The body, specifically women’s experiences with the body and the assumptions, abilities, and constraints it entails, is central to feminist discourse, as the female body has traditionally been viewed as the source of and justification for much of women’s subjugation. However, the issue of studying and analyzing women’s experience proves problematic as different factions and generations of feminists have promoted different—and seemingly conflicting—methods of approaching women’s experience theoretically.
One such theoretical style aims to explain and discuss women’s embodiment as lived experience, recognizing variations in corporeal experience among women—that not everyone experiences gender in the same ways. Examining female embodiment through the lens of the lived body assumes that the body is always enculturated and that the body is not merely a relic of biology to be objectively studied. In this way, focusing on the lived body generates more subjective and individualistic ways to study female embodiment and women’s experience.
Although I do not wholly grasp the notion of the lived body as a theoretical approach to examining embodiment, it does seem appealing and advantageous to feminist discourse and goals of challenging patriarchy and gender inequality, as it allow for the inclusion of all different kinds of experiences with embodiment and sexuality. In this way, I agree with Toril Moi that feminist theorizing founded on the concept of lived experiences is beneficial, as it recognizes the plurality of sexual identities and experiences. Similarly, although I cannot claim that I fully comprehend even to the slightest degree the ideologies of Judith Butler and associated queer theorists, I find myself increasingly attracted to the idea that not only gender, but the concept of sex, too, is socially constructed and that these categories need dismantled or at least reassessed.
However, like Iris Marion Young, I find it problematic to wholly reject the concept of gender and the male/female dichotomy model for discussing social inequalities, as gender proves vital to analyzing structural and institutional realities. That is, I feel denying to recognize gender neglects real social inequalities between men and women—like, as Young notes, the “sexual division of labor.” Correspondingly, like Sonia Kruks, I believe that “commonalities of feminine body experience” do indeed exist and must be appreciated in order to provoke a sort of class consciousness among women that may enable them to collectively challenge gender inequalities. However, I must admit that I was a bit hesitant to agree with Kruks’s criticism of “sisterhood,” as I see nothing inherently wrong with promoting a sort of camaraderie among women. In fact, for me, this may be one of the most fundamental and important concerns for feminism.