Gender Identity and Women's Agency: Culture, Norms, and Internalized Oppression Revisited

Diana Tietjens Meyers

in Gender in the Mirror

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780195140415
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199871476 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

 Gender Identity and Women's Agency: Culture, Norms, and Internalized Oppression Revisited

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Because individual identities evolve in the context of enculturation, interpersonal bonds of affection and interdependency, and unconscious attitudes and wishes, a philosophical account of self‐determination must not only give due weight to each individual's unique desires, capabilities, values, interests, and goals, but it must also accommodate these intrapsychic, interpersonal, and social realities insofar as they shape an individual's identity. In patriarchal cultures, women internalize oppression, for regnant narrative schemas, themes, and figurations provide the default templates for their self‐portraits and self‐narratives. Women's appropriation of these default templates reproduce subordinat ing norms and crowds out alternative understandings of who they are and what their lives are about. Thus, patriarchal cultures impede women's agency. In contrast to existing value‐neutral, value‐saturated, and self‐narrative approaches to autonomy, this account stresses the need for a well‐developed, well‐coordinated repertoire of agentic skills. Using these skills enriches women's self‐knowledge, extends their emanci patory potentialities, and strengthens their ability both to define themselves in their own terms and to enact their identities as they understand them – i.e., agentic skills bring women's voices into alignment with their individual identities and their lives.

Keywords: agency; autonomy; gender identity; identity; individual identity; narrative; oppression; self; self‐determination; self‐knowledge; women

Chapter.  10778 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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