It is common to discuss sexual politics and its competing issues via a distinction among first-, second- and third-wave forms of feminism (Braidotti 1991; Eisenstein 1984; Kristeva 1986; Moi 1985). As we have seen, first-wave feminism emerges in the enlightenment with the rights of man, with its primary value and aim being that of equality and inclusion. It is assumed that there is something like a universal humanity, that this humanity is defined by the power to reason, and that reason takes the form of self-determination. Reason is not, as it had been in pre-enlightenment thought, the recognition of one’s proper essence in the divine scheme of things; reason is the refusal of any natural or pre-given determination. The modern feminist demand for inclusion in a common humanity therefore relies upon much broader assumptions about the nature of political being. Politics is the collective, rational and non-coercive expression of right through the interaction of powers; it is not the expression or ordering of distinct and different powers on the basis of genders, potentials or kinds. First-wave feminism relied upon and extended this modern conception of the political, where political order is generated by reasoning subjects who have no determining essence other than their capacity to decide their own being. Subjects did not defer to an order; the political order was structured to allow for the maximisation of subjective freedoms.
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