Feminism and the Cooling of Intimacy. Unintended Consequences of Women’s Movements



How to Cite

Musiał, M. (2013). Feminism and the Cooling of Intimacy. Unintended Consequences of Women’s Movements. ETHICS IN PROGRESS, 4(1), 119–128. https://doi.org/10.14746/eip.2013.1.9


Numerous diagnoses of contemporary transformations of love and eroticism emphasise the fact that the intimate life has become democratised and liberated. Anthony Giddens argues that personal relationships increasingly become compatible with the model of pure relationship, which means that they are more egalitarian and that both partners are free to choose and to negotiate the shape of their relations. Jeffrey Weeks claims that in “the world that we have won”, women, homosexuals and queers are increasingly considered as equal to heterosexual men. Most scholars agree that feminism(together with gays’ and lesbians’ movements) is one of most important factors that enabled the democratisation of intimacy. Yet, it is possible to distinguish some interesting approaches that examine the unintended consequences of women’s emancipation. Sociologists like Arlie Russell Hochschild and Eva Illouz recognise the importance of feminism in democratising intimacy, thus they also claim that liberation of women has entailed rationalisation and commercialisation of intimacy. One of Hochschild’s main thesis is that feminism commercialises intimacy by legitimising “the commercial spirit of intimate life”. What is more, she argues that instead of humanizing men feminism is capitalising women. On the other hand, Illouz persuades that feminism – together with therapeutic discourse – rationalises intimacy by emphasising the necessity of analysing and quantifying all aspects of intimate life. Hochschild and Illouz claim that feminism unintentionally makes intimacy “cold” – that is that it suggests focusing on personal autonomy and perceiving warm and close bonds as an endangerment for that autonomy. The cooling entails loosening of family and intimate relationships and making individuals more attached to the market. In the end, both sociologists agree that “cool” branches of feminism make women similar to men and intimacy similar to the market


Bauman, Z. (2003). Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Dowling, C. (1981). The Cinderella Complex. New York: Pocket Books.

Giddens, A. (1992). The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.

Hochschild, A. R. (2003a). “The Commercial Spirit of Intimate Life and the Abduction of Feminism: Signs from Women’s Advice Books”. In: A. R. Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 14-29.

Hochschild, A. R. (2003b). “The Commodity Frontier”. In: A. R. Hochschild, Arlie Russell, The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 30-44.

Hochschild, A. R. (2012). The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Illouz, E. (2007). Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Cambridge, Malden: Polity Press.

Illouz, E. (2008). Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of SelfHelp. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Illouz, E. (2012a). Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation. Cambridge, Malden: Polity Press.

Illouz, E. (2012b). An interview with Eva Illouz by Jessa Crispin. Retrieved from http://www.bookslut.com/features/2012_07_019157.php on 20.03.2013.

Morgan, M. (1973). The Total Woman. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall.

Musiał, M. (2013). “Richard Sennett and Eva Illouz on tyranny of intimacy. Intimacy tyrannized and intimacy as a tyrant”. In: Lingua ac Communitas, 23 (2013), pp. 119-134.

Noddings, N. (1984). Caring. A Feminine Approach To Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley & Los Angeles.

Scruton, R. (1986). Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic. New York: Free Press.

Weeks, J. (2007). The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life Since 1945. London, New York: Routledge