Feminist philosophy

Feminist philosophy is an approach to philosophy from a feminist perspective and also the employment of philosophical methods to feminist topics and questions.[1] Feminist philosophy involves both reinterpreting philosophical texts and methods in order to supplement the feminist movement and attempts to criticise or re-evaluate the ideas of traditional philosophy from within a feminist framework.[2]

Main features

Feminist philosophy is united by a central concern with gender. It also typically involves some form of commitment to justice for women, whatever form that may take.[3] Aside from these uniting features, feminist philosophy is a diverse field covering a wide range of topics from a variety of approaches. Feminist philosophers, as philosophers, are found in both the analytic and continental traditions, and a myriad of different viewpoints are taken on philosophical issues within those traditions. Feminist philosophers, as feminists, can also belong to many different varieties of feminism.[2]

Feminist philosophy can be understood to have three main functions:

  1. Drawing on philosophical methodologies and theories to articulate and theorize about feminist concerns and perspectives. This can include providing a philosophical analysis of concepts regarding identity (such as race, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, ability, and religion) and concepts that are very widely used and theorised within feminist theory more broadly. Feminist philosophy has also been an important source for arguments for gender equality.
  2. Investigating sexism and androcentrism within the philosophical tradition. This can involve critiquing texts and theories that are typically classified as part of the philosophical canon, especially by focusing on their presentation of women and women's experience or the exclusion of women from the philosophical tradition. Another significant trend is the rediscovery of the work of many female philosophers whose contributions have not been recognised.
  3. Contributing to philosophy with new approaches to existing questions as well as new questions and fields of research in light of their critical inquiries into the philosophical tradition and reflecting their concern with gender.[3]

Feminist philosophy existed before the twentieth century but became labelled as such in relation to the discourse of second-wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s. An important project of feminist philosophy has been to incorporate the diversity of experiences of women from different racial groups and socioeconomic classes, as well as of women around the globe.


Feminist philosophers work within a broad range of subfields, including:

  • Feminist epistemology, which challenges traditional philosophical ideas of knowledge and rationality as objective, universal, or value neutral. Feminist epistemologists often argue for the importance of perspective, social situation and values in generating knowledge, including in the sciences.
  • Feminist ethics, which often argues that the emphasis on objectivity, rationality, and universality in traditional moral thought excludes women's ethical realities.[3] One of the most notable developments is the ethics of care, which values empathy, responsibility, and non-violence in the development of moral systems. Care ethics also involve a greater recognition of interpersonal connections and relations of care and dependency, and feminist ethics uses this to critique how an ethics of justice is often rooted in patriarchal understandings of morality.[4] Some feminist ethicists have shown concern about how values ascribed to an ethics of care are often associated with femaleness, and how such a connection can bolster ideas about moral development as essentially gendered.[5]
  • Feminist phenomenology investigates how both cognitive faculties (e.g., thinking, interpreting, remembering, knowing) and the construction of normativity within social orders combine to shape an individual's reality. Phenomenology in feminist philosophy is often applied to develop improved conceptions of gendered embodied experience, of intersubjectivity and relational life, and to community, society, and political phenomena. Feminist phenomenology goes beyond other representation-focused discourses by centering personal and embodied experiences, as well as recognizing how experience often operates outside of language, so can be difficult to articulate.[6] Reflection upon time as a construct is a more recent development in feminist phenomenology; recent works have begun investigating temporality’s place in the field, and how a more complex understanding of temporality can further illuminate realities of gendered experience and existence.[7]
  • Feminist aesthetics, which concerns the role of gender and sexuality in art and aesthetic theorising, and deals with issues related to subjectivity of creators, the reproduction of gendered norms in art, the role of art in enculturation, and representation of women in art, both as subjects and creators.[8] An understanding of “women” and “artist” as mutually exclusive identities has been reproduced since at least the era of romanticism, and this division has made interventions by feminist aesthetics necessary to challenge the patriarchal and masculine state of aesthetics.[9]
  • Feminist metaphysics, which focuses largely on the ontology of gender and sex and the nature of social construction. Feminist historians of philosophy also examine sex biases inherent in traditional metaphysical theories. One of the main points at which this field diverges from classical metaphysics is in its attempts to ground social constructs into understandings of the “fundamental” and “natural”, around which metaphysics is built around.[10] Feminist metaphysics attempts to balance the relationship between social constructs and reality by recognizing how the distinction between what is perceived as “real” and what is “socially constructed” creates a binary that fails to acknowledge the interplay between the two concepts.[11] Similarly, this field works to challenge systems of classifications that are deemed natural, and therefore unbiased, by revealing how such systems are affected by political and moral ideologies and biases.[12] Some theorists have raised questions regarding whether certain fundamental aspects of metaphysics inherently oppose a feminist approach,[13] and so the relationship between feminism and metaphysics remains somewhat precarious.
  • Feminist philosophy of science, which is rooted in interdisciplinary academic feminism, works to challenge how the production of scientific knowledge as well as the methodologies employed in such productions are not free of bias. Contrary to other perceptions of science, feminist philosophy of science recognizes the practice of science as value-rich instead of value-free,[14] suggesting that ideologies, such as those related to gender, are tied up within the models and practices that constitute what science is and what knowledge it produces.[15]

