On Female Body Experience: "Throwing like a Girl" and Other Essays

On Female Body Experience: "Throwing like a Girl" and Other Essays

On Female Body Experience: "Throwing like a Girl" and Other Essays

On Female Body Experience: "Throwing like a Girl" and Other Essays

Synopsis

Written over a span of more than two decades, the essays by Iris Marion Young collected in this volume describe diverse aspects of women's lived body experience in modern Western societies. Drawing on the ideas of several twentieth century continental philosophers--including Simone deBeauvoir, Martin Heidegger, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty--Young constructs rigorous analytic categories for interpreting embodied subjectivity. The essays combine theoretical description of experience with normative evaluation of the unjust constraints on their freedomand opportunity that continue to burden many women. The lead essay rethinks the purpose of the category of "gender" for feminist theory, after important debates have questioned its usefulness. Other essays include reflection on the meaning of being at home and the need for privacy in old age residences as well as essays that analyze aspects of theexperience of women and girls that have received little attention even in feminist theory--such as the sexuality of breasts, or menstruation as punctuation in a woman's life story. Young describes the phenomenology of moving in a pregnant body and the tactile pleasures of clothing. While academically rigorous, the essays are also written with engaging style, incorporating vivid imagery and autobiographical narrative. On Female Body Experience raises issues and takes positions that speak to scholars and students in philosophy, sociology, geography, medicine, nursing, andeducation.

Excerpt

Much has changed for women since I was a little girl in the 1950s in New York City. In many places the lives and spaces of women and men have become less separate, and women fill roles and appear in places that might have surprised my grandmother. For all that, the image of woman has not ceased being that of the Other: the surface that reflects fantasies and fears arising from our human being as vulnerable bodies. Just because images and expectations about women make us asymmetrically associated with sex, birth, age, and flesh, we have little voice to express our own point of view on this fleeting existence or on the social relations that position us.

The essays in this volume reflect on different aspects of women's everyday lived bodily experience. One of their purposes is simply expressive: to give words to meanings often unspoken, in ways that I hope evoke recognition and even a little bit of pleasure. Each of the essays also engages in social criticism; they expose mundane ways that actions and opportunities for women are unfairly constrained by social norms regulating body comportment and by the needs of people for bodily care. The essays thus take a feminist perspective, both as expressing sexand gender-specific female subjectivity, and as claiming that women are not as free as we ought to be.

The composition of these essays spans more than twenty-five years of thinking about embodiment. I began work on the earliest, “Throwing Like a Girl,” in 1977. The ink is barely dry on “Menstrual Meditations.” When I began writing on themes of female embodiment, neither philosophical nor feminist-theoretical nor sociological literature contained many works engaged in such a project. In the discipline of philosophy in the United States, only scholars of existential phenomenology . . .

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