The Question of ‘Nature’: What has Social Constructionism to offer Feminist Theory?

Fiaccadori, Elisa. 2006. The Question of ‘Nature’: What has Social Constructionism to offer Feminist Theory? Sociology Working Papers, pp. 1-17. [Article]

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The question of ‘nature’ is of particular importance for feminist theorizing as feminists have long come to realise that it is often upon this ‘concept’ that the giveness of sexual differences and, consequently, the inferiority of ‘women’, is assumed1. It is against biological determinism that feminists have developed their most powerful theories and critiques of dominant categorisations of ‘women’ (see, for example, de Beauvoir, 19892 ; Rich, 1981). Particularly, both ‘second wave feminists’ generally, and eco-feminists specifically, tended to criticise dominant conceptualisations of women as ‘naturally’ inferior and assert the political importance of reclaiming ‘nature’, ‘the natural’ and ‘the feminine’ from the grip of exploitative scientific patriarchalism (in Kemp and Squires, 1997: 469). However, whereas the question of nature remains extremely important to today’s feminists, post-structuralist feminists have since re-evaluated the latter manoeuvre arguing that it is inadequate, not even desirable, insofar as, paradoxically, it ends
up reinforcing exactly these constructed differences between ‘men’ and ‘women’, ‘culture’ and ‘nature’, which they refuse on the basis of their sexualising, racialising and universalising effects (see Butler, 1993; Alcoff in Tong and Tuana, 1995; Flax in Nicholson, 1990). Instead, they are more concerned with problematising ‘nature’ by asserting the social and cultural constructedness of the category ‘women’. According to post-structural feminists, it is only by acknowledging the constructedness of ‘nature’, consequently of ‘women’ (and ‘men’), that ‘spaces for more plural forms of self-identification’ can be created (in Kemp and Squires, 1997: 469).

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03 Jun 2013 14:01

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29 Apr 2020 15:51


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