Title

Knowledge and Power: Weaponizing Women’s Experiences

Presenter Information

Bailey Durnell

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Power is often understood in terms of "having the power to do something" ('power-to') and "having power over someone" ('power-over'), and these two conceptual understandings of power are reflected in feminist political theory. 'Power-to' is a positive expression of power, and reclaiming or extending this form of power is often the goal of feminist movements. Historical examples of women reclaiming positive power include women's suffrage, or the Equal Pay Act. 'Power-over' represents negative expression of power, and is often the type of power attributed to oppressors and the dominant narrative. Due to the characterization and uses of these two types of power, 'power-to' can be viewed as normatively good, while 'power-over' can be viewed as normatively bad. To understand how feminist theorists define power, my research will review theorists from Liberal, Radical, Marxist, and Post Structural schools of feminist thought. I will compare their analyses with the dichotomy of power described above, and then provide contemporary examples of withholding or sharing a privileged knowledge or experience to generate power and sociopolitical changes. My research will analyze the concepts of power and knowledge; I will explore power as women's knowledge of their unique experiences, which can be weaponized to further empower feminist movements Specifically, I aim to address the following questions: In instances where society values the unique experiences of women, can their knowledge of this experience be an instrument of power? And once this value has been assigned, can the freedom to share or withhold their knowledge of a unique experience be employed to create sociopolitical changes for women? If women were to employ this type of power, would it manifest as positive expression of power or negative expression of power? This paper will also provide a normative framework within which to understand power through knowledge and move forward.

Category

Humanities

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Knowledge and Power: Weaponizing Women’s Experiences

UC 331

Power is often understood in terms of "having the power to do something" ('power-to') and "having power over someone" ('power-over'), and these two conceptual understandings of power are reflected in feminist political theory. 'Power-to' is a positive expression of power, and reclaiming or extending this form of power is often the goal of feminist movements. Historical examples of women reclaiming positive power include women's suffrage, or the Equal Pay Act. 'Power-over' represents negative expression of power, and is often the type of power attributed to oppressors and the dominant narrative. Due to the characterization and uses of these two types of power, 'power-to' can be viewed as normatively good, while 'power-over' can be viewed as normatively bad. To understand how feminist theorists define power, my research will review theorists from Liberal, Radical, Marxist, and Post Structural schools of feminist thought. I will compare their analyses with the dichotomy of power described above, and then provide contemporary examples of withholding or sharing a privileged knowledge or experience to generate power and sociopolitical changes. My research will analyze the concepts of power and knowledge; I will explore power as women's knowledge of their unique experiences, which can be weaponized to further empower feminist movements Specifically, I aim to address the following questions: In instances where society values the unique experiences of women, can their knowledge of this experience be an instrument of power? And once this value has been assigned, can the freedom to share or withhold their knowledge of a unique experience be employed to create sociopolitical changes for women? If women were to employ this type of power, would it manifest as positive expression of power or negative expression of power? This paper will also provide a normative framework within which to understand power through knowledge and move forward.