Where feminist theory divides between two strategies, one based on equality (or sameness) and the other on difference, this book proposes a new approach - specificity. We are neither simply "the same as" nor "different from" one another, Shane Phelan observes, and any theory that assumes as much is mistaken and dangerous. Here she offers an alternative, a "democratic identity politics", which recognizes the specifics of human experience and at the same time accounts for alliances and communities. Getting specific, Phelan suggests, allows us to discover the networks of meaning and power that shape our lives and to find and respect genuine individuality. In particular, Phelan points out the pitfalls of a lesbian-feminism that ignores the specificities of race. Drawing on the theory surrounding women of colour, she shows how the failure of white lesbians to consider the role of race in their lives leads to inadequate social theory and political action. These failures in turn limit the possibilities for trust and cooperation across race, and thereby weaken all struggles for democratic change.
Along the way to formulating a democratic identity politics out of this critique, Phelan examines concepts of power, justice, community, interest, and liberation. Developing a new vision of coalition and alliance for lesbian-feminism, she opens a new course for all political and social theorists.