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Humanities 2018, 7(3), 81;

The Misogynous Politics of Shame

Emerita Professor of Department of Philosophy, George Mason University, Robinson Hall B, VA 22030-4422, USA
Department of Philosophy and Religion, American University, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Received: 31 January 2018 / Revised: 3 August 2018 / Accepted: 3 August 2018 / Published: 10 August 2018
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Joanna Bourke’s account of the ways that changing ideas of rape reflect the gendered norms of the times, and Eric Reitan’s proposal that rape ought to remain a contested concept amenable to evolving principles of ethical sexual relationships, speak to the ways that social, cultural, and political contexts influence our understanding of sexual violence. Though the criteria that are used to define rape change, one thing remains constant: the raped person is shamed. As she is shamed, she is degraded. This paper argues that until we understand the role that shame plays in enabling sexual violence by humiliating, silencing, and stigmatizing its victims, changes in our depictions of rape will neither disable the personal devastation of being raped nor dismantle the social practices and political institutions that rely on rape to maintain misogynous inequalities. Following the Introduction (Section 1) it is divided into three parts. Section 2, The Shame of Being Human, discusses the psychological and phenomenological accounts of shame. It alerts us to the ways that shame defines us insofar as it reveals the truth of human intersubjectivity and mutual interdependency. Section 3, Debilitating Shame, describes the ways that shame has been exploited to enable and enforce sexed and gendered inequalities. Section 4, Shame: Demanding Justice, examines the ways that shame, in its role as the protector of the self, undermines the effects of debilitating shame and fosters a politics of sexual integrity by affirming the dignity of the interdependencies that tie us to each other. View Full-Text
Keywords: human; gendered; debilitating; isolating; silencing; social force; liberating human; gendered; debilitating; isolating; silencing; social force; liberating
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Bergoffen, D. The Misogynous Politics of Shame. Humanities 2018, 7, 81.

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