Selfish Women cover1

“This is a startling, trenchant, and original book. It is written with clarity and passion. It shakes up feminism today in productive and sometimes disturbing ways. Downing’s critical brilliance, command of the material, and uncompromising approach are dazzling.” – Professor Emma Wilson, University of Cambridge.

“This is a book that will challenge conventional views of feminism, and of various women who have made a significant impact on modern culture and politics. It fills a significant gap in the scholarly literature and is written in a crisp, accessible style that will invite readers from all ends of the ideological spectrum to re-evaluate their own perspectives.” – Professor Chris Matthew Sciabarra, New York University.

Throughout history, and up to the present, women have received a clear message: “We are not supposed to prioritize ourselves.” Understood as daughters and as mothers; as related to and responsible for others, women have never been imagined primarily as individuals.

Lisa Downing's new book Selfish Women sets out to examine this problem. First, she considers the words and works of some of the most prominent women of modern times who have espoused politics and philosophies of selfishness, including Russian-American “prophet of capitalism”, Ayn Rand, and the UK’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as well as a range of authors and fictional characters who embody facets of female selfishness. While these controversial figures are generally seen as enemies of feminism, Downing examines whether feminists – and women in general – might do well to examine the idea of self-interest in order to move beyond the simplistic notion that collectivism is a good that always works for women, while individualism is an evil.

This book is an essential read for those with interests in cultural theory, feminist theory, and gender politics.

Lisa Downing says: “We have all been brought up to assume that women are naturally caregiving and selfless. And that women who are not like this – who are difficult, or selfish – are somehow not real women or are failed women. Do you remember all those newspaper headlines about how Margaret Thatcher was “really a man”?  If we are not careful, we end up saying that women cannot be fully-rounded individuals, but just a series of feminine stereotypes. And in this way, we effectively end up saying that women are not people.”

Lisa Downing is Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality at the University of Birmingham, UK.

A cultural critic of repute, Lisa was the recipient of a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2009. She is a specialist in interdisciplinary sexuality and gender studies, critical theory, and the history of cultural concepts, focusing especially on questions of exceptionality, difficulty, and (ab)normality. Recent books include: The Cambridge Introduction to Michel Foucault (2008); Film and Ethics: Foreclosed Encounters (co-authored with Libby Saxton, 2009); The Subject of Murder: Gender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer (2013); Fuckology: Critical Essays on John Money’s Diagnostic Concepts (co-authored with Iain Morland and Nikki Sullivan, 2015); and After Foucault (as editor, 2018). Her next book project will be a short manifesto entitled Against Affect.

Selfish Women is published by Routledge and will be released on 13th June 2019.

For interviews or  a review copy please contact Hasan Salim Patel, Communications Manager (Arts, Law and Social Sciences) on +44 (0)121 415 8134. Or contact the press office out of hours on +44 (0)7789 921 165 for further information

About the University of Birmingham

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.