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Becoming Animals

  • Lorenzo Bernini
Chapter
  • 388 Downloads

Abstract

The reconstruction of the seventeenth-century text carried out in the previous chapter may seem strange in a work dedicated to contemporary queer theories, but it proves useful not only in clearing up the chrono-biopolitical nature of the liberal subject, but in adding something about the strategic role that the sexual question plays in its production as well. A now established tradition of feminist criticism has denounced how, in the founding narrations of political modernity, heterosexual males, in reality, enter into the state-instituted pact, and the presumed sexual neutrality of individuals is none other than an expedient to leave women’s subordination to men unaltered and unthematized. This is the subordination asserted by Aristotle, which would have no reason to linger in an egalitarian landscape. In the now classic The Sexual Contract, Carole Pateman, using a timely textual analysis, shows how this occurs not only in the absolutist Hobbes, but in Locke, Rousseau and Kant as well, considered the founding fathers of the liberal tradition, the democratic one and juridical pacifism, respectively. It’s as if, in their works, the social contract presupposed a tight sexual contract between men designed to regulate the possession of women, and keep them in a state of submission. The contrast between the false contractualist egalitarianism of sexual differenceunderstood as the only difference between men and womenand the insistence on the dissymmetry of the sexes in the reproductive process has at times, however, led feminist thought to an uncritical adoption of that sexual binarism that is both the prerequisite and the product of the “social contract” (Bernini 2010a).1 Pateman herself (1988; 223, italics mine) shows, for example, a cruel insensitivity in the face of intersex, transsexual and transgender people when she writes that “a human body, except through misfortunes of birth, is not male and female at the same time,” and then adds that “if dissatisfied with their ‘gender orientation’, men can become ‘transsexuals’ and turn themselves into simulacra of women.” Like the sovereign in De cive, the author claims the authority to decide who has the right to be recognized as fully human: not only does she uncritically declare that intersexuality is a misfortune, and that female identity is not accessible to trans women, she also negates the existence of trans men.2

Keywords

Sexual Minority Feminist Criticism Queer Theory Trans Woman Political Modernity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorenzo Bernini
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VeronaVeronaItaly

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