Historians at the Sex Wars

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 In “How Feminists Thought About Sex: Our Complex Legacy” (later published as “Seeking ecstasy on the battlefield”)  [FN interesting because these 19th c women would not have called themselves feminists]  Dubois and Gordon opened Towards a Politics of Sexuality with a cautionary tale that joined the two threads of their earlier arguments  [FN Dubois was on the organizing committee of the conference]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 “without a history, political movements like ours swing back and forth endlessly … today …. some feminists are replicating  an earlier tradition, focusing exclusively on danger  and advocating what we believe to be a  conservative sexual politics.”

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In an extended historical analogy, DuBois and Gordon tie the purity movements of the 19th century to present day anti rape efforts, seeking insights that can guide “how we conduct feminist campaigns around sexual issues today.”

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0  History became a harbinger of doom as the lexicon of 1970s feminism is applied to the past.  Gordon and DuBois described nineteenth-century social purity activists, the “feminists of their title,”  using key words of women’s liberation: they “succeeded in changing culture and consciousness,” the very goals of women’s culture activists in the words they used to describe them. “Our nineteenth century legacy” is described as “one of resistance to sexual oppression as well as victimization by it ” “Oppression” “victimization” along with “Victim-blaming” “pro sex’ and sex radicals,” used in subsequent sentences, are all pulled into the discussion of the past from the present.  DuBois and Gordon purposefully use anachronistic terms to highlight the hidden dangers hidden in women’s past struggles to “conduct  feminist campaigns  around sexual issues.” Activists in the past succumbed to the dangers of sexual purity: “The only issue within mainstream nineteenth century feminism where pro-sex ideas had a significant impact was divorce,” but the careful student of history could avoid this pitfall  Should any audience member have missed the implications, Gordon and DuBois make it quite clear “Today, there seems to be a revival of social purity politics within feminism.”

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6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 While Gordon and Dubois gave the formal plenary, it was Alice Echols’ talk, “The Taming of the Id: Feminist Sexual Politics, 1965-81“ [published as The New Feminism of Yin and Yang, and then in  an extended version as[“The Taming of the Id: Feminist Sexual Politics, 1965-83″] that provoked a greater reaction.  Echols left behind the historical analysis offered by Dubois and Gordon to offer a frank polemic.  While the editors of the volume moderated Echols’ argument a bit,  noting the ties between “cultural separatism” by women and “black separatism” and acknowledging the “services and support” the “forms of women’s culture” have  offered to the movement, they noted that Echols’ focus is on the “hardened” “theoretical assumptions of cultural feminism” that have “hardened” into “a set of proscriptions.” Their usage of women’s culture and idea of proscription language resurrects the debates in the 1980 Feminist Studies Symposium in even more present-day applications: “like the feminists of the nineteenth-century social purity movement, cultural feminists promote a struggle between what they see as female virtue and male vice.”

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Echols herself offers no such contextualization of the notion of separatism as a part of social movements of the 1960s or for  women’s culture as a resource for the movement or on the resonances with historical concepts of women’s culture,   Instead she launches into an analysis of the “so called female principle” [Jane Alpert} that positions it as “a Liberal response” when “the possibilities for radical structural change seem  remote” (440) and concludes that “cultural feminism” substitutes the “fantasy of a morally pure sisterhood” for “political theory.”  By 1982, as Echols notes,  the women’s movement underwent “frustrating fragmentation and the erosion of feminist gains in the recent past” which she tied  to conflict within the movement over lesbian feminism and pornography.  Echols’ argues that activists retreated into culture in the face of a seemingly insurmountable hostile political environment.

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9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 However, two other crucial factors, the critique of the women’s movement by women of color and the introduction of “french feminism” to American academics, had already driven apart activism and academics. A series of schisms had already emerged in less well-known conferences that at the time caused their own not inconsiderable amount of controversy.  In April of 1979, The Future of Difference, 6th Scholar and the Feminist Conference introduced a broad audience to French feminism theory, much to the dismay of many “community women.”  That following September at the Second Sex – Thirty Years Later: A Commemorative Conference on Feminist Theory, Audre Lorde gave what would become her most influential essay The Master’s Tools, in which she called out the racism of “university women.”  Finally in 1981 at the NWSA conference “women respond to racism” Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich gave talks that highlighted the privileged position of white academics, and Chela Sandoval, on behalf of a Third World Women’s Alliance, authored a lengthy report on the racism implicit in the conference’s structure and organization.

