Feminism, Disability, and Evolutionary Psychology: What’s Missing?

Maeve O'Donovan


Although a number of feminist scholars have scrutinized evolutionary psychology (EP) in order to show its gendered assumptions, very few feminist scholars have interrogated the assumptions that the field makes about disability. Nor have disability theorists paid adequate critical attention to EP, despite the fact that the field and the theories that it promotes are central to dominant contemporary conceptions of disability. In this essay, I point out the ways in which feminist criticisms of EP fail to address its implications for our understandings of disability. I argue, furthermore, that insofar as feminist criticisms of EP fail to integrate a critical approach to disability, they do so at their own expense—perhaps even undermining their own theoretical and political goals. Both feminist philosophy and philosophy of disability have much to gain from co-developing a feminist philosophy of disability that takes account of evolutionary approaches. Given the prevalence—both within and outside of the academy—of evolutionary justifications for oppression and discrimination, the need for an integrative model which would succeed where other critiques of evolutionary psychology have failed is vital.

Keywords: disability, evolutionary psychology, feminist philosophy, modularity, standpoint theory


disability; evolutionary psychology; feminist philosophy; modularity; standpoint theory

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v33i4.3872

Copyright (c) 2013 Maeve O'Donovan

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