Mary P. Ryan, Prof. of History and Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, 1998; FEMINISM, THE PUBLIC AND THE PRIVATE, "Gender and Public Access: Women's Politics in Nineteenth-Century America," EE2001-hxm, p. 195-196

In that same historical moment, a rekindled feminism ignited the consciousness of that sex whose relationship to the public had been most tenuous and ever problematic. The illumination that the women's movement cast over public life exposed the gendered limits on participation in the public sphere and at the same time gave new urgency to the ideals that the term encapsulated. The strictures of gender were quickly discerned as among the tightest, oldest, most categorical restrictions on public access. Women were patently excluded from the bourgeois public sphere, that ideal historical type that Habermas traced to the eighteenth century, and were even read out of the fiction of the public by virtue of their ideological consignment to a separate realm called the private, The subsequent historical transformation of the public did little to accommodate women, who were constrained just as tightly within mass welfare-state democracy, Their sex was the special target of consumer culture, yet they were poorly represented among those who wielded power in both the state and the capitalist sectors. Accordingly, the appropriate feminist stance toward the public seemed deceptively simple: to Position women and their political concerns for a direct assault upon that hallowed sphere to which they had been so long denied access. Public access held many promises for women: escape from manipulative media of consumerism (called the 'feminine mystique' by Betty Friedan), recognition of the unwaged, unrewarded labours of social reproduction for Marxist- feminists, some taste of efficacy and power to those like the members of the National Organization for Women intent on entering the 'mainstream' of American public life, The new feminists were not simply demanding admission to the public; they also placed a multitude of specific issues, often drawn from their private' experience, on the public agenda. Finally, as ferninists made haste to construct theoretical guidelines for their political activism, they located the structural underpinnings of gender inequality along the private-public axis. Michelle Rosaldo's hypothesis that neither biology nor reproductive functions but the denial of access to the public realm was the basic underpinning of women's secondary status became a classic postulate of feminist theory.


Seyla Benhabib, Prof. of Government at Harvard University, 1998; FEMINISM, THE PUBLIC AND THE PRIVATE, "Models of Public Space: Hannah Arendt, the Liberal Tradition, and Jurgen Habermas," EE2001-hxm p. 85-86

Any theory of publicness, public space, and public dialogue must Presuppose some distinction between the private and the public. In the tradition of Western political thought down to our own days, the way in which the distinction between the public and the private spheres has been drawn has served to confine women, and typically female spheres of activity like housework, reproduction, nurturance, and care of the young, the sick, and the elderly, to the ' private' domain, and to keep them off the public agenda in the liberal state. These issues have often been considered matters of the good life, of values, of non -generalizable interests. Along with their relegation, in Arendt's terms, to the 'shadowy interior of the household', they have been treated, until recently, as 'natural' and 'immutable' aspects of human relations. They have remained pre-reflexive and inaccessible to discursive analysis. Much of our tradition, when it considers the autonomous individual or the moral

Point of view, implicitly defines this as the standpoint of the homo

Politicus or the homo economicus but hardly ever as the female

self. Challenging the distinction of contemporary moral and Political discourse, to the extent that they Privatize these issues, is central to women's struggles which intend to make these issues public.


Leonore Davidoff, Prof. of Sociology at the University of Essex, 1998; FEMINISM, THE PUBLIC AND THE PRIVATE, "Regarding Some 'Old Husbands' Tales': Public and Private in Feminist History," EE2001-hxm p. 164-165

The everyday usage of a public and private distinction has led to much confusion. When feminists, mainly anthropologists. first focused on the distinction, there was an apparent universal sexual asymmetry that fitted neatly into a public/private dimension. This was then used, often implicitly, to explain women's powerlessness.' However, the obvious objection to the automatic connection of women with the private (or the 'natural') is the nonsensical logic which would then make men 'naturally' cultural or 'naturally' rational.' This convention, indeed, has continued to be part of the prob

lem, for the public/private divide has played a dual role as both an

explanation of women's subordinate position and as an ideology

that constructed that position. As Ludmilla Jordanova has argued,

'The distinction itself has to be treated as an artefact whose long life

history requires careful examination. ' Furthermore, like gender it

self, public and private have been used as a rich source of metaphor.


Leonore Davidoff, Prof. of Sociology at the University of Essex, 1998; FEMINISM, THE PUBLIC AND THE PRIVATE, "Regarding Some 'Old Husbands' Tales': Public and Private in Feminist History," EE2001-hxm p. 167

This uncertainty has continuously resurfaced. Its latest manifestation is explicitly linked to gender issues as seen in debates over the work of writers such as Carol Gilligan and Catharine MacKinnon." But these discussions make little reference to the terms 'public' and 'private' In the nineteenth century, on the other hand, debates about these terms could be at a level which had no feminine component at all. Given that men were the 'unmarked' and therefore invisible category, the gendered nature of these assumptions has not until very recently been part of the debate. At the same time, the whole edifice was predicated on an unspoken assumption about a shadow world of reproduction, sexuality, and at least parts of the morality which had come to be jettisoned from the public realm as the constructs developed through the nineteenth century. Domestic, personal life, regarded as embedded in the biological, universal, and pre-social, remained outside the terms of debate, an exclusion which has been used to restrict the universe of legitimate public, and hence political, contestation.