Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Feminist Philosophy Reading Group

This week, Doctoral Researcher Sarah-Louise Johnson discusses the feminist philosophy reading group at the University of Birmingham.

Much of my doctoral research broadly fits into the category of ‘feminist philosophy’ and as such I decided at the beginning of the academic year to set up a reading group for staff and post-graduate students to meet every two weeks and discuss a paper or book chapter which could be considered as feminist philosophy. In this post I will discuss what we have been getting up to so far with this reading group, and why feminist philosophy is an important area of research.

Birmingham’s feminist philosophy reading group has been meeting every two weeks for the past five months to discuss a range of papers and book chapters, in order to foster conversation and improve our respective research projects that relate to feminist philosophy. We set up a blog to detail what we were reading, both as information for those who would be attending upcoming sessions and as a log of what we had covered in the group so far. To date we have read and discussed both classic feminist work (Bartky; Bordo; Jaggar) and contemporary feminist work (Beres; Phillips; Saul; Scheman; Sveinsdottir; Weir and Sholock) which detailed arguments on a wide range of debates. These included: sexual consent, essentialism, gender and race, shame, love and knowledge, political demands, bodies and femininity, social kinds, freedom, and privilege.

One may question whether feminist philosophy matters, and if so why it matters. I would claim that feminist philosophy matters for three reasons. First, feminism is an important political movement that still has resonance today.  At its core feminism exposes and seeks to correct the marginalisation of women’s experiences and aims to address gender injustice (Clack 2014). This is encapsulated by the feminist slogan ‘the personal is political’. Second, philosophy is an important tool for providing detailed analysis and arguments which support the positions contained within it. Therefore, philosophical enquiry can help to shed light on previously unconnected concepts and be used to convince others closer to the truth of a certain matter. Third, feminist philosophy is an important sub-discipline within philosophy that bridges many traditional divides; and whilst feminist philosophers are not a homogenous group, one thing that is common to all feminist philosophies is the desire to embed philosophical ideas in practice by putting the experience of the human subject at the heart of philosophical research (Ibid). Briefly then, I think that feminism is important, philosophy is important, and feminist philosophy is particularly important at seeking to question gendered injustices through rational argument, and as such should be considered an important area of research.

The University of Birmingham feminist philosophy reading group is open to all postgraduates and staff across the university. So far we have participants from the departments of Philosophy, Theology, Politics, and Law. If you are interested in joining us please do not hesitate to email Sarah for further details. 

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