Major figures

Influential feminist philosophers include:


Critics of feminist philosophy are not generally critics of feminism as a political or cultural movement but of the philosophical positions put forth under the title "feminist philosophy".

Writers and thinkers who have criticised aspects of feminist philosophy include:

See also


  1. ^ "Feminist Philosophy - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". www.iep.utm.edu.
  2. ^ a b Gatens, M., Feminism and Philosophy: Perspectives on Difference and Equality (Indiana University Press, 1991)
  3. ^ a b c Kittay, Eva Feder & Linda Martín Alcoff, "Introduction: Defining Feminist Philosophy" in The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy, Blackwell Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0470695382
  4. ^ Gilligan, Carol (1982). "In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development". Harvard University Press.
  5. ^ Bowdon, M., Pigg, S., & Pompos Mansfield, L. (2014). Feminine and Feminist Ethics and Service Learning Site Selection: The Role of Empathy. Feminist Teacher, 24(1/2), 57–82.
  6. ^ Oksala, J. (2011). Sexual Experience: Foucault, Phenomenology, and Feminist Theory. Hypatia, 26(1), 207–223.
  7. ^ Schües, C., Olkowski, D. E., & Fielding, H. A. (2011). Time in Feminist Phenomenology. Bloomington, UNITED STATES: Indiana University Press.
  8. ^ Fedorivna, B.-D. L. (2015). Philosophical aspects of understanding the trend of feminist aesthetics. Studia Humanitatis, 3.
  9. ^ Felski, R. (1989). Beyond feminist aesthetics: Feminist literature and social change. Harvard University Press.
  10. ^ Sider, T. (2017). Substantivity in feminist metaphysics. Philosophical Studies, 174(10), 2467-2478.
  11. ^ Always/Already Podcast (November 23, 2014) Always/Already Podcast: Episode 12-LIVING ALTERITIES: PHENOMENOLOGY, EMBODIMENT, AND RACE [Audio Podcast] Retrieved from: https://alwaysalreadypodcast.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/ep-12-living-alterities-phenomenology-embodiment-and-race/
  12. ^ Mikkola, M. (2017). On the apparent antagonism between feminist and mainstream metaphysics. Philosophical Studies, 174(10), 2435–2448
  13. ^ Barnes, E. (2014). XV-Going Beyond the Fundamental: Feminism in Contemporary Metaphysics. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (Paperback), 114(3pt3), 335–351.
  14. ^ Longino, H. E., & Hammonds, E. (1990). Conflicts and tensions in the feminist study of gender and science. In M. Hirsch & E. F. Keller (Eds.), Conflicts in feminism. New York: Routledge
  15. ^ Richardson, S. S. (2010). Feminist philosophy of science: history, contributions, and challenges. Synthese, 177(3), 337–362.

External links

Alison Jaggar

Alison Mary Jaggar (born September 23, 1942) is an American feminist philosopher born in England. She is currently College Professor of Distinction in the Philosophy and Women and Gender Studies departments at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. She was one of the first people to introduce feminist concerns in to philosophy.


Androcentrism (Ancient Greek, ἀνήρ, "man, male") is the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing a masculine point of view at the center of one's world view, culture, and history, thereby culturally marginalizing femininity. The related adjective is androcentric, while the practice of placing the feminine point of view at the center is gynocentric.

