griffin (1982) has pointed to the risk that even liberal ideology (dogma) can imprison itself as a reaction to the threats of theories of liberation which are new to its world view. To avoid imprisonment, a project of feminist leisure theory can be the construction of theoretical perspectives which do not promote universality.

The term 'feminist leisure theory' is presented here as referring to more than a consideration of the implications of feminist thinking applied to leisure theory; the intended proposition is that a theory base devoid of feminist perspectives is incomplete, or represents limited perspective, and therefore in terms of a philosophy, sets down an unfinished or illusionary version of 'truth'. If the theoretical base in leisure studies is representative and not intentionally sectarian (masculinist), feminists in the field could assume that feminist work is welcome in juxtaposition to other existent leisure theory. In the last few years there is some evidence that feminist contributions to theory have been recognised within the field (e.g. feminist special editions of journals). However, because of the origins and type of developments in feminist theory, most commentaries and research contributions in leisure studies have represented predominantly liberal and leftist feminist perspectives. Such work clearly establishes a juxtaposition between established feminist theory (liberal/leftist), leisure theory (often also liberal/leftist), and woman as topic. Other feminist positions like the autonomist orientation developed from more radical feminist positions, are less often presented. Nevertheless, their placement in reserved tangency to these discourses rather than apposition, is valuable because of their low dependence on sociopolitical patriarchal traditions. That is, autonomist critique has more capacity to admit or reject portions of work, to develop points of crossover and points of intellectual resistance, without deference to masculinist ideology. Autonomist feminism is more fully discussed in this paper under An Explanation of Feminist Methods; basically this type of critique is more concerned with values than value inheritance, and female values (women's experiences and perceptions) take precedence in autonomist feminist theory. In acknowledging the worth of autonomist perspectives, the paper argues the usefulness of stances where leisure theory is read through rather than alongside feminist theoretical work; that is, a transfusive reading is encouraged to define or correct rather than accommodate male-sided theory. …