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11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 When Difference became différance

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 While difference now functions largely as a marker of ethnicity and race within feminist discourse, the earliest discussions of difference centered on differences between the sexes, and only then as related to women’s differing identities.

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14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Alice Jardine, one of the organizers of the conference, recalled

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16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 5 .I had invited [Monique] Wittig to the conference to explain to the six hundred feminist registrants what was going on in Paris. … Wittig was very upset with me. … she was furious with me for using the word difference in the conference’s title. The term difference is obviously [now] so historically and epistemologically loaded in post-post-structuralist thought that I limit myself here to its resonant meaning in 1979: biological sexual difference as embodied and performed by the majority of men and women in the world.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 différance  on the other hand, posited differences as not as something to be avoided or celebrated, but as a process already and always at play in identities.  As Jardine’s reminiscences emphasize, such language has become so familiar to academics that it ceases to sound like the jargon it is to those outside academia, but at this conferences the divides over theories became quite clear.  Jardine herself had been one of the few American academics responsible for interpreting such French theoretical concepts for an American audience.  Jardine had written a master’s thesis on the work of Monqiue Wittig, an extraordinarily influential French feminist for some American activists, who made less of an long lasting impression on American academic feminist discourse than Cixous, Irigaray and Kristeva.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 At the opening session Jardine must have squirmed as Wittig fumed away during Nancy Chodorow’s unfortuntately titled talk “Difference, Relation, and Gender in Pyschoanalytic Perspective” and Josette Feral’s “The Powers of Difference.”  Wittig then took the podium to deliver what can only be described as a feminist jeremiad. “The Straight Mind” which took the audience on a complicated journey ranging from Roland Barthes to Jacques Lacan to argue “discourses … oppress us.” Wittig’s used pornography as her example, just months after the first anti-pornography conferences in the US, stirred up much controversy.[1] She cited approvingly Ti-Grace Atkinson, Andrea Dworkin and host of other American thinkers in her highly original, but theoretically dense, speech.

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20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 On the other side Canadian Josette Feral noting that she did not speak ‘as a representative of the French feminist movement,” got right to the contrasts between French and Americans, in, an “attempt to walk the tightrope … between the American and French approaches to feminism.” In her defense of psychoanalytic feminism in France Feral explained “French practice differs from American in that the subversions of the written language … does not have as it primary focus an assertion of the similarities between writing in the feminine mode and writing in the masculine mode “(emphasis added91). Instead French feminists, citing Cixous, Irigaray, as well as Politics and Pscyh, “have equated the recognition of the specificity [note not difference] of the female unconscious with the free access to specific discourse in the feminine mode (au feminin) and have defined this as a central focus of their struggle. This does not mean that defining such discourse would be the only way to fight against phallogocentrsm, but it certainly one of the most significant modalities of the struggle (emphasis original) .

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22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 The sole representative of US activist feminist thought came from Audre Lorde, whose Poetry is not a Luxury appeared as part of the afternoon plenary session on difference and language.   It’s context, delivered, at what has been described as the “the moment” when French feminist burst on to the American feminist scene, is often lost. Lorde refused to engage “I think therefore I am”, or French feminists, with their “Nom-du-Pere” or “the white fathers” of American academics. She offered a lyrical exposition of difference without ever using the word, wending her way from “woman” to “black” to reject Kant, Europe, white, man in favor of un-named “possibility” and dreams. She invoked “the black mother in each of us” who lives in a world of “profit… power … institutional dehumanization” but demands food for her child and nourishment for her soul. Poetry, not theory, stands at the “forefront of our move toward change.” Dreaming not thinking was the method that would render experience meaningful.

