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When women’s history became dangerous

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 “it isn’t bad to want to help, to want to work, to seize history .. But to want to do it alone is less good.  To hand history to someone like a cake you baked”

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Marge Piercy Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)

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4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 History as a source of inspiration for activists appeared not only in the utopian writings of feminists like Marge Piercy, but also in the scholarly work of feminist historians.  Although Piercy primarily worried about the dangers of excessive individualism in the history emerging from women’s liberation, history itself could also be used to offer a cautionary tale.  While the idea of danger is most intimately tied to the Sex Wars,  the concept had much deeper roots in movement debates the predated the crisis over pornography.  However, earlier fears over threats, both internal and external, to organized feminism,  found common ground in the movement against pornography that emerged in the mid 1970s.  [FN see Bornstein for more nuanced evaluation of how the movement to combat violence against women became conflated with the movement to regulate pornography]  Although the movement began as part of larger efforts to analyze images of women in popular culture, and only evolved later into a movement that considered censorship, debate about the feminist position in regards to pornography hardened and eventually erupted into what has been described as the Sex Wars, at the 1982 “The Scholar and the Feminist IX: Toward a Politics of Sexuality” conference at Barnard College.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 1 The Sex Wars are again receiving a considerable amount of attention, at least among academics. A re-issued 10th anniversary edition of Lisa Duggan and Nan Hunter’s important work, Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture has just come out and Signs recently put out a call for papers for a an issue dedicated to exploring the legacy of the Sex Wars.  In her preface to the re-issued edition, Duggan laments that a continued “yawning gap too often separates the thinking of activists and scholars.”  That yawning gap emerged long before the Sex Wars.  The emphasis on the events of that 1982 conference obfuscates much earlier, and far more important, divisions that erupted around academic feminism’s embrace of “theory” as a way to legitimate feminism inside academia, as well as important challenges by women of color to racism within academic white feminism.   Looking back at writings that emerged in the mid 1970s and refocusing attention on earlier conferences illustrates the rifts that already threatened the ties between activism and academia that rested on deeper divisions that emerged in the Sex Wars. The divisiveness that ensued proved only the final blow to the already strained ties that had held women, both inside and outside of academia, together in the women’s movement.

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7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 by 1976   Linda Gordon must have felt that like a prophet.   She had warned, just the year before in an editorial penned for the second issue of Signs, of “a backlash against the women’s movement and against the whole outburst of radicalism of the 1960s.”  Gordon’s fears derived from her historical analysis of the  cooptation of the radical birth control movement by conservative eugenicists.  In a 1974 essay on this topic,  Gordon framed her piece in frankly presentist terms about the dangers posed by bad history:

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 “today especially there are serious political misunderstandings that are sustained by … historical ignorance … today those who would argue that birth control is essential to women’s liberation must grapple with … suspicion of birth control as racist and elitist … based on actual historical evidence.”

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Gordon concluded that  “by the 1930s birth control had shed most of its feminism and general radicalism.”  Lest anyone miss the cautionary tale herein, Gordon argued that the single greatest contributing factor to the rise of the new conservatism was undoubtedly “the disappearance of the feminist movement.”

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 The reviews of her own book provided further evidence of the dangers feminists faced.  In the AHR, reviewer J. Stanley Lemons, lambasted Gordon in a gender-laden sports analogy:  “Like baseball and cricket,” the review concluded, “history and political polemics have different rules.” Lemons equated writing history out of feminist and radical commitments with “political polemics.”  David M. Kennedy reached the same conclusion  in the JAH and with a similarly dismissive tone:” His review called Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right “breathtakingly obtuse,” a book that “degenerates into simple cant . . . [and] sneering canards” … This is not history.” (426-427)

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Even more damning was the review by Edward Shorter, a social historian of gender and medicine, that appeared in the Journal of Social History, which as Jonathan Wiener has noted, “claimed to represent the new histories.” (426) Shorter ridiculed “the members of the Bread and Roses Women’s Collective, the Marxist-Feminist Conference Group, and the Radical America editorial board” sniping that, “[these groups] whom Gordon acknowledges fulsomely in the preface, will doubtless beam approvingly” at “her work.”

