Focusing on the pain experience of hysterectomy, this article applies and interrogates the foundational descriptive process on which phenomenology is based and suggests that feminism and phenomenology are more compatible than previously asserted. Building upon the work of feminist philosophers who have also explored how feminist and phenomenological approaches share similar methods and intentions—especially in connection with the former’s significant attention to lived experience as a source for the theory feminism employs—the article engages with the philosophies of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Samuel Mallin who maintain a consistent attention to the body in their phenomenological approaches. Arguing that Mallin’s method of “body hermeneutics” is especially valuable for constructing a feminist phenomenological approach, the article applies Mallin’s theories to the hysterectomy experience, thus revealing how other female-coded experiences of pain, intrusion, shame, and vulnerability are intertwined with hysterectomy. Moreover, the article posits the pain experience of hysterectomy as a particularly emphatic form of phenomenological excorporation in which hidden and habituated assumptions—in this case, the previously unnoticed and unexamined association of a woman’s womb with what it means to be a woman—are painfully brought to light. As the womb becomes more present in the notion and reality of its absence, what does this mean for the many women who experience the shared phenomenon of hysterectomy—including feminist women who enter the experience with a more explicit understanding of themselves as gendered subjects?
"More Wounding Than Wounds: Hysterectomy, Phenomenology, and the Pain(s) of Excorporation,"
Journal of Feminist Scholarship:
10, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/jfs/vol10/iss10/4