Ann Garry

Ann Garry is an American Professor of Philosophy, Emerita at California State University, Los Angeles. While at CSULA, Garry was the founding director of the Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities, and also served several terms as the chair of the Department of Philosophy. She has also held several visiting appointments, including serving as the Humphrey Chair of Feminist Philosophy at the University of Waterloo and Fulbright lectureships at the University of Tokyo and Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. Although Garry no longer continues to teach full-time, she continues to work with graduate students

Eternal feminine

The eternal feminine is a psychological archetype or philosophical principle that idealizes an immutable concept of "woman". It is one component of gender essentialism, the belief that men and women have different core "essences" that cannot be altered by time or environment. The conceptual ideal was particularly vivid in the 19th century, when women were often depicted as angelic, responsible for drawing men upward on a moral and spiritual path. Among those virtues variously regarded as essentially feminine are "modesty, gracefulness, purity, delicacy, civility, compliancy, reticence, chastity, affability, [and] politeness".The concept of the "eternal feminine" (German: das Ewig-Weibliche) was particularly important to Goethe, who introduces it at the end of Faust, Part 2. For Goethe, "woman" symbolized pure contemplation, in contrast to masculine action, parallel to the eastern Daoist descriptions of Yin and Yang. The feminine principle is further articulated by Nietzsche within a continuity of life and death, based in large part on his readings of ancient Greek literature, since in Greek culture both childbirth and the care of the dead were managed by women. Domesticity, and the power to redeem and serve as moral guardian, were also components of the "eternal feminine". The virtues of women were inherently private, while those of men were public.

Ethics of care

The ethics of care (alternatively care ethics or EoC) is a normative ethical theory that holds that moral action centers on interpersonal relationships and care or benevolence as a virtue. EoC is one of a cluster of normative ethical theories that were developed by feminists in the second half of the twentieth century. While consequentialist and deontological ethical theories emphasize generalizable standards and impartiality, ethics of care emphasize the importance of response to the individual. The distinction between the general and the individual is reflected in their different moral questions: "what is just?" versus "how to respond?". Gilligan criticizes the application of generalized standards as "morally problematic, since it breeds moral blindness or indifference."Some beliefs of the theory are basic:

Persons are understood to have varying degrees of dependence and interdependence on one another.

Individuals affected by the consequences of one's choices deserve consideration in proportion to their vulnerability.

Details determine how to safeguard and promote the interests of those involved.

Feminist Philosophy Quarterly

Founded on 22 July 2015, Feminist Philosophy Quarterly (FPQ) is an online, open access, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to promoting feminist philosophical scholarship. The journal is published quarterly and strives to include and incorporate the entirety of feminist philosophy across the world and including different traditions. The editors-in-chief are Samantha Brennan, Carla Fehr, Alice MacLachlan, and Kathryn Norlock; Brennan also served as a co-founder of the journal.The journal aims to enhance feminist philosophers' and women's position in the philosophical sphere and the world at large, as well as being a platform for philosophical research that engages the issues faced by wider society. FPQ prioritises aligning itself with people who work towards fighting oppression and achieving equality and fairness.Taking issues of bias in publication seriously, FPQ has a triple-anonymous review policy. This means that authors, editors, and reviewers are all anonymous to one another. In addition to publishing peer reviewed scholarly articles, the journal also publishes a variety of invited and submitted symposia.

FPQ's online platform is hosted by Digital Commons (powered by bepress) at Scholarship at Western, in turn by Western University.

Feminist epistemology

Feminist epistemology is an examination of epistemology (the study of knowledge) from a feminist standpoint. Elizabeth S. Anderson describes feminist epistemology as being concerned with the way in which gender influences our concept of knowledge and "practices of inquiry and justification". It is generally regarded as falling under the umbrella of social epistemology.

Feminist ethics

Feminist ethics is an approach to ethics that builds on the belief that traditionally ethical theorizing has under-valued and/or under-appreciated women's moral experience, which is largely male-dominated, and it therefore chooses to reimagine ethics through a holistic feminist approach to transform it.

Feminist legal theory

Feminist legal theory, also known as feminist jurisprudence, is based on the belief that the law has been fundamental in women's historical subordination. The project of feminist legal theory is twofold. First, feminist jurisprudence seeks to explain ways in which the law played a role in women's former subordinate status. Second, feminist legal theory is dedicated to changing women's status through a rework of the law and its approach to gender. It is a critique of American law that was created to change the way women were treated and how judges had applied the law in order to keep women in the same position they had been in for years. The women who worked in this area viewed law as holding women in a lower place in society than men based on gender assumptions, and judges have therefore relied on these assumptions to make their decisions. This movement was based in the 1960s and 1970s. It was crucial to allowing women to become their own people through becoming financially independent and having the ability to find real jobs that were not available to them before due to discrimination in employment.

