Love's Labours Lost? Feminism, the Disabled People's Movement and an Ethic of Care

Hughes, B., McKie, L., Hopkins, D. and Watson, N. (2005) Love's Labours Lost? Feminism, the Disabled People's Movement and an Ethic of Care. Sociology, 39(2), pp. 259-275. (doi: 10.1177/0038038505050538)

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The Disabled People's Movement (DPM) & the Feminist Movement appeal to incompatible meanings of 'care'. For the DPM the word 'care' is to be resisted. The emotional connotations implicit in the concept & experience of care inhibit the emancipatory project for independence & self-determination. Feminist theorists value the concept of care, & the emotional aspect of 'caring about' in 'caring for'. Given that independence can be interpreted as an ideological distortion of 'malestream' public policy, feminists argue that it should be replaced by the concept of interdependence. Furthermore, feminists express concern that the DPM's pragmatic solution to the problem of 'care' is a form of discursive alignment with 'malestream' public policy that constitutes both disabled people & women as 'other' subjects of modern welfare state economies. Drawing on the work of Irigaray, we propose that a post-feminist analysis of the constitution of the parties in the caring dyad can help to make the case for a mutually beneficial ethics of care. We support the feminist voice in disability studies, particularly its call for an embodied, experiential, emotional & political view of the caring relationship. We articulate a post-structuralist feminist critique of waste & want as the discursive terrain upon which both disabled people & women are constituted as marginalized subjects in caring relationships. Irigaray's claim that women's immersion in the pleasure of 'the other' marginalizes her from her embodied experience, dims her sense of self, & locates her & her caring practices in a liminal, abject space on the margins of phallocentric culture, ground this analysis. We claim that disabled people are similarly disembodied, & constituted as waste, & that their passionate fight for dispassionate goals might be working against their demands for a dignified & inclusive existence. Finally, we make a plea to disability activists & feminists to make common cause in the struggle for an ethics of care that is founded upon embodied interdependence.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Females, Feminist Theory, Handicapped, Health Care Services, Marginality, Social Closure, Social Movements, Dominant Ideologies, Science, Welfare State
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Watson, Professor Nicholas
Authors: Hughes, B., McKie, L., Hopkins, D., and Watson, N.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Sociology

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