Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

Gendered Community: Rousseau, Sex, and Politics

PENNY A. WEISS
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfxt2
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Gendered Community
    Book Description:

    Rousseau's writings reflect paradoxes and apparent inconsistencies with his principled commitments to freedom and equality. In this engrossing work, Penny Weiss wrestles with issues of gender in the works of Rousseau.Weiss attempts to resolve apparent inconsistencies by placing them within the context of Rousseau's political philosophy, while avoiding the impulse to attribute his remarks on the sexes to the sexist times in which he wrote, or to his personal idiosyncracies.A significant contribution to feminist theory, this book addresses the debates concerning Rousseau's understandings of gender, justice, freedom, community, and equality. She also examines how Rousseau's political strategies give rise to a range of important contemporary questions regarding families, citizens, and communities.This new, more complete picture of Rousseau's work will challenge scholars and students of philosophy, politics, and women's studies to look at, and understand, Rousseau in a whole new way. Penny A. Weiss addresses the apparent male/female contradictions that run through the work of the eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. She argues that Rousseau's defense of sexual differentiation is based on the contribution he perceives it can make to the establishment of community, not on an appeal to some version of natural sex differences. Weiss convincingly demonstrates that Rousseau's political strategy is ultimately unworkable, undermining the very community it was meant to establish.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8493-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. PART ONE

    • ONE INTRODUCTION: GENDER, ROUSSEAU, AND POLITICS
      (pp. 3-9)

      Rousseau’s fame for writing in apparent inconsistencies and paradoxes is indisputably well deserved. He confronts the reader with ironies of all sorts. There are contrasts between his life and his written words: Rousseau the educational theorist failed as a private tutor, and Rousseau the supporter of traditional familial obligations left to foundling homes the children born to him and Thérèse Levasseur.¹ There are apparent contradictions within his ideas themselves as well: Rousseau speaks of masters as themselves enslaved and, most famously, of a general will that forces people to be free. Yet readers must exercise extra caution lest something be...

    • TWO PRODUCING GENDER: SEX, FREEDOM, AND EQUALITY IN ROUSSEAU’S EMILE
      (pp. 10-35)

      Although the book bearing his name was written in 1750, Rousseau’s Emile could pass for a “sensitive, new-age, guy” according to portraits of him in the secondary literature. He’s strong, yet caring. He’s bright and resourceful, without being pedantic. He’s a reliable worker, but not overly fond of money. He stays in shape and gives to the needy. Why he’s even acquainted with sexual responsibility and imposes no sexual double standard on women, whose respect he seeks.

      Rousseau’s Sophie, on the other hand, seems completely out of place in the late twentieth century. An eighteenth-century “total woman,” she’s the eternal...

    • THREE ANATOMY AND DESTINY: ROUSSEAU, ANTIFEMINISM, AND WOMAN’S NATURE
      (pp. 36-53)

      The educations of women and men endorsed by Rousseau are not based on incompatible philosophies of education or politics. The two schemes are, however, different. Theoretical consistency does not diminish the fact that in Rousseau’s thought no characteristic other than sex so completely determines the education and, consequently, the life of an individual. Women are confined to the private sphere, consumed with the duties of wife and mother and limited to indirect access to power. Men have the duties of husband and father, but also participate fully in public life as tradespersons and citizens and are taught and allowed to...

    • FOUR FAMILIES AND POLITICS: SEX ROLES AND COMMUNITY
      (pp. 54-74)

      Thus far two major theses have been defended. First, that Rousseau’s sexually differentiated educational programs both have as their goal the production of a particular kind of social person and appeal to similar understandings of the human condition, child development, and politics. While females and males are molded by education to be different from each other, for each there exists a model touching on every important aspect of their life. Second, Rousseau’s rationale for these substantively distinct programs is not to be found in an appeal to the different natures of the sexes. When he seems to make such appeals,...

    • FIVE THE JUSTICE OF SEX ROLES: “ROUSSEAU, JUDGE OF JEAN-JACQUES”
      (pp. 75-89)

      Rousseau’s political theory acknowledges that social differentiation of the sexes is not a given but something that can be created in varying degrees and forms; he argues that it should be created for social and political purposes and recognizes the care and thoroughness with which a scheme of differentiation must be implemented and reinforced if it is to be successful. His arrangement indirectly supports a central thesis of radical feminism: that sex roles infiltrate every aspect of public and private worlds and are not an excisable feature of the social structure, as some “reformists” seem to believe. This means, too,...

    • SIX ROUSSEAU AND FEMINIST REVOLUTION: THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF GENDERED COMMUNITY
      (pp. 90-118)

      Rousseau created and institutionalized gender roles as part of his plan for attaining genuine political community. There are some plausible arguments supporting the view that the sexual division of labor is consistent with his principles of justice. His sexual politics are less mysterious and inconsistent, and more integral and intentional, than many have maintained. If I have played the part of Rousseau’s “apologist,” this is because I believe a feminist critique of him would be more effective if it gave him the benefit of the doubt wherever it was not blatantly unreasonable to do so. This accomplished, I leave the...

  6. PART TWO

    • SEVEN FEMINISM AND COMMUNITARIANISM: EXPLORING THE RELATIONSHIP
      (pp. 121-148)

      And what of the paths that Rousseau’s thought does not take? Rousseau endorses sexual differentiation not because he is convinced of the inevitability of “natural” sex differences or of the inferiority of the female sex but because he believes that such differentiation can help originally asocial individuals to overcome or avoid self-interest and egoism and to learn to be members of familial and political communities. Nonetheless, his scheme is incapable in practice of serving the ends for which it is established, because sexual differentiation in fact undermines community. Analysis of Rousseau as a communitarian defender of gender roles opens up...

    • EIGHT GENDER BIAS IN POLITICAL THEORY: (UN)SEEING AND (UN)DOING
      (pp. 149-162)

      Step for a few minutes into a world where everything changes when one thing changes—a world in which women dominate men. For simplicity’s sake, look only at one subfield of one academic discipline in this topsy-turvy world: political theory. The history of political theory is peopled entirely by women: Aristonia and Platonia in antiquity, Saints Thomasina and Augustinia in medieval times and, in the modern period, Nicole MacVillain, Janice Locket, Donna Hobbles, Jeanne-Jacqueline Trousseau, Jane Stuart Miller, and Carla Marcus. Even the less prominent figures, such as Jeanette Bodine and Roberta Fillmore, are women.¹

      Looking at college curricula and...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 163-176)
  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 177-184)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 185-190)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-191)