Feminist philosophy of science

Feminist philosophy of science is a branch of feminist philosophy that seeks to understand how the acquirement of knowledge through scientific means has been influenced by notions of gender and gender roles in society. Feminist philosophers of science question how scientific research and scientific knowledge itself may be influenced and possibly compromised by the social and professional framework within which that research and knowledge is established and exists. It has been described as being located "at the intersections of the philosophy of science and feminist science scholarship", and has attracted considerable attention since the 1970s.

Feminist epistemology often emphasizes "situated knowledge" that hinges on one's individual perspectives on a subject. Feminist philosophers often highlight the under-representation of female scientists in academia and the possibility that science currently has androcentric biases. Scientific theory has been accused of being more compatible with male cognitive styles and reasoning. Feminist epistemology suggests that integrating feminine modes of thought and logic that are undervalued by current scientific theory will enable improvement and broadening of scientific perspectives. Advocates assert that it may be guide in creating a philosophy of science that is more accessible to public. Practitioners of feminist philosophy of science also seek to promote gender equality in scientific fields and greater recognition of the achievements of female scientists.

Critics have argued that the political commitments of advocates of feminist philosophy of science is incompatible with modern-day scientific objectivity, emphasizing the success of the scientific method due to its lauded objectivity and "value-free" methods of knowledge-making.

Freedom Socialist Party

The Freedom Socialist Party is a far-left socialist political party with a revolutionary feminist philosophy that emerged from a split in the United States Socialist Workers Party in 1966. The party views the struggles of women and minorities as part of the struggle of the working class. The party's Seattle branch, with support from individuals in other cities, split off from the SWP over what it described as the SWP's entrenched opportunism and undemocratic methods. The current National Secretary of the FSP is Doug Barnes.

Hypatia (journal)

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy is a peer-reviewed academic journal published quarterly by Wiley-Blackwell. As of March 2018, the journal is led by an interim editor, Ann Garry, and two interim co-editors, Serene Khader and Alison Stone. Book reviews are published by Hypatia Reviews Online (HRO). The journal is owned by a non-profit corporation, Hypatia, Inc.The idea for the journal arose out of meetings of the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP) in the 1970s. Philosopher and legal scholar Azizah Y. al-Hibri became the founding editor in 1982, when it was published as a "piggy back" issue of the Women's Studies International Forum. Named after Hypatia of Alexandria, a philosopher who was murdered by a mob in 415 CE, it became an independent journal in 1986.Hypatia became involved in a damaging dispute in April 2017 when its associate editors published an unauthorized apology for the journal's publication of an article on transracialism, after the author and article were criticized on social media. The episode pointed to a significant breakdown of communications within Hypatia's editorial team. The journal responded by setting up a task force to restructure its governance. Hypatia was the subject of further controversy in 2018, when it accepted a hoax article that had been deliberately designed to satirise feminist philosophy. The hoax, which formed part of the Grievance studies scandal, was revealed before the article could be published.

Hypatia transracialism controversy

The feminist philosophy journal Hypatia became involved in a dispute in April 2017 that led to the online shaming of one of its authors, Rebecca Tuvel, an untenured assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis. The journal had published a peer-reviewed article by Tuvel in which she compared the situation of Caitlyn Jenner, a trans woman, to that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who identifies as black. When the article was criticized on social media, scholars associated with Hypatia joined in the criticism and urged the journal to retract it. The controversy exposed a rift within the journal's editorial team and more broadly within feminism and academic philosophy.In the article—"In Defense of Transracialism", published in Hypatia's spring 2017 issue on 25 April—Tuvel argued that "[s]ince we should accept transgender individuals' decisions to change sexes, we should also accept transracial individuals' decisions to change races." Three days later, a small group on Facebook and Twitter began criticizing the article and attacking Tuvel, and shortly after this an open letter, naming a member of Hypatia's editorial board as its point of contact, urged that the article be retracted. The article's publication had sent a message, the letter said, that "white cis scholars may engage in speculative discussion of these themes" without engaging "theorists whose lives are most directly affected by transphobia and racism".On 1 May a post appeared on the journal's Facebook page apologizing for the article's publication, on behalf of "a majority" of Hypatia's associate editors. By the following day the open letter had 830 signatories, including scholars associated with Hypatia and two members of Tuvel's dissertation committee. Hypatia's editor-in-chief, Sally Scholz, and its board of directors stood by the article. When Scholz resigned in July 2017, the board decided to suspend the associate editors' authority to appoint the next editor, in response to which eight associate editors resigned. The directors set up a task force to restructure the journal's governance. In February 2018 the directors themselves were replaced.The academic community responded with support for Tuvel. The affair exposed fault lines within philosophy about peer review, analytic versus continental philosophy, diversity within the profession, who is deemed qualified to write about people's lived experience, the pressures of social media, and how to preserve the free exchange of ideas.