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24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 However it was not, but rather Nancy Chodorow and Carol Gilligan who were understood as presenting what became the viewed as American equivalent to the bad French feminists. The foundation of “difference feminism” in the US based on the psychology of women’s reproductive roles and the consequences of women’s social position. Jane Gallop who sought to recuperate the French version of Freduian thought from its harsher American cousin, explicitly makes this connection to Chodorow, and invokes Adrienne Rich, who while “not centrally concerned with psychoanalysis” has “numerous affinities with the French writers discussed in this article.”[3] Chodorow, a member of the early socialist feminist group Bread and Roses in Boston is one of the feminists whose histories have been almost completely eclipsed by her conflation with “difference feminism” Except in the work of fellow bread and roses member Mari Jo Buhle who describes the reproduction of motherhood as misunderstood. [4]

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26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Only one paper highlighted a potential reason for American feminists discomforts with French feminists conceptions of difference.[5]   Carolyn Heilburn’s discussion of androgyny focused on the schisms within American feminism, pointing specifically to Adrienne Rich and the Heresies Collective, whose members were wholly absent from the 1979 program unlike the prior year, as in retreat from Heilbrun’s preferred pursuit of androgyny, understood as the amelioration of all gender differences.[6]

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28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Chodorow and Gilligan’s contributions have come to dwarf Heilbrun’s paper, but the movement press’ reporting on the conference reflected her attention to the schisms. Lois West in OOB disliked the choice of Chodorow as a representative of American theorists, instead invoking Daly as more similar to the French women who spoke. However she wasn’t any happier with the representation of French feminism finding Monique Wittig’s French accent thick enough to impede understanding, and finding the theorists named by Josette Feral so foreign that she was “at a serious disadvantage in understanding … and taking notes.”[7]

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30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Lorde’s Poetry is not a Luxury has not been viewed as pivotal to the Future of Difference Conference, although it is one of her most quoted speeches. Perhaps Lorde’s paper was to brief, or perhaps too close to poetry for this audience grappling with texts translated from the French. Even OOB reporting on Lorde seemed to miss the message of her piece “Lorde… spoke of poetry as the language of difference.”

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32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 [1] (Sep 1978 WAVAW San Francisco then Jan 1979 NY WAP)     [FN much as scholars have attempted to keep Lorde safe from “cultural feminism” (1988 Alcoff), scholars have also attempted to separate Wittig’s support for anti-pornography in 1979 from the sex wars].

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 [2] [fn however gives no support for this hostility, just that Marks has noted it too]

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 [3] Gallop makes clear that while Rich and Kristeva both write of maternity, Kristeva “

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 is not attempting to define an “essence” of the female, but

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 rather to understand the processes of signification and to expand the realm of the signifiable; see Jardine”

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 [4] Unfortunately she still applies a blanket use of unnamed cultural feminists who adopted Chodorow

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 [5] Gallop pointed to a methodological division in a footnote “One reason for this apparent lack of dialogue may be that American and French theoretical discourses are quite dissimilar in style as well as assumptions. While American scholars are trained to work within the language of their disciplines, Kristeva, like many French intellectuals, draws ideas from a variety of different fields and

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 interweaves disparate methodological codes

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 [6] Heilbrun, “Androgyny and Psychology of Sex Differences,” pp. 258 ft).

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 [7] as this positive treatment of Daly reveals, lines of who was and was not labeled essentialist still had not hardened, Chodorow had a movement history dating back to Bread and Roses in Boston 1968. ( Chesler feminist foremothers 141). Her piece for the conference originally appeared in Socialist Review, where she participated in the editorial board from 197 , revealing again that the theorists now labeled as cultural feminism understood as antithetical of socialist feminism were not interpreted by everyone at the time in this way.

