Privacy and the Politics of Intimate Life

Privacy and the Politics of Intimate Life

Privacy and the Politics of Intimate Life

Privacy and the Politics of Intimate Life

Synopsis

Patricia Boling investigates the implications of privacy for feminist theory and legal philosophy, examining issues rooted in intimate life which have broad public impact. She draws on Hannah Arendt's work and ordinary language analysis to identify confusions in the way we think about public and private. She then uses the insights she has developed to illuminate issues in contemporary politics, such as the problem of transforming private identities into political ones in the ?outing? of lesbians and gay men. Another such issue is the relevance of the private experience of nurturing small children to the political activity of the citizen. Evenly divided between theoretical and issue-oriented discussion, this book makes clear the practical stakes in both the distinction and the connection between private and public. Boling considers how to translate private experience into public claims with regard to such contentious issues as shared parenting, abortion funding, fetal abuse, sodomy laws, and parental consent for minors seeking abortions. She also analyzes the application of privacy in landmark legal cases including Roe v. Wade, Bowers v. Hardwick, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Excerpt

My reasons for becoming interested in the distinctions between public and private were personal and political as well as academic. During the time I was a graduate student, I was thinking about what kind of family I wanted to belong to, and entertaining in an immediate way issues such as the importance of choosing when and whether to have children, sharing responsibility for raising children, and the impact of having kids on primary parents' careers. At the same time that several issues close to home were leading me to think about the politicalness of various household and reproductive matters, I found myself and others subject to various forms of stereotyping and exclusion: "You can't be a feminist because you have children." "You can't be a serious academic because you're a mother." "Straight women aren't really as feminist as lesbians." "Bisexuals can't join the Gay-Lesbian Support Group." I felt insulted and angry, and began to feel a little contentious about the claim that "the personal is political." I also began to appreciate the richness of having different selves and displaying varying degrees of openness, intimacy, and self-exposure in different settings. I found myself drawn to thinking about public and private in ways that would do justice to the complexity of my experience of wanting to debunk the public-private distinction in its ideological mode, but also wanting to argue that some matters are no one else's business and ought not to be made public or political, by either one's opponents or one's allies. And of course all of this took place against a background of coming of age politically in Berkeley in the late 1970s, an atmosphere in which appreciation for and involvement in radical politics and the democratic politics of participation were' deeply ingrained, and where feminism was taken for granted as part of the way an academic woman thought about the world.

Situating myself with respect to a complex set of issues begins to explain why I was drawn to certain issues and approaches. But I want to move beyond the genesis of my engagement with the politics of intimate life to the questions and thematic unities that animate the theoretical and political analyses I offer here. When I first started to work on the questions of "public" and "private" discussed in this book, I was convinced that cer-

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