Photo: Alison M. Jaggar
Alison Jaggar’s quest for objectivity and inclusion through a new, “imagined” feminist discourse makes for a thought-provoking global view of feminist activism. Her critique of exclusion and power dynamics as central problems in the development of feminism is presented through an effective use of adequate supporting evidence along with fitting counter examples. These occur in the form of excerpts from relevant, key texts, bolstering her argument.
Jaggar does not give her reader too much philosophical background on the feminist discourse, namely its inequality and power dynamics components, which could make her case even stronger. Additionally, in her defense of closed communities and their indispensability, Jaggar includes historical references to intellectual circles such as the Vienna Circle. Though, the group comparison assumes such circles can be compared in the first place. The intellectuals’ exclusivity and aims, one could argue, may not be exactly akin to the one of feminist groups, however. Nonetheless, Jaggar later provides legitimate examples of when exclusion effectively sets limits even for those included within a particular group.
One passage that caught my attention was Jaggar’s reference to Western philosophical traditions. Namely, the “ideal of free and open discussion as that has been understood in Western moral philosophy” (p. 9). She sticks to her conviction in this idea throughout the essay, but could it itself be seen by some as a reduction to perspectives built upon philosophical foundations that are necessarily Western and, thus, exclusive? Would that mean that traditions other than Western cannot be inclusive in promoting a feminist discourse?
The idea that free and constructive feminist discourse, taken up on a global scale, should not be obstructed by attempts to dominate or condemn (on both sides) connects well to Jagger’s ethos-infused thesis. This is apparent, for instance, in her suggestion that
“a feminist conception of discourse, with its emphasis on listening, personal friendship, and responsiveness to emotion, and its concern to address power inequalities, is especially well suited to facilitate [an ethically-immersed] evaluation” of issues related to global inequalities and power relations (p. 22).
Overall, Jaggar’s argument is well-constructed, warning before extreme positions. Jaggar’s occasional lack of assertive voice, along with frequent usage of the pronoun “her” (as opposed to the conservative “his”) exemplifies her commitment to inclusiveness on the linguistic level as well.