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44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Unlike the conference in celebration of the Second Sex, this time no activist feminist artist appeared on the conference program.  Instead professor, poet and literary critic Rachel Blau Du Plessis lead a workshop Sexual Differences Artistic Production: The Debate over a Female Aesthetic, later published as For the Etruscans: Sexual Difference and Artistic Production — the Debate over a Female Aesthetic an experiment in form as much as content, (written in stream of consciousness,  multiple voices inspired by Robert  Duncan’s H.D. and Viriginia Woolf) that offers “female” aesthetics as “(ambiguously) nonhegemonic”  yet in her interweaving of personal voice and narrative she mirrored, perhaps unknowingly, the very forms explored in Chrysalis and in other experiments in women’s culture. [FN DuPlessis addresses some of these issues years later in http://delirioushem.blogspot.com/2008/02/dim-sum-rachel-blau-duplessis.html which she attempts to distance herself from cultural feminism]  At the time, it left many participants many participants“bewildered” as Mari Jo Buhle obseved year later.  

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46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 Resistance to  French inflected theory as too intellectual/elitest became quite evident in the movement press reporting on the Future of Difference Conference. One Off Our Backs reporter opined that “it is only too bad that the activist stance was not expressed by the panelists, but only from the floor” [by leslie smith july 1979/off our backs/page 23] while another reporter apologized that the names and concepts proved so foreign (literally and figuratively) that she could only provide a sketchy summary.  French feminism was described as inaccessible, foreign, requiring the “political american” to undergo a regimen of “intellectual detoxification,”  In reading these remarks in retrospect one wonder why anyone would bother after such patronizing and off-puting an introduction, but of course women inside the university increasingly did both to become familiar with French feminisms.

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48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Mari Jo Buhle recalls Gallops “senastionalistic style” that became common in reporting on “French feminisms”  and how “the american version  suffered by comparison.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Buhle’s narrative positions the “difference feminists” of french theory as the successors to “cultural feminists” (Rich and Daly in particular, but of course they’d fallen far too out of favor to be invited).  The francophile feminists themselves couldn’t get far enough away from the essentialism of these 1970s putative predecessors.  (319).

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52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 The Second Sex

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 still binary sex focused as the title reveals, but at this event, challenged by binaries between races of women.  Organizers motivated by concerns about lesbian separatism, which is often conflated with women’s culture and cultural feminism, although that overshadowed from the opening sessions [Taylor and Rupp]

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55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 Reflecting back from some two decades later on the 1979 conference “The Second Sex – Thirty Years Later: A Commemorative Conference on Feminist Theory,   Jessica Benjamin explained that that the difference conference organizers sought to address was between lesbian and straight women since those tensions seemed to be splintering the movement.  However Benjamin also pointed to the gap between “cultural feminists and socialist feminists.” Her interpretation of that split hinged on  ‘cultural feminists” position as only tangentially connected to academia.  She describes the “cultural feminists” as  wanting “ to  rescue feminist intellectual life from the confines of the academy and  keep it tuned into a political movement” 288  Her analysis then positions the cultural feminists as the more politically oriented, the inverse of Echols’ analysis.

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57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 At the Second Sex Conference, Audre Lorde, relegated to the role of “commentator” (along with Barbara Ehrenreich) on the closing panel “The Personal and the Political” instead delivered what became “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” in which she “castigated papers written by Linda Gordon, Camille Bristow, Bonnie Johnson, Manuela Fraire, and the conference coordinator, Jessica Benjamin — as embodying the limitations of the conference’s scope”[1]  Lorde excoriated the audience for the exclusion of women of color AND lesbian women:  “to read this program is to assume that lesbian and black women have nothing to say of existentialism, the erotic, women’s culture and silence, developing feminist theory, or heterosexuality and power.”

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59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 She took to task feminists inside academia: “survival is not an academic skill” and stressed that the movement needed “to make a common cause with those others also identified as outside the structures.”   She points to “the failure of academic feminists” and speaks of “academic arrogance.”  Even more critically, her analysis of the master’s tools, “tools of a racist patriarchy” is aimed at “academic feminists” who lived in the master’s house.  Untangling this metaphor further and within the context of historical discourse of slavery as well as de Beauvoir’s usage of Hegel (FN lester olson) Lorde positions academic feminists as slaves who accommodated to the master while activists outside academia are the slaves who developed strategies of resistance?

