Where were you before coming to King’s?
Before coming to King’s I was a postdoc in Political Theory at Free University Berlin, having completed my PhD at Humboldt University in Political Philosophy the year before.
How did you get into philosophy?
By accident. I moved from politics to political theory to political philosophy/feminist philosophy and here I am. More substantially: I got passionate about philosophy because it helps me to make sense of the social world and it allows me to get a better understanding of the political struggles of our times.
You’ve written about the exploitation of emotional labour in hierarchical social relations. Could you tell us a bit about this?
For me, exploitation is intimately linked to power. On my understanding, one party exploits another if her position of power allows her to gain benefits from another party that she could not have gotten absent the power relation. Gender specific exploitation draws attention to the power that comes with being positioned in hierarchical gender relations and the way in which those in positions of power (mainly, though not exclusively men) are able to gain benefits in virtue of their social position. What I take gender specific exploitation to consists in is an unequal flow of care giving and emotional support from women to men and a systematically inadequate valuation of the energy and time it takes to provide this. To illustrate this: I think that the fact that women disproportionally provide emotional labour both in the public and the private sphere constitutes a case of gender specific exploitation. Women’s social positions in hierarchical gender relations make them structurally vulnerable to disproportionally provide emotional labour. Assumptions about women’s ‘natural propensity to care’ or an understanding of emotional labour as a ‘labour of love’ mean that this type of labour is often not recognized as labour and as a result not (or not adequately) valued and compensated for.
Why do you think traditional analyses of exploitation are unable to capture distinctively gendered forms exploitation?
Dominant accounts of exploitation fail to capture gender specific exploitation for two reasons in particular: first, they often exclude the structural conditions under which specific interactions take place, gender being one of them. But social position matters with regards to making individuals exploitable in the first place. Accounts of exploitation that explicitly focus on structural conditions, most notably Marxist accounts of exploitation are prone to the old Feminist Marxist charge of prioritizing class over gender (or race, sexuality…). Another reason for why dominant accounts tend to fail to capture gender specific exploitation is their focus on commodity exploitation. Yet, many of the exploitative interactions that feminists are concerned about, e.g. the unequal provision of care, happen outside of the market and thereby fall out of the scope of exploitation conceived as commodity exploitation.
Is there a philosophical idea that you endorse that most people don’t but should?
As a political theorist/philosopher and a feminist, I think my relationship to philosophy is to some extent instrumental. I use philosophy as a toolbox to think about the different ways in which our social order fails allow people to live even minimally decent lives, e.g. by depriving them of access to affordable housing or healthcare, by stigmatizing members of marginalized groups, or by distributing care-giving unequally. Philosophy has a crucial role to play in drawing out normative conflicts, clarifying values and providing resources to change our social practices. That philosophy should move beyond interpreting the world to changing it is no news. Yet, it does not seem to have gained widespread support. I think it should.