To know that you are seen and loved as you are and to perceive someone else in all of their vulnerability and love them as they are is one of life’s most fulfilling ambitions.
Quite a few modern feminist writers have taken up the topic of the importance of vulnerability and its special relationship to the feminine experience, always with their own unique understanding. For example, Judith Butler (my personal heroine) began Undoing Gender with a poetic essay on vulnerability, in which she argues that “being laid bare from the start, dependent on those we do not know” is inherent in the human condition and fundamental to the sum of our experiences and relationships.
Vulnerability exposes us to both the harm we can do each other as well as the good. Butler argues that both sides of vulnerability binds us to each other and are the basis of our human existence: “if we are outside of ourselves as sexual beings, given over from the start, crafted in part through the primary relations of dependency and attachment, then… [this state] is there as the function of sexuality itself, where sexuality is…coextensive with existence” (33). Vulnerability does not only produce more meaningful experiences, but creates inherently significant bonds.
While the idea that vulnerability is fundamental to experience has wide applications, its most interesting implications can be discovered through considering how the vulnerable individual orients his or her self in the world.
Feminism is often progress-based and geared toward the achievement of a better social state. Yet, as with all social change, progress comes slowly and haltingly. If we could apply this philosophy of vulnerability to the feminist struggle, both on a personal and political level, activism can be viewed as a way of being in the world, rather than a series of means to an end. This way, activism becomes the continuous process of genuine recognition of oneself and one’s relationship to others, through which the individual can become more enlightened and connected. Vulnerability and the recognition of vulnerability tie advocacy for others with living to oneself truly and fully.