This book proceeds from a single and very simple observation: throughout history, and up to the present, women have received a clear message that we are not supposed to prioritize ourselves. Indeed, the whole question of "self" is a problem for women – and a problem that issues from a wide range of locations, including, in some cases, feminism itself. When women espouse discourses of self-interest, self-regard, and selfishness, they become illegible. This is complicated by the commodification of the self in the recent Western mode of economic and political organization known as "neoliberalism," which encourages a focus on self-fashioning that may not be identical with self-regard or self-interest.
Drawing on figures from French, US, and UK contexts, including Rachilde, Ayn Rand, Margaret Thatcher, and Lionel Shriver, and examining discourses from psychiatry, media, and feminism with the aim of reading against the grain of multiple orthodoxies, this book asks how revisiting the words and works of selfish women of modernity can assist us in understanding our fraught individual and collective identities as women in contemporary culture. And can women with politics that are contrary to the interests of the collective teach us anything about the value of rethinking the role of the individual?
This book is an essential read for those with interests in cultural theory, feminist theory, and gender politics.