A criticism of Young’s ‘Throwing Like a Girl’ through Scheler’s understanding of motor action

  • Cinzia RuggeriEmail author


This paper is concerned with the nature of feminine bodily comportment described by Iris Marion Young in ‘Throwing Like a Girl.’ According to Young, the style of movement of women, who undergo patriarchal oppression, reveals their existential status as a socio-historically oppressed group. Her claim is that patriarchal oppression acts upon women’s bodily functions, thus causing feminine motility to exhibit an inhibited intentionality, an ambiguous transcendence and a discontinuous unity. In this paper I take issue with these three modalities of feminine comportment. Firstly, I resort to Max Scheler’s phenomenological description of the different stages leading to motor action to show that the bodily functionality of oppressed women is intact when considered from the motor-intentional perspective. Secondly, I advocate, via Scheler’s phenomenology, a different mode through which to interpret the bodily expressivity of oppressed women. My claim is that feminine motility expresses the negative impact that sexism has upon the oppressed women’s emotional pre-theoretical and pre-non-motor level. My (Schelerian) thesis is that patriarchal society negatively influences, and thereby compromises, the constitution of women’s axiological apparatus by inhibiting their preferences of values. Finally, I argue that the axiological apparatus of oppressive men is likewise compromised, and hence needs to be re-educated as much as that of the oppressed women. The main aim of this paper is to suggest a correct reading of the hampered motility of oppressed women, which keeps into consideration the phenomenon of ‘oppression’ in its entirety, and which can thus lead to adequate axiological therapies.


Motor intentionality Phenomenology of action Axiology Iris Marion Young Max Scheler Gender inequality 



I wish to thank the participants of the conference “Phenomenology and Beyond” (Reykjavík, 21–23 April 2016) and the workshop “Phenomenology of Action and Volition” (Prague, 21–23 May 2018) for their feedback. I would like also to express my sincere gratitude to Alessandro Salice and Zachary Davis for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, and to Joseph Walsh and Jonathan Paul Mitchell for proofreading the final version. The completion of this work was made possible by the research award “Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship” funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (Grant No. GOIPG/2013/1507).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dublin 16Ireland
  2. 2.UCD School of PhilosophyDublin 4Ireland

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