Filipa Melo Lopes - ‘“Half Victim, Half Accomplice”: Cat Person and Narcissism’

This episode of Season 5 of the BSP Podcast features Filipa Melo Lopes, from the Philosophy Department of the University of Edinburgh. The presentation is taken from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online.

 

ABSTRACT: At the end of 2017, Kristen Roupenian’s short story, Cat Person, went viral. Published at the height of the #MeToo movement, it depicted a ‘toxic date’ and a disturbing sexual encounter between Margot, a college student, and Robert, an older man she meets at work. The story was widely viewed as a relatable denunciation of women’s powerlessness and routine victimization. In this paper, I push against this common reading. I suggest that it fails to capture the disturbing and ‘skin-crawling’ quality of the story because it fails to engage with its rich phenomenological description. I propose an alternative feminist interpretation of Cat Person through the lens of Simone de Beauvoir’s notion of narcissism. For Beauvoir, narcissism is a particular form of alienation that consists in making oneself both the subject and the ultimate project of one’s life. Framing Margot as a modern-day narcissist casts her as engaging, not in subtly coerced, undesired sex, but rather in sex that is desired in a tragically alienated way. I argue that Beauvoir’s notion of narcissism is an important tool for feminists today –well beyond the interpretation of Cat Person. It presses us to see systematic subordination not just as something done to women, but also as something women do to themselves. This in turn highlights the neglected role of self-transformation as a key aspect of feminist political resistance.

 

BIO: Filipa Melo Lopes is a Lecturer in Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. She completed her Ph.D. in Philosophy, in 2019, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research interests include Social Theory, Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy of Disability and Philosophy of Sexuality.

 

This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: 'Engaged Phenomenology'. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews online as well. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone: https://www.britishphenomenology.org.uk/bsp-annual-conference-2020/

 

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https://www.britishphenomenology.org.uk/events/

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP? https://www.britishphenomenology.org.uk/

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