Scroll through the images for evidence that there is still work to be done.  This is the text that populates in Google when one searches "women...."

Poststructural Feminism in Education: An Overview

Elizabeth Adams St. Pierre

Professor, University of Georgia Department of Educational Theory and Practice

Areas of Expertise: Poststructural and Postmodern Theories, Post Qualitative Inquiry, New Empiricisms/ New Materialisms


This article presents an overview of several philosophical concepts (language, knowledge, discourse, truth...), offering a poststructural feminist perspective on these concepts as compared to their typical humanist understandings. This "critical" piece explores how feminists utilize the poststructuralist "reinscriptions" outlined in the article as they strive for social justice for women.

Method, Literature, and Purpose

A comprehensive review of Humanism and Poststructuralism (with an emphasis on poststructural feminism) is utilized. From Descartes, to Derrida, to Chaudhry, to Spivak, to Foucault, to Scheurich, to Butler, to Lather, well over 100 sources are cited to provide a solid foundation for humanism and poststructuralism as they relate to the work and challenges of feminists.

Literature Reviewed and Discussed

"Humanism is everywhere" (St. Pierre, p. 478), and the associated language and effects of  it have become "natural", creating a challenging task for those who wish to observe its functioning and question why humanist beliefs and discourse have become ingrained in our lives (p. 478, 485).  Some feminists contend that humanism has proven harmful to the lives of women and other groups, due to the binaries and cultural structures that have been perpetuated by humanism (p. 479).  Those who represent marginalized groups, such as feminists, use deconstruction to examine how language works, as well as the negative impact it can have on certain groups.  St. Pierre discusses binaries, such as rational/irrational, explaining that women typically fall on the "wrong side of the binary" and that the term "male" is privileged, while "female" is disadvantaged (p. 481).  

"Critical" Contribution & Implications

St. Pierre explains that many poststructural feminists desire to eliminate the structures that have positioned them as the weaker and less rational of the genders (p. 483). The difficult task of thinking differently about the "deep structures" that have become "normal" is a theme that arises throughout (pp. 478, 480, 483, 485), and exposes the danger in accepting the resulting "truths" of these deep structures with a "that's just the way it is", irresponsible attitude (p. 484). St. Pierre summarizes some of Butler's work regarding power, explaining those invested in social justice often consider it to be evil and attempt to give it away (pp. 488-489) and contrasts this with Foucault's belief that power is not evil or repressive by its nature (p. 491). Many feminists have given a lot of attention to theories of power and liberation, but that other feminists tend to disagree with the agendas of some fighting for this very liberation (p. 493). Many feminists believe that truth is "determined within relations of power" (p. 498). St. Pierre explores the "subject", or the individual, in poststructural feminism, and discusses how the category "woman" has been so ingrained in our understanding that we have only begun to deconstruct it (p. 505).  As evidenced by the images from Google searches at the top of this poster, there is certainly still work to be done - in the field of education and beyond.


While I feel that many citations are shared throughout the article to demonstrate the work of poststructural feminists in education, I thought the title was misleading, as I expected more discussion and synthesis of these source that do discuss this work in the world of education. However, I do feel as though this article deepened my understanding of humanism, postmodernism, and poststructuralism, particularly as it relates to feminism. In addition, my eyes were opened to existing constructs that have resulted from humanism; I was especially intrigued by the discussion regarding binaries and the deconstruction of language.

Emma Watson for UN Women
"He for She" Campaign

Other Feminist Theory Articles

Comment Stream