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Seems Relevant

August 5, 2010

This is something I’ve been saying in various ways for a long time, but no one ever listens to me.  So, here’s Christine Delphy saying it.  I got this from a book published in 1984, just over a quarter century ago, but the book itself is a compilation of Delphy’s work since 1970, and I seem to recall Simone de Beauvoir saying something similar in The Second Sex, published in 1949.  I doubt even de Beauvoir was the first, since it’s so obvious a truth as to have occurred to me long before I read either of the texts.  So, women have been making this point for a long, long time.

Without further ado, this is from Close to Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women’s Oppression:

Feminist criticism is, first, and this may seem tautologous, feminist; which is to say that it attacks not an individual, of course, but a way of thinking.  Above all it attacks what is not feminist in a way of thinking, and in doing this it is necessarily in solidarity even with the woman attacked.  A feminist critique is always aimed, even within the movement, at the exterior.  Further, a critique, even one made from within the movement, if it does not aim at the outside but on the contrary comes from the outside (i.e., from external arguments, theories, or interests) is not feminist.

That is to say, then, that there *is* no “feminist in-fighting.”  There is only ever feminist critique of non-feminist ways of thinking on the one hand, and, on the other, non-feminist critique of feminist ways of thinking.  To frame it as “in-fighting” is to obscure the influence of external non-feminist forces within women, or groups of women, who may call themselves feminists; which is to say that non-feminist critiques are allowed a double voice – both from outsiders themselves and from those “within” the movement, for a net patriarchal effect, since feminist critiques are *only* made from within.

The call, then, to “support all feminists” is itself non-feminist, if by “support” one means to censor feminist critique of non-feminist elements in the thinking of women, or groups of women, who call themselves feminists.

10 Comments
  1. August 5, 2010 3:48 am

    Hnnng this is brilliant, it articulately points out why there are no pro-porn “feminists” having tiffs with anti-pornography feminists, seeing as the former is really just anti-feminist crap.

    One could say the same about wannabe-women (aka the trannies)

  2. Mary Sunshine permalink
    August 5, 2010 12:47 pm

    Margaret,

    Thanks once again for making this essential point so beautifully articulate.

    Your writings are a joy.

  3. joankelly6000 permalink
    August 5, 2010 6:34 pm

    Thank you for saying this again, even though you have indeed been saying it for a while and even though it actually is so sensible that it should technically go without saying in the first place.

  4. August 5, 2010 7:59 pm

    This is a brilliantly succinct and enlightening post. I want to italicise the whole post! And also to think about it a lot. What I understand is that there is no feminism in ‘my feminism’, ‘my version of feminism’, ‘to me feminism means…’, i.e. an individualist approach that picks and chooses from feminist ideas whilst still aligning with white male supremacy on issues where the supremacy privileges them. Feminism is a critique, and the purpose of the critique is to expose the workings of the dominant ideology, white male supremacy, in all its manifestations, including and perhaps especially within our own consciousness.

    • August 6, 2010 1:53 am

      Exactly, TBL! I’ve never understood why individual women’s claim on feminism has been framed as more important than the integrity of the ideology. It certainly has to do with post modern notions of identity, whether it stems from it or is merely encouraged and perpetuated by it – this idea that if a person identifies as something, the self-identification simultaneously means that her every thought is also that something.

  5. August 5, 2010 8:14 pm

    Love it, love it, linking to it!

  6. SamC permalink
    August 6, 2010 12:39 am

    I read here often but tend to read and digest rather than comment, as I don’t usually have anything further to add. This is just a temporary de-lurk to say how wonderful this post is. I was thinking about this earlier today (after an idiot man demanded that I educate him about feminism – asking why he should take feminism seriously if feminists can’t agree among themselves!). Had I been inclined to answer, I could never have even hoped to put it as elegantly and beautifully as this (and of course, it would have been wasted on him).

    Thank you for this.

    • August 6, 2010 3:15 am

      Thanks for commenting, Sam 🙂

      Herein lies the crux of the issue, so far as I’m concerned. That so many women who call themselves feminist constantly frame every feminist critique of their thinking as “in-fighting” serves male interests. It gives males succor! They absolutely thrive on lies, more so I think when it’s women who tell them, and believe them.

  7. atheistwoman permalink
    August 6, 2010 4:00 am

    “The call, then, to “support all feminists” is itself non-feminist, if by “support” one means to censor feminist critique of non-feminist elements in the thinking of women, or groups of women, who call themselves feminists.”

    Yes.

    “That so many women who call themselves feminist constantly frame every feminist critique of their thinking as “in-fighting” serves male interests. It gives males succor! They absolutely thrive on lies, more so I think when it’s women who tell them, and believe them.”

    Men do so love a good “cat fight.”

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