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61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 Rather than seeking to elide difference, the criticism level by Echols of cultural feminists, she extolled the “creative function of difference.”  Retrospectively this paper’s complex analysis has been flattened out as attacking racism in the women’s movement, which it does, but that only describes part of Lorde’s analysis which tied together tensions over sexual identity, professional identity, and ethnic identity: “I agreed to take part … with the understanding that I would be commenting upon papers dealing with the role of difference within the lives of American women: difference of race, sexuality, class, and age. The absence of these considerations weakens any feminist discussion of the personal and the political.”

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63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 As in the paper above, and the title of her collected essays, Lorde understood herself as a “Sister” but also an “outsider,” from academic feminists, from white women in the movement, and also from some parts of the black community.  In a 1980 paper given at Amherst later published as Age, Race, Sex and Class, Lorde engaged most explicitly with the role of history.  Lorde understood the problem of exclusionary thinking as a historical problem:    “much of Western European history  conditions us to see human differences in simplistic opposition.” Lorde argues that “Black and third World people, working-class people, older people, and women” always occupy the “the place of the dehumanized inferior” in these binaries.

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65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 For Lorde though this bad history isn’t an academic issue; it is intensely personal.   She finds herself effectively erased, just as the work of other women  “has been ignored, trivialized, or misnamed, as with the work of Angelina Grimke, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Lorraine Hansberry”FN This  “historical amnesia” means that while “woman-bonding has a long and honorable history in the African and African­american communities,” homophobia has hidden it.  Yet,  “by ignoring the past , we are encourage to repeat its mistakes.” (117)    Circling back to the argument she made in the masters tools, Lorde argues that “a tool of social control, [is that] women have been encouraged to recognize only one area of human difference as legitimate, those differences which exist between women and men.  … the oppressed must recognize the masters’ difference in order to survive.”  She is herself “caught between the racism of white women and the homophobia of” “heterosexual Black women [who] often tend to ignore or discount the existence and work of Black lesbians”  The answer is to change history.   Lorde’s essay ends with a poem, that concludes with “we seek beyond history/for a new and more possible meeting.”

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67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 Yet the possibilities for that meeting on common ground seemed increasingly rare, especially following the 1981 NWSA conference “women respond to racism” which resulted in divisiveness.   Lorde offered one of two keynotes, alongside her longtime friend Adrienne Rich.  Lorde’s The Uses of Anger highlighted the exclusion of “black women” and “poor women” and “other faces” of women that linked many women’s experiences, but also moved towards stressing that the umbrella term “women of color” could not be used to blanket  diverse women’s issues.  Rich’s Disobedience Is What NWSA. Is Potentially About” focused on the separations between “lesbians” and “women of color” which erased lesbian women of color, but also, echoing Linda Gordon, called out the cooptation of the women’s movement, what she described as the once tantruming and tomboyish  daughter who has matured into the “dutiful daughter of the white, patriarchal university.”  As Alexis de Veaux notes, the timing of these challenges “in a political climate in which the New Right and its partner movement, the moral majority were gaining ground opposing women’s agendas” made it even harder for the audience to hear Lorde and Rich.

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69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 FN critics of cultural feminism work hard to separate lorde from the group of women they wish to condemn (Alcoff).  Lorde in the late 1970s distanced herself from both Chrysalis and famously denounced Mary Daly.  Yet her long friendship with Adrienne Rich and Blanche Wiesen Cook attests to her continued to ties to women often labeled CF.  And Lorde, while not an active participant in the anti-pornography movement in the same way that Rich was, still condemned porn in her 1978 Uses of the Erotic given at the 4th berkshire conference.  In a 1982 interview she even more explicitly tied herself to the “wrong” side of the sex wars, criticizing Samois and the BDSM (Against sadomasochism) (Dworkin includes her with Rich in Intercourse p xx)  However, presciently, Lorde also question what the “sex wars” covered up “when sadomasochism gets presented on center stage as a conflict in the feminist movement I ask what conflicts are not being presented”

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71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 The NWSA, a meeting place for academics and activists, provided some common ground, but the “racism” conference had many problems. Chela Sandoval authored  a report on behalf of the  US  Third World Women’s Alliance.  As she notes, everything from the title “women respond to racism” who are the women?  are women themselves not racist?  Are all women positioned the same in regards to racism.  Sandoval lengthy analysis highlighted a kind of danger, like Gordon and Dubois would emphasize just a few months later, but for these dangers hinged on “freezing” political analysis for the sake of “unity.”

