giggly guys

Catherine Driscoll catherine.driscoll at
Fri Mar 26 01:15:36 PST 1999

At 13:46 23/03/99 +1100, Rob Schaap wrote:

>Time for some clarifications, I think, Catherine. I feel I'm making you
>crosser than I need to.

Oh you're not making me cross.

>>...I was pointing to the ludicrousness of this division between
>>Anglo-Saxon and European feminists. It's ludicrous in several ways, but to
>>begin with no one here, a group you are inferring to be Anglo-Saxon, could
>>certainly be described as that, and said description would say nothing
>>whatsoever of their positions on this issue. Despite your explanation here,
>>Anglo-Saxon doesn't describe any 'locality' now does it?
>No, it doesn't - I don't feel my point requires 'locality', and I made no
>reference to it. But I could make a pretty tenable case that there are
>many things that enjoy general agreement in Australia/USA/United Kingdom
>that might not in France/Germany/Netherlands. They can usefully be
>differentiated as politico-cultural categories, I think.

I think you do not mean Anglo-Saxon at all but Anglo-American. An opposition very common in certain kinds of accounts of feminist theory/politics. But in either case I utterly disagree that these 'categories' mark any differentiation in 'feminist politics'. The claim that they do may be 'usual' in some places but that does not make it useful. Oh, or right.

>When people speak
>of Anglo-Saxon neo-liberalism, I understand them to refer to a common sense
>that is not a common sense in continental Europe. But that's merely from
>my personal experience, readings of political discourse, and the kinds of
>governments these blocs have.

Do you really think Australia in general, that is not with reference to this specific govt, is usefully described as 'Anglo-Saxon neo-liberalism'? I'm not sure I understand why. But even if this were true how does this lead to your claims re Anglo-Saxon feminism?

>It may be overly simplistic. If it's
>useless or dangerous to make such distinctions, you'd have to be a little
>more specific if you're to enlighten me.

I think I have in fact been far more specific than you.

>>Surely in Australia we know enough of the dangers of
>>either casual or very bloody serious use of these categories to not need to
>>repeat them? And as a description of political positions in particular, I
>>would have thought.
>Just because there are dangers, does not mean there re also not benefits,
>does it?

What are the benefits of the category 'Anglo-Saxon feminism'?

>Let's ignore my experience as a man abroad who keeps a conscious,
>if not particularly sophisticated, eye on variations in relations between
>the sexes and views on sexuality.

Well let's do that. I'd hate to resort to comparing particular sophistications.

>Let's look at the level of the academy. Am I wrong in thinking people like
>Millet, Showalter and Donovan stress 'culture' to the point of granting it
>an ontologically a priori status in determining gender differentials? Am I
>wrong in thinking Anglo-Saxon lefty feminists (like Barrett and Kaplan)
>tend to an anti-essentialist, anti-humanist
>structuralist/post-structuralist account, where, at the ontological level,
>'ideology' may be inserted for 'culture'?
>And am I wrong in thinking that Irigaray and Cixous point to essential
>(natural) difference, and actually see usefulness in that proposition?
>These continental feminists ontologise nature, and root linguistics and
>behavioural differences there - not to constrain in the manner of
>conservatives, but to chisel out some space for emancipation and
>self-esteem. The female body is given voice eg. women's writing. Male
>writing but refers us to the male body, the real author of that writing.
>But the male body is a poor thing as generator of voice for Cixous - too
>narrow in its possibilities: 'A woman's body, with its thousand and one
>thresholds of ardour ... will make the old single-grooved mother tongue
>reverberate with more than one language ... More so than men ... women are
>body. More body, hence more writing', she writes in 'The Laugh of the
>Medusa'. For the likes of Cixous, representationalism is just so much
>patriarchal narrowness. Pornography is but uninteresting for her, I think.
>If there be anything wrong with it at all, it's not its context, but that
>it represents poor narrow man's representation of the female.

You are wrong in selecting these examples as representative of a simple binary division between 'European' and 'Anglo-Saxon'. While I don't refer my work very often or attach it very closely to your specific European examples I would never use your Anglo-Saxon ones. It is very easy to find feminists in America or particularly in Australia who have far more in common with these strains you call European than the other.

>Ya wouldn't get all that, in all its floral and 'gynocentred' majesty, from
>any Anglo-Saxon feminist I know of (I think Germaine Greer has related
>suspicions, but she is out of fashion here, or so it seems to me).

Showalter had more than a touch of gynocetrism about her for a number of years. And she's not the only one.

You have chosen though a very simplistic picture of this European-ness you will set up as separate to your Anglo-Saxon idea. Try it with beauvoir, perhaps. Or with Le Doueff. Or with Kristeva (don't tell me she's not a feminist that's a different argument). Or Braidotti. Or Wittig. Among others. Try this picture of Anglo-Saxon-ness on Morris, Grosz, Sedgewick, Butler, or even Gallop. Among others. It just does not wash at all.

>Australian feminisms I've been near, continental authors get a lot of
>mentions (including C&I), but the body doesn't make the trip. The
>deconstruction does, as does Kristeva's psychoanalytical bent, but not the
>voluptuous earth-mother, who rejoices, it seems to me, in her sexual being
>with more confidence, more optimism, and fewer mediations than do the
>feminists I know here.

So you wish to say Cixous is a sum of European feminism? Irigaray *does not* say the same thing as Cixous on this count by the way. Irigaray's version of the body does certainly get a lot of airplay in Australia, and Cixous' gets far mroe than it deserves. Must be the air in Canberra. I'm not surprised.


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