Feminist Philosophic Toys

with Rebecca Rouse

Feminist Philosophic Toys

What are the matters of philosophy? How do they shape how philosophy is practiced, what kinds of knowledge it produces, and who counts as a philosopher? The dominant matters of Western philosophy, or its epistemic companions, are books and journal articles even when dialogic and oral traditions are acknowledged or referenced. In this paper, we argue that alternatives are necessary if philosophy were to be a more capacious and welcoming discipline. We introduce Feminist Philosophic Toys as one such alternative that challenges what counts as serious philosophy by being seriously playful. The toys foreground the dialogic and the oral while reflecting on and committing to new materialist mattering, record-keeping and record making. Not only do these toys challenge the dominant form of philosophy and its mechanics of knowledge making but they also offer an alternative way of doing philosophy that can be transformative for the next generation of feminist scholarship. The dialogic, embodied, and communal interaction with paper, with theory, and with others is meant as a practice of live theorization, opening philosophy to a new groundedness and accessibility, centered in ethos of feminist epistemology, while at the same time pushing against fetishization of matter.

More specifically, we build on the history of the Victorian ‘philosophical toy’ Feminist Philosophical Toys presents a re-imagined set of paper machines as feminist materials for designers to think with. 

Whereas traditional philosophical toys were luxury-object apparatuses such as the zoetrope and stereoscope, brought into the Victorian home to teach principles of human perception and disseminate the practices and principles of the scientific method, Feminist Philosophical Toys are flexible and accessible paper-based objects that push back against scientific positivism as it manifests in design, refutes the book as the primary material of the Philosophy discipline at large, and opens up feminist perspectives and methods at the intersection of philosophy, pedagogy, and design practice. As such, feminist philosophical toys are at once a reflection and extension of a feminist epistemological and ethical position: that of situated knowledges and reflexive practice grounded in relational and restorative justice.

Recent Publications

  1. Parvin, Nassim, and Rebecca Rouse. “Mess and Making Matters in Feminist Teaching.” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 8.1 (2022): 1-45.


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