Feminism after Postmodernism: Theorising through Practice

By Marysia Zalewski | Go to book overview

5

'Recovering' feminisms?

Is there a significant gulf between 1970s modernist feminisms and 1990s postmodernist feminisms? Let me start by summarising the argument for the case that there is a theoretical gulf between these two bodies of feminism.


Theoretical gulf

Modernist feminists generally think about the subject of woman in different ways to postmodernist feminists. Earlier, I introduced the image of an apple and an onion to help understand that difference-the (modernist) apple having an ultimate core whereas the (postmodern) onion is layered over nothing. In the realm of epistemology, modernist feminists tend to adhere to a belief in the ultimate existence of true and untainted knowledge. Of course in practice there is not much of this 'innocent' knowledge around-but the modernist feminist aim is to strive towards achieving it. This is a vital political practice for modernist feminists as it promises the separation of truth from sexist and misogynist power and prejudice. The idea or belief that the 'truth will out' still has a profound impact on the modernist mind-set.

Following on from the modernist aim of discovering and demonstrating the truth, the point of feminist theory is to do something about the sexist and misogynist injustices and untruths that are uncovered. In the context of modernist feminisms, this has led to a variety of demands such as for the right to vote, the right to be free from violence, to have equal pay, and to value things typically or traditionally female. Above all, perhaps, a crucial modernist feminist political aim is to improve women's lives.

As we know, postmodernist feminists do not work with the idea that the important political act is to discover the truth of the subject of

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Feminism after Postmodernism: Theorising through Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Gulf 29
  • 3 - Modernist Feminisms and Reproductive Technologies 75
  • 4 - Postmodernist Feminisms and Reproductive Technologies 105
  • 5 - 'Recovering' Feminisms? 128
  • Glossary of Medical Terms 143
  • References 148
  • Index 157
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