Feminism and Gender

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This chapter explores the intersections of phenomenology and gender theory. Phenomenology has long contributed to understanding the ontology and politics of gender and sexual difference, drawing methods and conceptualizations from its tradition ever since the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s La deuxième sexe (1949). Today, phenomenology ranks as a major philosophical perspective in gender theory, alongside poststructuralism. While the two schools initially entertained mutual caricatures, they have recently entered into productive dialogues. Feminist phenomenologists emphasize the importance of rich descriptions of lived experiences, particularly focusing on embodiment. However, they adopt a more overtly evaluative stance compared to classical transcendental phenomenology, acknowledging the influence of social, political, and cultural structures on genders and sexualities. The chapter explores methodological debates in feminist phenomenology, advocating an interdisciplinary approach while preserving the spirit of phenomenological inquiry: the predisposition to denaturalize the natural attitude. It also discusses phenomenology’s role as a conceptual resource for understanding gendered existence. Specifically, it examines the phenomenological concept of the ‘lived body’ as a productive alternative to ‘gender’, offering an interactive and relational perspective on the nature/culture and subject/structure controversies that plague conceptions of gendered subjectivity to this day. The conclusion underscores feminist phenomenology’s critical role in challenging normative structures and prejudices, with transformative potential. It posits that feminist phenomenology has evolved into a form of critical phenomenology, prompting exploration of their historical and conceptual relationship. Finally, the chapter suggests future research directions in trans studies and the intersections of gender with other embodied differences beyond reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Political Phenomenology
EditorsSteffen Herrmann, Gerhard Thonhauser, Sophie Loidolt, Tobias Matzner, Nils Baratella
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781003197430
ISBN (Print)9781032054094
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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