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Habits of Resistance: Feminism, Phenomenology, and Temporality

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  • Feminist resistance to gender oppression, while surely a collective political project, has an important individual dimension. Individual resistance most often takes the shape of self-transformation where one works on the self to change desires, attitudes, and practices. I argue that paradigms of self-transformation that rely on willpower or increased self-knowledge for change can responsibilize oppressed persons when changing proves difficult, which frustrates feminist ends. Because of this I argue that habit deserves increased attention from feminists working on personal resistance to gender oppression. I analyse a range of contexts in which habit appears and I underscore its temporal character in order to render intelligible problems in feminist theories of resistance. I work from the assumption that habits have both a negative and a positive quality—they can keep us stuck, but they also provide the ground from which we can change. While habits have been theorized as the reason for a lack of social change, I argue that habit reveals to us that much of how we are constituted is actually our personal control. I argue that paying closer attention to habitual constitution reveals that there are both multiple kinds of habits and also multiple strategies that can change them. At the same time as I argue for increased attention to habit, I build a relationship between lived experiences of temporality and how social forces produce meaningful temporal narratives. In this sense, I engage with our habits of time. I situate this project in contemporary feminist theories and draw on the phenomenological and existential traditions drawing primarily on the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Edmund Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. My overarching concern is not to say what habit is or what habits we should have, but rather to see what habit does.

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    Attribution 3.0 International