Sandra Bartky

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Sandra L. Bartky
Born (1935-05-05) May 5, 1935 (age 80)
Alma mater University of Illinois at Urbana
Institutions University of Illinois at Chicago

Sandra Lee Bartky (born May 5, 1935) is a professor emeritus of philosophy and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her main research areas have been feminism and phenomenology. Her notable contributions to the field of feminist philosophy include the article, "The Phenomenology of Feminist Consciousness".[1]


Bartky holds a BA, MA and PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana, and has studied at University of Bonn and the University of Munich, both of which are in Germany, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1997, Bartky received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humanities, from New England College.[2]

Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power[edit]

Feminist Sandra Lee Bartky wrote an article, “Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power” in the late 1970s, detailing societally accepted “norms” for a woman’s body and behavior and makes the point that women are often judged for their size and shape because their bodies reflect their personality and nature. Using this information, she explains her idea that the “ideal body of femininity is constructed” and states that this perfect woman reflects the cultural obsessions and preoccupations of that society.

Bartky explains that the body of the ideal female varies with time and is dependent on culture. In today’s society, the ideal body is one that is “taut, small-breasted, narrow-hipped, and of a slimness bordering on emaciation” or that of a newly pubescent girl. This look of fragility and lack of muscular strength allows women to have an image of powerlessness, obedience, and subservience to men. They are expected to follow a strict diet, monitor their hunger to maintain their size and shape, exercise to “build the breasts and banish cellulite” and “spot-reduce problem areas” such as thick ankles or thighs. Along with body image, women are also expected to participate in behaviors that allow them to maintain this image. Women are expected to always have soft, supple, hairless, and smooth skin, worry about their beauty, be hesitant to extend their body, have a graceful gait and a restricted posture, always avert their eyes, and appear small with hands folded and legs pressed together when they are sitting. “Under the current ‘tyranny of slenderness’ women are forbidden to become large or massive; they must take up as little space as possible.”

Using all these rules, Bartky argues that “femininity is something in which virtually every woman is required to participate” and if women don’t follow this strict methodology and violate these norms, they become “loose women.” She states that because the difference between men and women is not at all just sexual difference, femininity is constructed and by doing that society created a “practiced and subjected body on which an inferior status has been inscribed.” All these rules for the ideal woman is society’s obsession with keeping women in check so that men can appear more powerful, she explains. Using this information, she implores that “femininity is a setup” and because it requires such extreme bodily transformations, every women who falls into setup destined to fail.[3]

Published works[edit]


  • Bartky, Sandra Lee (1990). Femininity and domination: studies in the phenomenology of oppression. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415901864. 
  • Bartky, Sandra Lee; Fraser, Nancy (1992). Revaluing French feminism: critical essays on difference, agency, and culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253206824. 
  • Bartky, Sandra Lee (2002). "Sympathy and solidarity" and other essays. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780847697793. 

Chapters in books[edit]

  • Bartky, Sandra Lee (2004), "Intimidation", in DesAutels, Peggy; Walker, Margaret Urban, Moral psychology: feminist ethics and social theory, Feminist Constructions, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, ISBN 9780742534803. 
  • Bartky, Sandra Lee (2005), "On psychological oppression", in Cudd, Ann E.; Andreasen, Robin O., Feminist theory: a philosophical anthology, Oxford, UK Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 105–114, ISBN 9781405116619. 
  • Bartky, Sandra Lee (2005), "Battered women, intimidation, and the law", in Friedman, Marilyn, Women and citizenship, Studies in Feminist Philosophy, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 52–66, ISBN 9780195175356. 
  • Bartky, Sandra Lee (2009) [1997], "Fractured friendships", in Liinason, Mia; et al., Friendship in feminist conversation: essays for Ulla M. Holm, Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet Distribution, Acta Universitatis Gothenburgensis, ISBN 9789173466721. 

Journal articles[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Bartky, Sandra Lee (Fall 1975). "Toward a phenomenology of feminist consciousness". Social Theory and Practice (Florida State University Department of Philosophy via JSTOR) 3 (4): 425–439. JSTOR 23557163. 
  2. ^ Switala, Kristin. "Sandra Bartky". Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, Virginia Tech University. 
  3. ^ Bartky, Sandra Lee (2012). Feminism & Foucault. pp. 61–86.