Allies in Arms

The belief that women philosophers and writers are the sole representatives of French feminism has obscured feminism’s heterogeneous theoretical composition, not to mention the passionate debates of the past twenty-five years. It has also served to decontextuabze and depoHticize a complex and highly political movement and its internal conflicts. The loss of political background is aU the more misleading given the destructive attempt of one theoretically oriented group to cany out a kind of putsch to take control of the rest of the movement. For more than a decade, the group in question, Psychanalyse et Politique, better known for its associated publishing company Editions des femmes, loudly repudiated the feminism that focused on concrete political and social change, calling it infantile, beholden to capitalism, and bent on reproducing masculine norms. At the same time, the group trademarked and tried to commercialize its own brand of women’s liberation. The idea that French feminism was theoretically dominated would come as a shock to feminists who were dragged into courtroom battles by Psych-et-Po’s leader, Antoinette Fouque. Psych-et-Po under the direction of Antoinette Fouque has worked to rewrite the history of the movement in order to place itself and Fouque at the center. The Editions des femmes book catalogues illustrate this clearly. The 1978 edition said, “The group politique et psychanalyse in the MLF is at the forefront of a specific and massive practice, which has concrete accomplishments.” In 1980, the catalogue for that year delineated the date of the beginning of the movement—a date that only Fouque herself considers accurate: “In the Mouvement de Liberation des Femmes, bom on October 1968, the collective politique et psychanalyse is at the forefront of a struggle and a specific and massive practice, which have concrete accomplishments.” Finally, in 1982, the catalogue no longer equivocated: “The Mouvement de Liberation des Femmes, created in October 1968 by Antoinette Fouque, is at the forefront of a struggle and a specific and massive practice, which has concrete accomplishments.”^’^ Feminists were as unquestionably committed to action as they were to the theoretical underpinnings of feminism.


But it is also true that French feminists, like the politically engaged French as a group, were concerned with the ideological implications wdthin any given position or strategy. The feminist movement of the 1970s, Uke the other far left groups from which it emerged, had a penchant for ideological purity—frequently at the expense of political expediency. Feminists of the 1970s were committed to consensual decisionmaking, to sharing power, and to allowing every woman to speak. They were committed to uniting theory and practice, but underneath this guiding principle lay an enormous amount of contention at every level. Too much emphasis on ideology blunted feminism’s success. And the disputes over ideology—among all sorts of women—blunted feminism’s ability to acquire political power. The picture of French feminism was not one of a grassroots movement, based on a large and easy consensus, that advanced by an elite debating esoteric theories of women’s oppression. Rather, within the whole

May 2, 2018


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