STAFFORD: FEMINIST CRITIQUE OF HEGEL ON WOMEN AND THE FAMILY66or lack of class solidarity, is a potential for free subjective action and thought, waiting to be liberated through some form of progressive revolutionary struggle.For these thinkers, then, the notion that for woman 'biology is destiny' must beresisted. According to Simone de Beauvoir, and in subsequent generations, Kate Millettand Betty Friedan
, lives circumscribed by domesticity and child-rearing are not fullyhuman, and women who accept the socially-constructed belief in a pre-given femalenature, and hence in a determinate female destiny, are accomplices in their ownenslavement. The only means beyond this self-imposed oppression is actively to seek areversal of roles, accepting and identifying oneself with the male model of transcendence,which is traditionally presented as a neutral ideal, available universally to all human beings. Women who achieve self-liberation will do so by leaving the home to find a placein the labour market and by fully exploiting all technological means available to ensuretheir full transcendence of the physical and cultural exigencies of conception,reproduction and family responsibilities. Following through on this logic, the radicalfeminism of Shulamith Firestone
envisions an androgynous utopia, in whichreproduction has been entirely given over to technology, thus finally freeing woman to bethe equal of man.Yet alongside this deep focus upon the concept of woman as free individual, whosedifference from man is entirely incidental, and whose authentic selfhood depends onemulating universal (male?) standards of rationality, has flowed another strong current of feminist discourse. From this perspective it is argued that women have been insidiouslyencouraged by much mainstream feminist thought to accept a masculine ideal of humanexcellence as paradigmatic, with the consequence that their own uniquely femininecharacteristics and capacities have been judged inferior. It is argued that by accepting theEnlightenment notion of a common human nature or presenting female "immanence" asmerely a privative "lack of transcendence"
-- by seeing female biological determinants asnothing but an impediment to full human dignity -- women unwittingly acquiesce in thestandards of patriarchal thought, and in so doing lose all potential to achieve dignity
precisely as women
.This strand of feminist thought is far from advocating return to a traditional ethos,however, but suggests rather that the struggle for equality has been misconceived as astruggle for liberation
feminine nature. What is required is that women self-consciously celebrate themselves as women
and work toward recovering an authentically
See Beauvoir, Simone de
The Second Sex
translated by H.M. Parshley ( Bantam Books New York 1968):Friedan, Betty
The Feminine Mystique
(W.W. Norton, New York, 1963); Millet, Kate Sexual Politics (Virago, London, 1971)
The Dialectic of Sex
(The Women's Press, London, 1979).
This dichotomy of transcendence/immanence is Simone de Beauvoir's; for whom woman's characteristic"immanence" is identified with her animal nature, her biological functions as child-bearer and mother,which must be subdued and transcended if she is to assume the status of a free, rational human individual,the equal of her male counterpart.
One can note in this feminist turn from the quest for abstract human equality to a demand that femininedifference be acknowledged and respected a parallel with other 20th century movements. Thus, there camea stage in the American civil rights movement when 'Negro' activists, who had sought simple racial