QotD: “To speak of social treatment ‘as a woman’ is thus not to invoke any abstract essence or homogeneous generic or ideal type, not to posit anything, far less a universal anything, but to refer to this diverse and pervasive concrete material reality of social meanings and practices”

To speak of being treated “as a woman” is to make an empirical statement about reality, to describe the realities of women’s situation. In the USA, with parallels in other cultures, women’s situation combines unequal pay with allocation to disrespected work, sexual targeting for rape, domestic battering, sexual abuse as children, and systematic sexual harassment; depersonalization, demeaned physical characteristics, use in denigrating entertainment, deprivation of reproductive control, and forced prostitution. To see that these practices are done by men to women is to see these abuses as forming a system, a hierarchy of inequality. This situation has occurred in many places, in one form or another, for a very long time, often in a context characterized by disenfranchisement, preclusion from property ownership (women are more likely to be property than to own any), ownership and use as object, exclusion from public life, sex-based poverty, degraded sexuality, and a devaluation of women’s human worth and contributions throughout society. This subordination of women to men is socially institutionalized, cumulatively and systematically shaping access to human dignity, respect, resources, physical security, credibility, membership in community, speech and power. Comprised of all its variations, the group women can be seen to have a collective social history of disempowerment, exploitation and subordination extending to the present. To be treated “as a woman” in this sense is to be disadvantaged in these ways incident to being socially assigned to the female sex. To speak of social treatment “as a woman” is thus not to invoke any abstract essence or homogeneous generic or ideal type, not to posit anything, far less a universal anything, but to refer to this diverse and pervasive concrete material reality of social meanings and practices such that, in the words of Richard Rorty, “a woman is not yet the name of a way of being human …”

Catharine A. MacKinnon

(Found at the Bewilderness)

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2 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Stop Trans Chauvinism.

  2. jodiethalegend

    Reblogged this on Where The Wild Words Are.

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