Feminist Theory of the 1980 and 1990s

For the purposes of my research, I am now reading a lot of this extremely obnoxious feminist theory of the 1980s and 1990s. I’m sick as it is, and this endless blabber about how logic, reason and language are male, while knitting, sewing, lack of reason, illogical behavior, silence and intuition are all female and let’s celebrate that because feminism is about pointing out, time and again, how men are women are irrevocably and hopelessly different, is not helping.

I remember how the first time I read Hélène Cixous with her “feminine writing”, the special language of women, and “write with your vagina” crapola, I almost vomited. It became immediately clear to me why the most pathetic, mumbling, insecure, will-debase-myself-to-get-some-guy’s-approval women could be located precisely among these pseudo-feminist organizers of knitting bees and authors of “let’s celebrate female difference” theory.

I have a cold and I’m forced to read these stupid texts, which is why I’m irritable. The good news is that I’m going to an India Night at my university later today, and that is bound to cure me of both physical and mental suffering I’m experiencing.

29 thoughts on “Feminist Theory of the 1980 and 1990s

  1. I hate pseudo-feminist drivel as much as the next guy, but I could help but laugh at “write with your vagina”. I’m a sixteen-year-old boy, gimme a break. 😛

    I hope India Night helps you feel better, Clarissa.

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      1. You won’t see that happen because if the pen accidentally went inside the person’s vagina it would be considered rape somehow because the pen would be likened to the penis (which as we all know is not just a body part but a phallic harbinger of doom and tool of women’s oppression that inspired the shapes of many modern weapons, oh you didn’t think missiles/swords/bullets had their shape because of physics did you?).

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        1. You laugh. But in one of my courses that I took during my BA, a feminist professor declared precisely that writing is a male invention by definition because a pen looks like a penis and not like a vagina. A braver student than myself attempted to elicit the information as to what a vagina-shaped writing implement would be like, but the prof barked at her angrily.

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      2. When I try to picture what a vagina-shaped writing implement looks like, my mind comes up with something that vaguely looks like a sock puppet.
        Honestly, if I had a teacher that said that, I’d ask the same thing. Then I’d be asking for my tuition back.

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        1. I hope she feels better now that everybody just taps on keyboards. Of course, if one really wanted, one could come up with an explanation as to how all keyboards are inherently male and oppressive to women.

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      3. You kids these days, too young to remember inkwells! The vaginas of literacy, they were. That’s why in ye olden days, monks were the only ones who could use them — an outlet for their celibacy, and to reinforce their patriarchy oppression over the masses.

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      4. A vaginally controlled writing device should be easy enough to design and build. Just build a divice that sends Morse Code in response to controlled pressure in dit and dah patterns. Oh, I forgot, Morse Code is a male invention…

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  2. This is why I dropped out of the women’s and gender studies departments and refuse to have anything to do with academic feminism, at least not in France/US.

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  3. I think that’s why I got so turned off of feminism. I grew up on the idea of feminism being women taking charge of their own lives, living as individuals instead of programmed dolls, doing anything they wanted instead of accepting the idea that “you can’t do that because it’s unwomanly/only men can do that,” and being treated as equals instead of lesser beings. Then all around me I saw so-called “feminists” turning into what I’ve decided to call “wombies” — kind of like zombies. Only instead of turning the world into a charnel house stinking of the grave, they wanted to turn the world into some sort of nursery/harem where all the icky men and man-stuff is kept out unless it can be neutered. I just couldn’t see any difference between saying “logic is patriarchal” and “sex between men and women is always rape” and the way women used to be treated as irrational idiots and locked up in purdah to “protect” them.

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    1. I agree completely. We struggle against the idea of inherent female difference only to arrive at a place where we construct this very difference. Now, what sense does this even make?

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    2. I like your wombies coinage. I don’t know if this is universal, but around here all organized feminism and all women studies faculty are wombies, so I just don’t interact with them as a group any more. Some good friendships from there still survive.

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      1. That’s the position I’ve ended up taking, too. I also know lesbian feminist types who have seriously feminist analyses of everything and very woman oriented lives, who have *also* taken this position due to the cultural feminism wave of the 80s and 90s.

