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Antigone's Dilemma: A Problem in Political Membership
What constitutes an adequate baSIS for fermrust consciousness? What values and concerns are fermmsts to brmg to bear In challenging present standards of well-being and articulatmg alternative VISIons of collective life? ThIS essay takes a close and cntical look at these questions as they are addressed m the work of pohncal theonst Jean Elshtam An outspoken defender of "pro-family fenumsm," Elshtam has urged contemporary fermrusts to reclaim the "female subject" withm the private sphere Enormous problems attend Elshtam's counsel and these have as much to do with the pohtical irnphcatrons of her argument as with her reading of the Sophoclean tragedy Antigone WIth an eye towards foregrounding what some of these problems are, this essay elaborates an alternative reading of Sophocles' Antigone and moves from that exposinon to an exarmnation of why It IS that Elshtam's claims and conclusions are pohtically unsound and unsustamable
a recent article, "Antigone's Daughters," Jean Elshtam (1982) cautioned fermmsts against seeking m the modern bureaucratic state a solution to the growing economic, occupanonal, pohtical, and reproductive challenges confrontmg women m Amenca While the state IS, as she puts It, the "locus of structured, legitimate public life" (Elshtain 1982, 49), both politically and economically, public life IS "marked by bureaucratic ranonahzanon" (Elshtam 1982, 50), mcreased centrahzation, and technocranzanon Withm It, she contends, the "policy maker" and the bureaucrat are pnncipal actors They "operate in conformity to Impersonal, abstract and rational standards," fashion strategy according to certain techmcal rules, empineal laws, and relevant, quantifiable data, and effect policy which merely serves and enhances state efficiency and control (Elshtam 1982, 51) Lacking the techmcal expertise, the refined, specialized knowledge of the ehte policy makers, the citizen member IS merely an
I would hke to thank Donna Haraway, Barrie Thorne, Darnel Scripture and, especially, Peter Euben for their many helpful comments and suggestions on various drafts of this article I would also hke to thank Thelma FranCIS for her generous support and encouragement Hypatia, vol I, no 1 (Spnng 1986)
© by Hypatia,
to prohibit discnmmanon. and pohncal mcorporation. contributes nothing to the JOint enterprise and because of his [SIC) inexperience runs the risk of serious mjury " 4 .hypatia occasional player. and the bodily. to play for one day on a professional football team The occasional player gathers httle experience.77.48) For Elshtam. never gains the team's confidence. to fund abortions. as In penodic elections. and dehumanized Because women have been systematically excluded from the sphere of lustonc action. becoming pnncipal actors "In a truly equal partnership Withmen. on femmists flee109 the home and seeking to liberate others from It ISthe fact that full SOCial. the pnvate sphere-the sphere of the concrete. she claims. and by imphcanon the ehmmation or absorption of the pnvate sphere by the pubhc realm will only enhance state mtrusion into and control over otherwise autonomous areas of I I Robert Pranger (1968. this ISonly part of the story and more by way of footnote than theme Lost.economic. 48) For these fenumsts. this IS something like asking a person Without expertise. but With mforrnanon gained from watching television on Sunday afternoon. 49) In contrast. from pubhc-pohncal life and parncipanon." or by seeking to employ the state as a means to secure legal action on women's behalf-run the nsk of los109 the cntical distance they currently possess to cntique and oppose the state's growing "powers of surveillance and control over all aspects of Intimate SOCialelations" (Elshtam 1982. With which women have tradinonally been associated and by which they have traditionally been defined-IS seen by these ferrumsts as one 10 which mdividuals are oppressed. at best marginal to areas of governmental decision making which increasingly include most of the Vital fields of human activity Femmists who idennfy too fully With the bureaucratic state-either by "going pubhc" as Elshtam puts It. they own It" (Andrea Dworkin 1981. they argue that women have been dented the mtegnty of a fully human hfe "Men have claimed thehuman point of view [as both pubhc and pnvate beings] they author It.49) The trend of mainstream r hberal femirusm over the last decade and a half can be charactenzed by demands both for full pubhc particrpanon and for favorable state acnon The state has been called upon to effect women's full mcorporanon 10 all areas of pubhc lIfe-to sponsor around-the-clock day care centers. the pubhc world ISone 10 which individuals "make real choices. exercise authentic power and have efficacious control" (Elshtam 1982. to amend the consntunon=thereby promoting the possibihty of "the transformation of women into pubhc persons With a pubhc Identity" (Elshtam 1982. as Elshtam descnbes It. the particular.27) "While some types of dernocrauc pohncal theory invite the audience-the large mass of ordinary crtrzens=-tc participate occasionally In certain aspects of leadership. powerless.