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13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 The criticism must have seemed confirmation of all movement-based feminist historians had feared.  Despite their gains, women’s history remained an imperiled field within the discipline for the very reasons they valued it, a connection to the world outside academia.  Shorter’s lack of understanding of the developing field of women’s history is clear from his lumping Gordon in with historians like “Ann Douglas and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg,” historians who would eventually be placed on the other side of the women’s culture divide.  At least temporarily though, these attacks unified women within the field of history.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 2 Ellen DuBois, a friend of Gordon’s since their days in Boston’s socialist feminist group Bread and Roses, viewed  Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right work as a model of “a feminist political history, [and]  a brilliant rewriting of the history of the birth control movement from the perspective of women’s liberation.”  She organized a letter writing campaign in defense of the book.    [FN Those letters and others dotted journals for a period of two years. Sarah Elbert and Sander Kelman replied to Shorter in the Journal of Social History Autumn 1977 issue while Elizabeth Fox-Genovese offered a review of the reviews of the book in Signs Summer 1979.   While Elbert and Kellman restricted themselves to point out the inaccuracies in Shorter’s review, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese contributed a “Comment on the Reviews of  “Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right” to Signs in which she highlighted not only the dismal reviews by the profession, but the forestalling of “the most serious discussion and searching criticism of the book,” even on the pages of Signs, which gave the book a brief 300 word review (her defense runs almost 5 full pages)]

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16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Despite the criticism of her politics that appeared in reviews of her book,  Gordon continued to warn of the backlashes to come using history as her example.  “Sex, the Family and the New Right” co written with Alan Hunter and published in Radical America (1977) contains all the seeds of her far better known polemic of the sex wars, Seeking Ecstasy on the Battlefield (1982) and highlights the threats posed by the New Right.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Hunter and Gordon  offered a historical narrative of patriarchy strikingly similar to that formulated in the early years of the WLM.  However rather than justifying women’s liberation, as it had in the past, this account now became the explanatory engine for the rise of the Right. Beginning with “patriarchy was a system that prevailed throughout the world in agrarian societies” and running through familiar territory  “ With the advent of “production” the “patriarchal family remained the unit of production” until “industrialization” spoiled the unity of family and labor,” Gordon and Hunter linked this analysis to the rise of the new right.  Feminists, and other on the Lefts,  failed to realize that the destruction of the family led to “loneliness, rootlessness, and disintegration of the social order” and that the effects of these shifts have been felt differently by different group in American society.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 As Gordon and Hunter noted, The Right spoke to this longing and offered up the patriarchal family as the “answer,” not without considerable appeal to working class people.   In retrospect what  appears like a foreshadowing of the partnership that will develop between anti-porn feminists and factions of the New Right, Gordon and Hunter cautioned that “these questions [about sexuality] will be matters for judgment and it would be futile to search for clean and simple sexual morals.  Such a search would lead to either moralistic repression or irresponsible individualism.”

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 This binary of “repression v individualism” appears again as Gordon and Hunter tie their history to the present day.  While lauding self help collectives, the authors are clear to point out the risks of such groups, noting that the most successful example, gynecological self help clinics, “are now frequently hierarchically run.”  This last issue refereed albeit obliquely to a confrontation that brewed within activist circles around the Feminist Women’s Health Centers another institution sometimes lumped in with arts centers as part of “women’s culture.”

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Hunter and Gordon focused on the need to be “pro-sex” a full five years before that terminology became central to the sex wars.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 “it is not easy to be pro-sex in our culture …  Some socialists and feminists, especially because of their anger about the sexual exploitation of women, adopt anti-sexual or anti-heterosexual attitudes. … it is important, if at times difficult to project a view that endorses, even celebrates, the pleasures of sex.  Sexual prudery today is a tool of domination.”

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 The culture here to blame, is not women’s culture, but the “failure” of the Left to adequately “address cultural or sexual issues in political work.”  In a sense the authors lament their own role in believing that a “vanguard” revolutionary movement could lead the masses.  Strikingly here the domination of women is unmoored from the early historical narrative of patriarchy and now tied to “sexual prudery” of not only the Right but some feminists as well.  Furthermore, sexual pleasure itself is positioned as the liberatory answer to this “domination.”

