Citizenship with a Feminist Face: The Problem with Maternal Thinking

TitleCitizenship with a Feminist Face: The Problem with Maternal Thinking
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsDietz, Mary G.
EditorLandes, Joan B.
Book TitleFeminism, the Public, and the Private
PublisherOxford University Press
CityNew York

In the past twenty years, perhaps no other theoretical issue has created as much controversy within the feminist movement as the role of women in the family. But the family soon came to have its feminist defenders, and now a battle is brewing between those feminists who stand by the earlier critiques of the family and those who argue that we must reconsider the value of the family and motherhood for feminist consciousness. One such pro-family feminist, Jean Bethke Elshtain, challenges what she takes to be the matriphobia of the feminist movement by attempting to restructure political consciousness on the basis of what she calls 'social feminism.' In this chapter, the author argues against social feminism on the grounds that it harbors serious problems for feminist political discourse and democratic political action by reinforcing a one-dimensional view of women as creatures of the family. The author accordingly contends that feminism can only succeed in its political mission by encouraging democratic practices and by nurturing the reality of women as, in large part, citizens.

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