Hegel and His “Victims” on Women in the Private Sphere

JVF Conference Papers

As noted by others, feminists generally have followed one of two paths when they address such statements by male predecessors: apologia or critique. The first option usually involves a sort of explaining away in which the thinker is said either to have “really” meant something else, or simply to have been a product of his time. The second option accepts no excuses, but instead offers a counter-attack in which the thinker is read and interpreted through feminist eyes. Both approaches have their merits. But here I offer a third alternative which neither apologizes for nor blames Hegel, but instead asks: What were the practical effects of his ideas? As suggested by Seyla Benhabib I want to look at Hegel from the point of view of “the victims” - i.e., women. How did Hegel's ideas about men/women, public/private, objective/subjective affect women in the nineteenth century who were familiar with his work?

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