Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

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The Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice does not require copyright to be assigned for work published in the Yearbook. This may enable publication in the Yearbook of work intended or subsequently solicited to be published elsewhere subject to recognition of the Yearbook as the original status of publications and subject to any other necessary permission.


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The Yearbook requires any subsequent publication elsewhere to acknowledge its previous publication in the Yearbook. Halley is critical of feminists for relying primarily upon a 'prohibitionist' approach that identifies what's bad in the world and then writes a statute making it unlawful.

As a polemic the book pleads for openness as theorists, an engagement with ideas, events, and politics without knowing in advance our purpose or end point. Halley's first person, conversational style A potentially polarizing call to take a break from feminism could not be more elegantly presented.

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Betrokkenen Auteur Janet E. Halley Co-auteur Janet E. Halley Uitgever Princeton University Press. Reviews Schrijf een review. Kies je bindwijze. Verkoop door bol.

Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

In winkelwagen Op verlanglijstje. Andere verkopers 2. Snelste levering. Gratis verzending 30 dagen bedenktijd en gratis retourneren Ophalen bij een bol. Anderen bekeken ook. Halley acknowledges that feminism now finds itself in a position of power in many fields — family law being just one example — and even has a will to power , a desire to rule. No doubt, this admission likely smacks of heresy to some — isn't feminism really the outsider in a world of male power?

But Halley insists that the responsible exercise of power requires one to throw out one's theoretical blinders. Much better would be an open-eyed consideration of the diversity of benefits and harms that will fall out from one's policies, and this requires a different approach, one more diverse and hypothesizing than uniform and totalizing.

Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism (review)

The main body of the book focuses on presenting a genealogy of two trends in feminist theory from the late s through to the present, a trend of convergence and a trend of divergence. Convergence represents the ambition to bring all theory of sexuality and gender under feminism's aegis, while divergence expresses doubt over the possibility and value of resolving all theoretical difference into one encompassing theory.

Total feminism vs. Halley's close readings of the central texts of power feminism Catharine MacKinnon , cultural feminism Robin West , postmodernist feminism Judith Butler and queer theory Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Leo Bersani , among others, document the seminal statements of sexual subordination theory, the emergence of splits and divergences, and the counter-actions against splitting by convergentists.

These make fascinating reading for any observer of gender politics over the last three decades. There are no doubt numerous figures neglected Andrea Dworkin for one , and of course, many important trends in feminism through this period simply fall outside the scope of the book. But Halley's aim is not to produce a compendious history of contemporary feminism, and the figures she does cover are central to the debate.

Her genealogy serves to reveal the play of forces within and without feminism that have brought about the impasse that motivates her recommendation to 'take a break from feminism'. Halley terms this impasse 'feminist paralysis': the rigid, despairing repetition of the demand for convergence when confronted with divergence from any of the presumptions of total feminism, accompanied by heated accusations of heresy, betrayal, and co-optation by patriarchy.

Crucial section: In other words, 'circle-the-wagons' feminism. While totalizing feminists project the blame for this paralysis outward onto the rebels, Halley's analysis locates it much closer to home, in the demand for convergence itself.


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The convergentists fear that revealing any chink in the armour is tantamount to the elimination of feminism and the silencing of women, so, of course, no good feminist could allow that. Therefore, feminism must be pressed exclusively and at all costs, a hyper-moralized demand for convergence that Halley goes so far as to call 'paranoid'. Well, someone had to say it. In the final section, Halley goes on to list the possible costs and benefits of taking a break from feminism.

"Review Essay: Janet Halley, Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Bre" by Ann Bartow

Here she tries to answer some of the concerns of feminists who have bought into the paranoia. Many of the costs seem to be generated by the very totalism in question: for example, if you don't already regard dissent as a threat, you will find little motivation to identify theoretical divergence as an act of violence in itself. Again, these re-readings are likely to be branded 'heresy', but they are very revealing of the perversity and the costs of totalized feminist theory.


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  • Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism by Janet Halley.

A closing note of evaluation. A book such as Halley's is a bold breath of fresh air, welcomed by many, but treasonous to many others.

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In clear and plain-speaking prose, with eminent reason, she lays out the case for a more self-critical feminism, one that does not immediately react to criticism as if it were 'playing into hands of patriarchy'.