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73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 When a coalition about 200 “white women” and “third world women” presented a resolution that began “this has been a racist conference in its structure, organization, and individual interaction” “conflict arose.”  “the majority” of “white delegates” to the Assembly responded “with a great deal of irritation.”

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75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 Chela Sandoval contextualized the response as follows:

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77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 “Many of the white Delegates had spent a week of alienation and boredom sitting through too many lecture on women of color — they had ‘put in their time.’  For them, the issue of racism  was worn to the bone.  By the last Assembly meeting, most delegates were ready to  move on to, as they called  it, ‘more pressing issues.’  The continued ‘haranguing’ by  the third world delegates was seen as  ‘idiosyncratic,’ ‘selfish’ and as ‘unnecessarily divisive to the movement.’

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79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 The resolution did not pass, and as Evelynn M Hammond explains that outcome “had consequences  felt by the NWSA for  several years. …. the organization’s inability to effectively address racism in both its  internal structure and at annual meetings  became more and more apparent and the organization was forced to shut down its operations for a time (303).   While third world women continued to organize and publish, they did so increasingly not at academic conferences, and not within structures like the NWSA. [FN to 1990 NWSA conference]

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81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 Academic conferences had provided a crucial meeting ground in the 1970s for women inside and outside academia working towards women’s liberation. As the NWSA and Scholar and the Feminist conferences reveal increasingly those opportunities disappeared as battle lines were drawn.   Another set of skirmishes in the women’s culture wars emerged around the introduction of postmodernist theories that destabilized the category of gender, making it theoretically impossible to speak of “women.”   The introduction of these theories not only provoked huge debate within US academic feminist circles, but also had the effect of distancing academics ever more from activists outside academia. Oddly enough the critics of women’s culture who decried it as racists were hostile to French feminism, which was used to condemns its essentialism, although both critiques pivoted on difference.

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83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 Although translations of feminists writing in French had been trickling into anglophone women’s studies journals since the mid 1970s, two pieces in the Summer of 1978 drew attention to the connections to feminist activism. [FN 1975 first issue of signs have Kristeva article, 1976 Helene Cixous Laugh of the Medusa, 1977 Irigary not until 1980 in signs]  The theme of this introduction “French feminism” the foreign other for Americans, continued in the future of difference (1979) along with New French feminisms (1980).

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85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0The Future of Differenceconference of 1979

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 It’s 1979: the morning of the huge “The Future of Difference” conference that I was chairing at Barnard College in New York City. In the photo included here, you see me deep in conversation with Monique Wittig—well, sort of deep in conversation with her. I had invited Wittig to the conference to explain to the six hundred feminist registrants what was going on in Paris.”

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88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 Americans appetite for “what was going in Paris” had been whetted by the publication in 1978 of two reports from the field that offered both a guided tour and a from the trenches reporting on feminism in France.  Elaine Marks assumes the position of a sort of academic tour guide to “French Feminisms“ positioned as exotic foreign “American feminists” that requires ideological as well as linguistic translation.  Earlier introductions already established French feminist thought as of “relatively unknown” (SubStance 1976) or juxtaposed “American feminists” and “french feminists” as if monolithic national groups stood in opposition to each other (Jardine on Kristeva Signs 1975).

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90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 Marks continues this trope of the “fundamental dissimilarity in the American/French orientation.”  In her comparison, Americans come off as Jamesian innocents abroad: “where american women cry out male chauvinist pig french women inscribe phallologocentrism” Marks explains.  While  American feminists writers look to the past, French feminists look to the unconscious (Marks Signs 1978).  Yet even as “french feminists” appear more sophisticated than Americans Marks, the pragmatic american, asks “who then can read this new writing?” This question provoked considerable ire among activists attending the Future of Difference conference.

