Objectivist and essentialist ontologies of gender and love

Harrison, Karey (2014) Objectivist and essentialist ontologies of gender and love. In: Gender, love and intimacy. Critical Issues. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 3-25. ISBN 978-1-84888-276-8


This chapter is part of an extended project exploring the centrality of metaphoric reasoning for understanding ‘erotic connectivity’ and ‘embodied cognition.’ In this chapter I interrogate the ontological commitments of both objectivism and constructivism regarding the nature of persons and society, and the implications of these commitments for concepts of gender and love. Whereas objectivist and
essentialist categorisation of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ impose strict binaries such that each person must be either ‘male’ or ‘female,’ ‘woman’ or ‘man,’ and are used to naturalise the privileged status of men over women, nominalist and constructivist accounts of personal identity and social constructions occlude the erotic physicality of our embodied experience of the world, erase and de-legitimate ‘women’ as a category, along with the possibility of arguing for and organising resistance to relations of oppression and exploitation experienced by women and other subordinate groups such as those based on race, class, and sexual orientation. The self-interested atomism and individualism of liberal political philosophy and economic theory leaves no room for a conception of love as mutual caring, and
ignores the fact that human wellbeing depends on such interdependencies. When faced with ambiguity in category membership – whether of physiology, of desire, or of behaviour – objectivism and essentialism legitimate coercive enforcement of category boundaries: by surgery to correct ‘deviations’ from ‘objective’ biological categories; by suppression and stigmatisation of ‘deviant’ desires; and by social and economic sanctions for ‘deviance’ from ‘male’ and ‘female’ role expectations. I show that the ‘concrete analogies’ which structure ontological beliefs about what objects, entities, relations and processes exist rests on gestalt pattern recognition, and that this is open to experiential disruption of established categories and expectations which create a space for resistance to relations of domination and exploitation.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2014 01:21
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2018 02:40
Uncontrolled Keywords: gender, love, ontology, objectivism, essentialism, constructivism, categorisation, feminist theory, political theory, abortion
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200205 Culture, Gender, Sexuality
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220306 Feminist Theory
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220309 Metaphysics
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/25216

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