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 While Gordon focused her backlash on co-optation from outside, her eventual co-author in the piece that opened the Sex Wars Conference, Ellen Dubois, pointed to the rise of women’s culture as responsible for “a negation of the history of feminism.”  At the OAH in April of 1978 Dubois delivered “Feminism and Women’s history” a paper concerned with “the relationship between the history of women and the history of feminism”  While she begins historiographically, she quickly gets to the fate of Gordon’s book, which she connects to women’s historians who “underplay the role of the feminist movement.”   The end result of such histories, she fears, will be “to discredit the validity of the a feminist perspective on women’s history as a whole”  [years later in The Last Suffragist (1998) Dubois would recall what it was like, just as “the field of women history was on the verge of achieving academic legitimacy” to have “the idea of a historical practice  influenced by a political movement outside the university” attacked as unprofessional (6).]

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 An essay that begins by critiquing the historical concept of women’s culture ends with a potential crisis in women’s history.  Although Dubois’ target is clearly the male historians who bashed Gordon’s book, by implication the argument also extends to other historians, who could be female, in particular Carroll Smith Rosenberg who Dubois names in this paper. [FN anthology of Dubois’ collected essays she links the 1980 feminist studies symposium “Politics and Culture in Women’s History” which is an extended discussion of the dangers of women’s culture for the field].

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26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 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].

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 [2] [fn however gives no support for this hostility, just that Marks has noted it too]

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 [3] Gallop makes clear that while Rich and Kristeva both write of maternity, Kristeva “

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 is not attempting to define an “essence” of the female, but

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 rather to understand the processes of signification and to expand the realm of the signifiable; see Jardine”

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 [4] Unfortunately she still applies a blanket use of unnamed cultural feminists who adopted Chodorow

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 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

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 interweaves disparate methodological codes

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 [6] Heilbrun, “Androgyny and Psychology of Sex Differences,” pp. 258 ft).

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 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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38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 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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40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 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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42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Mari Jo Buhle recalls Gallops “senastionalistic style” that became common in reporting on “French feminisms”  and how “the american version  suffered by comparison.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 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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46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 The Second Sex

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 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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49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 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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51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 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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53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 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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55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 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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57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 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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59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 1 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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61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 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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63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 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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65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 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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67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 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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69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 Chela Sandoval contextualized the response as follows:

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71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 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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73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 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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75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 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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77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 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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79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0The Future of Differenceconference of 1979

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 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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82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 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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84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 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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87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 [1] Alexis de Veaux, Warrior Poet, 248

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90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 FN

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92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 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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94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 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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96 Leave a comment on paragraph 96 0 When Dubois’ own book began being reviewed some 3 years later, the men of the AHR treated it

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98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 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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100 Leave a comment on paragraph 100 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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103 Leave a comment on paragraph 103 0 Seeking Ecstacy on the Battlefield: Danger and Pleasure in Nineteenth Century Feminist Sexual Thought

104 Leave a comment on paragraph 104 0 Linda Gordon and Ellen DuBois

105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0 Feminist Review

106 Leave a comment on paragraph 106 0 No. 13 (Spring, 1983), pp. 42-54 and in UK Article

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109 Leave a comment on paragraph 109 0 The Laugh of the Medusa

110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0 Hélène Cixous, Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen

111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0 Signs

112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0 Vol. 1, No. 4 (Summer, 1976), pp. 875-893

113 Leave a comment on paragraph 113 0 Introduction to Luce Irigaray’s “When Our Lips Speak Together”

114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0 Carolyn Burke

115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0 Signs

116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0 Vol. 6, No. 1, Women: Sex and Sexuality, Part 2 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 66-68

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119 Leave a comment on paragraph 119 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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121 Leave a comment on paragraph 121 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.

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Source: https://politicsofwomensculture.michellemoravec.com/about-2/contention/the-barnard-conference-on-sexuality-1982/