Women's Views of the Political World of Menby Judith Hicks Stiehm

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  • Women's Views of the Political World of Men by Judith Hicks StiehmReview by: Nancy FraserSigns, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Summer, 1986), pp. 795-797Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3174148 .Accessed: 17/06/2014 17:41

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  • Summer 1986 / SIGNS

    Women's Views of the Political World of Men. Edited by JUDITH HICKS STIEHM. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Transnational Publishers, 1984.

    Nancy Fraser, Northwestern University

    In precisely what sense can Western political theories and systems be said to be patriarchal or masculinist? What is the most adequate and fruitful strategy for theorizing the implication of male dominance in the official political domain? The essays in this fine collection are ground-breaking efforts to answer these questions. They offer a range of methodological alternatives. Their juxtaposition in a single volume constitutes a virtual map of possibilities for feminist political theory in the coming period.

    Some writers use alienation models that analyze male-instituted or male-theorized political forms as alienated, masculinist deviations from an ideal, normative conception of the political. Two of the essays take their normative standards from women's experience outside the official political domain. In a strikingly original essay, Judith Stiehm interprets features of Western government such as succession and security arrangements as responses to "man problems" such as displacement anxiety. She contrasts these with what she sees as better, feminine attributes, such as the mater- nal experience of generational replacement as "extension with reduced responsibility" involving "relinquishment" (217). Similarly, in "Power as Ideology: A Feminist Analysis," Jane Jacquette invokes domestic experi- ence to criticize the mainstream conception of power as a relation between individuals considered apart from the background of social relations. She shows that such conceptions focalize men's public-sphere power, render invisible women's private-sphere power, and cannot explain why the latter kind of power is not convertible into the former. Jacquette's own explana- tion is that public-sphere power rests on masculine modes of achieving order by scheduling tasks in space-time. This is alien to women's domestic experience, where order is achieved at the level of emotion despite space- time chaos. Jacquette thinks this helps explain why many women are alienated from official politics, including liberal feminism. She urges feminists to invent political models closer to domestic experience.

    This approach has many virtues, but Fanny Tabak's sobering account of the patriarchalism of Latin American military regimes implicitly challenges the assumption that there is a unitary women's experience. In "Women and Authoritarian Regimes," Tabak invokes class, regional, and cultural differences to explain why some women support and others oppose such regimes. She also details the susceptibility of domestic and maternal themes to ideological manipulation by patriarchal, authoritarian regimes: these regimes appeal to women by valorizing the traditional maternal function of inculcating obedience and respect as essential to the "integ- rity," "security," and "identity" of the "nation."


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  • Book Reviews

    Nancy Hartsock avoids the sorts of difficulties Tabak's essay poses for gynocentric-experiential approaches by developing an alienation model less directly tied to women's empirical experience. In her interesting but highly speculative essay, "Prologue to a Feminist Critique of War and Politics," Hartsock analyzes classical Athenian notions of citizenship and political community as expressions of a negative, masculine eros with roots in Homeric warrior culture. This, she says, is an alienated mode of a normative, ideal, positive eros of close, caring relationships, which would value affectivity and the body and center generation and creativity on life rather than on death. A political community based on a positive eros, she claims, would break the operative Western association of citizenship and political power with masculinity.

    Two other essays abandon alienation models in favor of distribution models. In "Consequences of Seizing the Reins in the Household," Lo- renne Clark endorses the orthodox Marxist view that property relations are the basic determinants of social life while rejecting the androcentric assumption that they pertain only to the mode of production. Women's subordination, in her view, is based in men's ownership of the means (women) and the products (children) of reproduction, a property relation institutionalized in marriage. Clark concludes that women's liberation requires collective ownership of the means of production and collective ownership of the products (children) but not of the means (women) of reproduction. A more promising distribution model is offered by Drude Dahlerup in her important essay, "Overcoming the Barriers: An Approach to the Study of How Women's Issues Are Kept from the Political Agenda." Here, the political "good" whose distribution is at stake is not property but access to the means of agenda creation since Dahlerup identifies the patriarchalism of Western capitalist political systems with their "gender- specific selectivity." These systems, she claims, pose obstacles to women's issues at every stage of the agenda-building process: there are obstacles to the recognition of common interests, to the accumulation of resources for collective organization, and to gaining access to the "public sphere" (in Habermas's sense) and to the formal governmental agenda. Dahlerup shows how barriers to feminist struggle at each of these stages were partially and temporarily overcome by the Danish women's suffrage move- ment.