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      2. I must have been misinterpreting French feminism all this time, because I’ve always read it as a reductio ad absurdum (See: http://www.iep.utm.edu/reductio/ ) of patriarchal ideology. I’m pretty sure, too, that the French are just messing around and being ironic to a much higher degree than their American counterparts might imagine.

        It’s also true that I’ve historically had the inclination to read irony and paradox into statements that were intended to be serious. This is probably because in my early days I spent too much time with the Shona, who have a rather irreverent attitude to hierarchies.

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  4. If you accept Freud and his idea that women are castrated men, it is a perfectly logical corrective to suggest that women should make a big deal of their own genitals and not see them as merely a sign of the missing penis.

    That is the logic behind French feminism, anyway.

    But, actually, I find the Freudian premise untenable as science.

    Sure, there are a lot of things we cannot readily observe. We don’t see the dark side of the moon, or black holes, or the colors at the far sides of the spectrum. Female genitals are also hidden and complex.

    Let’s take the issue down to the level that Freud does. A child thinks the moon is made of cheese or that there is a man in the moon. A child may also think that girls are castrated boys, since their genitals do not appear to us in the same way as those of boys.

    Should we develop a theoretical response to these kind of naive and culturally conditioned responses of children?

    We could supplement the mythologies by asserting that the moon did not only contain cheese, but “wine and cheese”. Also that there was not just a man in the moon, but a woman as well, who happened to be his wife.

    Alternatively, perhaps one should not put too much stock in the views of naive observers, to begin with?

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  5. Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I hear a subject being dismissed as “masculine,” I interpret it to mean that whoever is making this argument is just really terrible at this particular subject and hopes to minimize it’s importance.

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  6. This is interesting to read, I never knew there were feminists who described things like logic and reason as being “male.”

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    1. Oh yes. In fact there are a few definitions of domestic abuse floating around (I have no idea if they’re legal definitions- I really hope not) that posit that the use of logic by men during an argument is a form of abuse.

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      1. Forget about the use of logic, didn’t you see this priceless discussion on my blog where people seriously argued that if a woman wakes up in the morning or says a single word to a man, it’s because she has been coerced by a man into doing that? Some people cannot live with the idea that there are women who are not abused, coerced or victimized. And the funniest thing of all is that those people tend to call themselves “feminists.”

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  7. Mark:
    You kids these days, too young to remember inkwells! The vaginas of literacy, they were. That’s why in ye olden days, monks were the only ones who could use them — an outlet for their celibacy, and to reinforce their patriarchy oppression over the masses.
    It might because its 4am but is it weird that the first thing that came to mind when I read this was “Octopussy”?

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  8. I have heard this century the argument by feminist university administrators (not at my university, thankfully) that rational thought is just a tool of male oppression of females and that it should not be valued.

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    1. I hear this argument all the time in various social justice circles online, along with the argument that the idea of spelling and grammar are also oppressive because SOME PEOPLE didn’t learn proper spelling and grammar.

      Thankfully, when we discussed second-wave feminism in one of my gender studies classes, both the professor and the class unanimously agreed that “cultural feminism” is utter bullshit.

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      1. I suspect that the assumption that feminists teach that rationality is male is more of a caricature than reality. I remember doing a course in the philosophy of gender, and we studied two very different paradigms. The first took an objective view as to what rationality was, and the second took a subjective view. Unfortunately I don’t remember the contents of the articles we studied, only the fact that paradigms were different. I suspect that the second article may have conveyed how women’s experiences were made out to be different by patriarchal social structures, which obstructed women’s full participation in society. Hence, the way women navigate patriarchal society is going to be different from the way those who are not systematically obstructed will navigate it. Because of these invisible but culturally determined restrictions, men will appear to be more straightforwardly rational, whereas women will also be rational, but not so straightforwardly so, as they are dealing with fences and barriers to full participation that do not worry most men.

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    2. @musteryou – yes, although like David/Miriam, I’ve had some trouble with people who take the caricature for Gospel truth.

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