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Revista Estudos Feministas

Print version ISSN 0104-026X


ABOIM, Sofia. From the public and the private: a gender perspective on a modern dichotomy. Rev. Estud. Fem. [online]. 2012, vol.20, n.1, pp.95-117. ISSN 0104-026X.

In this text, we put forward a critical interpretation of the historic dichotomy between 'private' and 'public' as a fundamental dynamic of modernity. From the perspective of gender we discuss the boundaries that have been constructed between the collective space of citizenship and sociability and the individual space of intimacy and inequality. We make a case for a relationship of complicity, albeit tense, between the two spheres, observing that private life has been extensively moulded by the changes that have taken place in public life. Making use of the different definitions of 'public', we note that as the traditional, essentially masculine, sociabilities studied by Ariès or Sennett, among others, were eroded, the sense of intimacy increased. There was also greater inclusion of the private in the public through the expansion of citizenship, following the battles fought in the public sphere by various emancipation movements, e.g. those of the workers or the feminists. As individuals were taken out of the community, clan or family group, where the inequalities were "natural", in the Aristotelian sense of the term, they progressively rediscovered themselves as individuals endowed with citizenship. If the private space has become of central importance in the definition of an identity, it is also increasingly crossed by public, regulatory mechanisms. For this reason, the ascent of the private, which has been a topic of debate in recent decades, should be carefully reinterpreted.

Keywords : Public/Private; Modernity; Gender; Equality; Feminism.

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