“The personal is political.”

When I asked my friend to help me set up my blog, she asked me what my website was going to be about.

“Sociology,” I told her.

She thought it was going to be a personal website.

My response to that became my tagline: the personal is political.

The slogan “the personal is political” emerged out of second-wave feminism of the late 1960s that critiqued the contradictions involved in maintaining a woman’s role within the private sphere while attempting to eliminate her exclusion from public life.

The slogan was popularized by Carol Hanisch in her article “The Personal is Political,” a response to the labeling of women groups during that time as “therapy” and “personal” to negate their political stance [1]. These groups provided space for women to discuss different aspects of womanhood based on their personal experiences. In doing so, they were able to make connections between their personal lives and their gendered position in society, and critique larger social and political structures that informed their lives. As such, Hanisch argued, these groups were a form of political action.

Since then, the slogan has been critically debated by various groups. According to its proponents, it is necessary to break down the dichotomy between the private sphere and the political sphere, which contributes to keep women out of the public realm and maintain their position within the private sphere, i.e. the household. The opponents, in turn, argue that the slogan could contribute to the association of the private with the “undesirable features of human interaction associated with the term ‘political’” and as such further undermine the status of women in society [2].

While the argument put forth by the opponents hold some weight, I agree that we must break down the dichotomy between the private and the public sphere. In many ways, our private lives are informed by the public sphere, and vice versa.

For me, not only is my personal experience directly shaped and reshaped by larger social and political structures, but my personal life is also a direct response to these same social and political structures that I try to actively critique and resist.

Indeed, the personal is political.

References

Hanisch, Carol. 1969. “The personal is political.” Radical feminism: A documentary reader. 113-16.

Nicholson, Linda J. 1981. “‘The Personal is Political’: An Analysis in Retrospect.” Social Theory and Practice 7(1): 85-98.

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