Towards a new radical feminist vision: Navigating the passage from oppression to freedom
What would it mean to speak of a radical feminist conception of freedom? I ask this question amid the writings of María Lugones, Mary Daly. Sarah Hoagland, and Marilyn Frye. Their projects aim to theorize oppression and resistance, as well as liberatory feminist futures that are not characterized by forms of oppression. While these authors are not always writing with each others' work in mind, when taken together they form what is, I think, an extremely fruitful intersection. Yet, one thing that is conspicuously absent from the intersection is the concept of freedom. These philosophers are writing about oppression, resistance, liberation, world-traveling, and feminist communities---yet they do not articulate a radical feminist conception of freedom. It is a curious absence. After all, it would seem that the appropriate counter-concept of oppression is freedom. And we would surely think that a radical feminist future would be characterized by freedom.
In this dissertation I argue that the radical feminist focus on oppression and resistance yields a conceptual and political landscape wrought of resistance and incremental moves toward existence that is not characterized by oppression. As feminists, it is crucial that we are able to understand the operation of oppression and able to understand and formulate resistant action. Oppression and resistance are necessary categories of analysis because feminism currently functions within interlocking systems of oppression. Yet as feminists, we also require positive conceptions of existence beyond the frameworks of oppression. By developing such positive conceptions we prepare ourselves for radical feminist futures, futures that are no so extensively configured by oppression.
In developing a radical feminist conception of freedom I first explore conceptions of subjectivity offered by Lugones and Daly. From Lugones I adopt the idea that subjects are inherently multiple, having literally many selves that exist in curdled relation to each other. From Daly I adopt the idea that subjects create themselves through their own ongoing ontological activity. I weave connections across these two conceptions of subjectivity and argue that curdled multiplicity can become a resource for ontological invention---for be-ing free. Radical feminist freedom is not a utopian construct. Rather, freedom is an ontological activity. I understand freedom as a specific mode of be-ing in which one works from cultivated curdled-multiplicity, opening possibilities for action while navigating our many social worlds. As subjects navigate their many social worlds, they are able to cultivate this curdled multiplicity and enact feminist projects that escape the reductive confines of patriarchal existence. Aided by my conception of freedom, radical feminists are in a better position to invent worlds that are not characterized by oppression.
0453: Womens studies