    Two remaining essays use Hegelian models. In "Despotism and Civil Society: The Limits of Patriarchal Citizenship," Anna Yeatman argues that modern Western civil society is patriarchal in its very constitution since it presupposes a gender division of labor that entails domestic despotism. Yeatman claims that while civil society posits individuals as abstract, self-determining subjects, empty of any particular content and free from dependencies on specific others, it requires another domain, the family, where another order of persons recognizes the individual's particularity,


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  • Summer 1986 / SIGNS

    adopts the specific content of his will as her own, and denies her own autonomous subjectivity. Thus, civil society enshrines a contradictory dialectic of the masculine subject will and the feminine other. Yeatman concludes that the patriarchal character of citizenship cannot be overcome simply by the formal admission of women to civil society. The conception of the individual must be transformed. In "The Shame of the Marriage Contract," Carole Pateman invokes Hegelian motifs to argue that the notion of contract is not an appropriate model for feminist personal rela- tions or for a feminist social order. She claims that contractarianism arose as a challenge to relations of status inequality among males and that it in- corporates, rather than overcomes, patriarchalism. Regarding marriage, then, feminists should resist the step from the correct claim that it is not in fact a genuine, valid contract between free and equal individuals to the insufficiently radical view that it should be. Instead, feminists should seek forms of association that are beyond both status and contract. Pateman concludes with an intriguing sketch of a "differentiated," noncontractarian feminist social order in which the personal, economic, and political spheres of life rest on three distinct but nonantagonistic principles of association.

    None of the approaches represented here is entirely free of difficulties. Some are too global, ahistorical, or psychologistic, and few link ultimate visions with political practice in the here and now. Nevertheless, each of these essays offers important insights, and the sum of their differences is provocative and inspiring. No one interested in feminist political theory should miss this ground-breaking collection.

    When and Where I Enter...: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. By PAULA GIDDINGS. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1985.

    Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to the Present. By JACQUELINE JONES. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

    Bonnie Thornton Dill, Memphis State University

    The relationship between sexism and racism, or, more appropriately, between gender and race, is a fundamental question that for the most part has merely nipped at the heels of a developing feminist theory. In recent years, this question has begun to challenge some of the basic assumptions and categories of feminist analyses, and a growing scholarship emphasizing the diversities of women's experience has begun to revise or rewrite them. The development of theory that illuminates women's lives and the work- ings of the society in which we live requires detailed historical studies both of the elite and of those who live on the socially subordinate sides of the


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    Article Contentsp. 795p. 796p. 797

    Issue Table of ContentsSigns, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Summer, 1986), pp. 619-846Volume Information [pp. 828-844]Front Matter [pp. 824-827]Editorial [pp. 619-620]The Daughter's Seduction: Sexual Violence and Literary History [pp. 621-644]The Instability of the Analytical Categories of Feminist Theory [pp. 645-664]Women and the Advent of Islam [pp. 665-691]ViewpointThe Feminization of Love [pp. 692-709]

    Revisions/ReportsThe Politics of Reproduction in a Mexican Village [pp. 710-724]Gender Equality and Gender Hierarchy in Calvin's Theology [pp. 725-739]Unreliable Account of Women's Work: Evidence from Latin American Census Statistics [pp. 740-750]

    ArchivesWomen's History Goes to Trial: EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck and Company [pp. 751-779]

    Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 780-783]Review: untitled [pp. 784-788]Review: untitled [pp. 788-789]Review: untitled [pp. 790-794]Review: untitled [pp. 795-797]Review: untitled [pp. 797-800]Review: untitled [pp. 801-803]Review: untitled [pp. 803-806]Review: untitled [pp. 806-809]Review: untitled [pp. 809-811]Review: untitled [pp. 811-813]

    United States and International Notes [pp. 814-823]Correction: The Female Autograph [pp. 823]Back Matter [pp. 845-846]