Date of Award

4-21-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Christie J. Hartley - Co-Chair

Second Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen - Co-Chair

Third Advisor

Andrew Altman

Abstract

Although feminists resist accounts that define women as having certain features that are essential to their being women, feminists are also guilty of giving essentialist definitions. Because women are extremely diverse in their experiences, the essentialist critics question whether a universal (non-essentialist) account of women can be given. I argue that it is possible to formulate a valuable category of woman, despite potential essentialist challenges. Even with diversity among women, women are oppressed as women by patriarchal structures such as rape, pornography, and sexual harassment that regulate women’s sexuality and construct women as beings whose main role is to service men’s sexual needs.

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