Nancy Bauer (philosopher)

Nancy Bauer is an American philosopher specializing in feminist philosophy, existentialism and phenomenology, and the work of Simone de Beauvoir. She was recently Chair of the Philosophy Department at Tufts University and is currently Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Philosophy as well as the Dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. Her interests include methodology in philosophy, feminism, metaphysics, social/political/moral philosophy, philosophy of language, phenomenology, and philosophy in film.

Nancy Tuana

Nancy Tuana is an American philosopher who specializes in feminist philosophy. She holds the DuPont/Class of 1949 Professorship in Philosophy and Women's Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. She came to Penn State from the University of Oregon in 2001 to serve as the founding director of the Rock Ethics Institute

The Rock Ethics Institute, under her direction, has taken the lead nationally and internationally in developing innovative and deeply interdisciplinary modes of engaging in socially relevant ethics research through embedding ethical analysis into research in the sciences and engineering and by catalyzing research on ethically responsible policy making. Current research foci include climate change ethics, food ethics, industry sponsorship of research, global ethics, critical philosophy of race, and moral literacy and moral development. While Director, Tuana secured twelve tenure track ethics hires in order to support the Institute’s commitment to serve as a catalyst for deeply interdisciplinary ethics research and the infusion of ethics across the Penn State curriculum.Dr. Tuana's scholarly work ranges across the field of feminist philosophy and engages approaches from both Continental and American philosophical traditions. Her scholarly work includes books and articles in feminist history of philosophy, feminist science studies, and feminist epistemology. Her current research foci are twofold. The first is in the field of feminist analyses of anthropocentric climate change in which she has published a number of articles and working on a forthcoming book. The second is a focus on corporeal and genealogical temporality, the topic of a recent course at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum she co-taught with Charles Scott.

She is series editor for "ReReading the Canon" with Penn State Press. The series has over thirty volumes. She also served as co-editor with Laurie Shrage of "Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy." She was the editor for the APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy from its inception until 1992. She has also guest edited special issues of Hypatia on the topics of feminism and science, epistemologies of ignorance, and feminism and climate change. She has also served as guest editor for three special issues of the journal "Critical Philosophy of Race." She was Director of two NEH Summer Seminars on Feminist Epistemology, the latter of which resulted in the conference on "Ethics and the Epistemologies of Ignorance." She served as a co-editor of the feminist philosophy topic area for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Nikidion ("Little Victory") was a female student of Epicurus and a hetaira (courtesan).

Pamela Sue Anderson

Pamela Sue Anderson (April 16, 1955 – March 12, 2017) was an American philosopher who specialized in philosophy of religion, feminist philosophy and continental philosophy.

In 2007 she was an Official Fellow, Tutor in Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Dean, and Women's Advisor of Regent's Park College in the University of Oxford. Her former students include feminist philosopher Hanneke Canters.Born in Hennepin County, Minnesota, Anderson was educated at Yale University and Mansfield College, Oxford and was formerly Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sunderland. Pamela taught at University of Oxford, where she was working on In Dialogue with Michèle Le Doeuff, translated works of Le Doeuff.In 2009, she received an honorary degree from the University of Lund in Sweden.She died six weeks before her 62nd birthday, after a two-year battle with cancer.On 17 March 2018 Regent's Park College unveiled a portrait commissioned of Anderson, in recognition of both her academic contributions and her pastoral commitment to the college.


philoSOPHIA: A Journal of Continental Feminism is a biannual peer-reviewed academic journal covering feminist theory and continental philosophy. Published by SUNY Press, the journal was established by philoSOPHIA: the Society for Continental Feminism, which was founded in 2008. The editors-in-chief are Lynne Huffer (Emory University) and Shannon Winnubst (Ohio State University).The journal aims to "broaden the discipline of philosophy and enrich the practices of feminist theory". In particular, it seeks to explore the idea of the feminine throughout the history of European philosophy, and how it relates to language, subjectivity, the body, and nature.

Women in law

Women in law describes the role played by women in the legal profession and related occupations, which includes lawyers (also called barristers, advocates, solicitors, attorneys or legal counselors), paralegals, prosecutors (also called District Attorneys or Crown Prosecutors), judges, legal scholars (including feminist legal theorists), law professors and law school deans.

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Feminist theorists

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