So, in response to this little conversation – because yes, I want to – I decided to knock together the chapter of my thesis where I go on at great length about all the batshit and rage-inducing bullshit Foucauldian feminists, queer theorists, and Mr Michel Foucault have said about rape.
It’s a little dusty and dry (I hate it when I don’t get to make jokes (but then again, not the most appropriate place), but it might be interesting to some of you, as some general further background on how we got into this whole fucking mess…
You can find it here.
Thanks for this Jane. I’ve just completed the first reading of it, and need to print it out and make notes. Many things arose, particularly in relation to victimhood. My activism has been in the area of violence against women and children, and I have my own experience of prolonged and sustained GBV. While going through that experience, at no point did I perceive myself as a victim; I saw what was happening to me and my relationship as a problem to be solved; I was tenacious, intelligent, and informed to the extent it was possible to be in the circumstances I was in. I was raised Catholic and was educated and conditioned into the roles I needed in order to live as well as possible in the context I found myself in. My parents experienced the 1920’s economic depression and the Second World War as working class people; my grandparents had the additional experience of the First World War and the War of Independence in Ireland. My conditioning came from the desire to survive in adverse circumstances. My partner’s background was a different mix, his father was from Upper Middle-Class industrialists, and his mother from working-class socialists actively involved in the setting up of the Labour party – there was more than a hint of privilege in his upbringing. Intellectually, I was more advanced than him, and this was both a major draw for him, then a source of conflict – he needed to beat me into silence. I lived with him for 19 years, we had two children, and not until I left did the idea of being a victim occur to me – I found the whole idea abhorrent until I realised that naming my experience, and seeing it for what it was was the only way to lay it to rest – not an easy or quick task.
The owning of the experience of being a victim was essential to my recovery; it was not a performance, it is an uncovering; a clarifying descriptor. Most of the women I have met who have been victims of GBV have been among the strongest and most capable women I’ve ever met, and while it is clear that some crumble under the experience, those I have interacted with continue to seek understanding and resolution for themselves, their children and society.
Foucault and Butler are new to me in recent months and their philosophical leanings away from sex and toward gender as somehow weakening the grip of patriarchal stereotypes makes little sense to me given their unwillingness to engage the phenomenon of patriarchy and the damage it has done to women, children and men. For me, patriarchy is a hierarchical system that keeps powerful men in power by maintaining values that give men superior status over women, and it feels to me, in spite of some advances, women are still asking these powerful men to be treated as equally human. To me, the Greek belief that women are deformed men continues in attitudes, and the Judeo/Christian/Moslem belief in the uncleanness of blood rendering women unclean remains in our Western culture. Christian Institutions may hold less sway in 21st Century Western thought, but its legacy over millennia is deeply embedded in our psyche. Simply refuting the truths long held by the Christian West is not sufficient to loosen the grip of those errors on the lives of women and children. In order to achieve that, I believe, we need two things: we need to name the errors in a way that is unequivocal, and to name the harms, we then need to offer compassionate witness to those harms sitting with the pain and anger that arise, we then need to develop an ontology of woman where we address the lived experience of female embodiment, female sexuality, and woman in relation to man where woman has primacy, not to subjugate man but to declare woman as ontologically discreet; to imagine new ways of being human acknowledging the sex binary while honouring heterosexual and homosexual attraction, and using our creativity to imagine a new way of living the human experience in a life-giving and compassionate way.
There’s one phrase there that, unless it is a mere editorial error, produced a very useful term, one I have never seen before. “Difference feminists”.
Context: “The universal subject that difference feminists have painstakingly unmasked as masculine turns out to be universal after all, and as such, the mechanism by which hegemonic masculinity wreaks its violence on women is, once again, invisibilized.”
This seems to be a term that would denote the strand of feminist thought that highlights difference (as opposed to equality or equity) between men and women as a key principle to be upheld and maintained, that would not be necessarily as beholden to one particular school as “radical feminism”, and that would not be read as a slur. Is that correct?
I am not trying to join the debate itself. I didn’t read nearly enough Butler to defend her. I would of course see the universal subject as correctly universal but *socially coded* masculine, and thus unjustly made inaccessible to women, and I admit the complicity of many of the founders of liberalism in this injustice. But I just did not look into enough sources to make this argument at a good level in this context.
This is a good start. Have you considered the erasure of incest within this context? There is the False Memory Association which is dedicated to subverting truth through discrediting and erasing. And more deeply, there are the social structures that would flat-out collapse if every incest survivor came forward and broke their silence.