Departments of Philosophy and Women's and Gender Studies
University of Alberta
Hold a Mirror up to Habit?: Feminist Failure, Félix Ravaisson, and Temporality
While feminist resistance to gender oppression is most often and perhaps most effectively a collective political project, there is an important individual dimension as well. Examining and changing our habits is thus an important political project, but it must be taken on carefully. I argue that in the absence of an appropriate appreciation of habit, the self-focus involved in individual resistance can lead to a pervasive feeling of self-reproach and guilt for “failing” to self-liberate, a problem I call “feminist failure.” I outline Félix Ravaisson’s work on habit because it offers ways of thinking about the time and attention that go into habit formation, which changes the form that feminist resistance takes. To illustrate this view, I focus on mirror-gazing as a feminine practice that attracts feminist critique. I analyze the resistance strategy of mirror fasting as an illuminating practice of habit disruption that allows for resisting differently and avoiding the trap of feminist failure.
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