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93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 [1] Alexis de Veaux, Warrior Poet, 248

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96 Leave a comment on paragraph 96 0 FN

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98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0 anthology of Dubois’ collected essays she links the 1980 feminist studies symposium “Politics and Culture in Women’s History,” to this paper.  Here however, I’m linking it to Seeking Ecstasy on the Battlefield

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100 Leave a comment on paragraph 100 0 In the mid 1970s, Ellen Dubois, while living in San Francisco, participated in a study group on the history of sexuality with a membership that reads like the who’s who of American feminist academics, including Nancy Chodorow, Michele Rosaldo, Estelle Freedman, Mary Ryan, Judith Stacy, Martha Vicinus, Gayle Rubin, Barbara Epstein, and sex activist Pat Califia.

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102 Leave a comment on paragraph 102 0 When Dubois’ own book began being reviewed some 3 years later, the men of the AHR treated it

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104 Leave a comment on paragraph 104 0 James McPherson began his review by quoting extensively from Dubois’ own positioning of herself as a feminist, and end his review with the caution that while “dubois’ feminist perspective” helps enliven her narrative, it “can also be a handicap, for it tends to exclude perspectives”

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106 Leave a comment on paragraph 106 0 Mary kelley lauded the book in her review of the JAH, and it appears the Journal of Social History ignored the book

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109 Leave a comment on paragraph 109 0 Seeking Ecstacy on the Battlefield: Danger and Pleasure in Nineteenth Century Feminist Sexual Thought

110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0 Linda Gordon and Ellen DuBois

111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0 Feminist Review

112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0 No. 13 (Spring, 1983), pp. 42-54 and in UK Article

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115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0 The Laugh of the Medusa

116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0 Hélène Cixous, Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen

117 Leave a comment on paragraph 117 0 Signs

118 Leave a comment on paragraph 118 0 Vol. 1, No. 4 (Summer, 1976), pp. 875-893

119 Leave a comment on paragraph 119 0 Introduction to Luce Irigaray’s “When Our Lips Speak Together”

120 Leave a comment on paragraph 120 0 Carolyn Burke

121 Leave a comment on paragraph 121 0 Signs

122 Leave a comment on paragraph 122 0 Vol. 6, No. 1, Women: Sex and Sexuality, Part 2 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 66-68

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125 Leave a comment on paragraph 125 0 he difference among and between various feminists writing in French are elided in the American construction of a “French feminism” to fit their needs.    Claire Moses argues that French feminist theory provided a strategy for academic feminists.   This strategic theorizing served to legitimate feminism in academia when it was under attack as well as distance from charges of racism  However it also meant that American feminists created a version of french feminism that served their needs best.  [fn to strategic essentialism’   In fact what is called “French feminism” in the U.S. is better understood as francophone feminism since the central authors are neither french nationals nor in accord with one another. [fn Kristeva Irigaray not French nationals more accurate Francophone feminists but monolithic opposition Anglo/French feminism part of narrative marks puts Kristeva on opposite side of Irigaray and Cixous, which makes idea of “french feminism” a problem to say the least ]  FN Clare moses Made in America: “French Feminism” in Academia by Claire Goldberg Moses explores these same divides but to explore the differences in French v american histories of feminists in france.   I see the US construction as embedded in the historic debates around difference in the US that which they considered to be essentialist in American feminism,

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127 Leave a comment on paragraph 127 0 focused on a french feminism deriving from a complex theoretical strain that in america was academic (lthough in france it had political connections that were similarly dissolved).  French theory  became equated with french feminism.   For some academic feminists, this American Made French Feminism became a handy way to legitmize feminist scholarship within the academy, and distance feminism from that which they considered to be essentialist in American feminism, but also I would argue to shift away from disastrous conversations about difference.


Source: https://politicsofwomensculture.michellemoravec.com/about-2/contention/historians-at-the-sex-wars/