55) 2 Citmg French femmist Juha Knsteva. she suggests. 55) It IScunous but not entirely surpnsing that Elshtam invokes the figure of Antigone as a model for contemporary women Antigone defends against the state-as Blshtam would have contemporary women. an actual local and particular place m the world" (Elshtam 1982. the sanctity and mtegnty of human hfe It IS Antigone's attitude and 2 Zillah Eisenstein (1981. 52. demand reform but who. authentic power. duties. and abstract. 55) By her action she recreates the possibihty of "community. an alternative Identity marked by independence." of a shared common world that King Creon's tyranny and misuse of pubhc power threaten to destroy Wlule others view her action as "Wild and futile" -for she acts against strong power where women must Yield-her deed upholds against the state. of sustammg hfe-givmg-and-preservmg values and of defendmg against the state "that arena of the SOCial orld where human w hfe ISnurtured and protected from day to day" (Elshtam 1982. placing contemporary women m a hentage of boldly opposing the Illegitimate use and intrusion of state power. "real" choice. daughters of Antigone. It IS merely formal. 343-345) says of Liberal Feminism and the problems of mcorporauon "We need to rethink the very Issues of Reform and Revoluuon and their relanonship to each other We need also to come to terms With the consciousness of women today who. Elshtam urges fermrnsts to reclaim the "female subject" within the pnvate sphere rather than allow or promote the ehmmation of this sphere She suggests that withm this sphere there exists both the possibihty for constructmg a new base for fermrust consciousness and the possibility for rethmkmg received categones and reconceptuahzmg SOCial fe (Elshtam 1982. to reaffirm the standpoint of the mythic figure Antigone. would need a revolution Liberahsm and Feminism are at odds with each other given Liberahsm's unequal sexual base As a Fermmst one has to move beyond Llberahsm" 5 . and not.57) Located histoncally.SOCial (Elshtam 1982. Elshtam warns that those fenurusrns which "embrace Withoutsenous qualification the goverrnng consciousness and norms of SOCial orgaruzanon of the current public world serve only ItSadvanced needs to ranonahze" (Elshtain 1982. as some fenurusts have thought." women can "bring forward their everyday matenal world. legahstic. 52) In view of thrs. or efficacious control (Elshtam 1982. h "aware that they have tradinons and values. and responsibihnes of the pnvate sphere She IS a woman who "breaks bounds Withestablished law" and "throws sand into the machinery of arrogant pubhc power" (Elshtam 1982. In order to really achieve equality.56) to put pressure on and cntique contemporary pubhc pohcy and Identities This would be. defend against the state-the claims. as Femuusts.48) While women may gam a new pubhc Idenhfe tity by such incorporation.
or nullified A closer look at the drama Itself Will bnng this point mto focus Antigone Illustrates the extent to which women's status as citizen members within Atheman society was a pohtically problematic and contested Issue While women composed "half of the free population" and were m this sense cinzen members. or football. chess. Antigone asserts that "there are matters of such deep significance that they begin and end where the state's nght does not and must not run. dice throwing. 23) POInts out that women could not be Greek CItizens In any pohtical sense of the word "SInce women could not rule or govern. they were neither free nor citizens 10 the culturally articulated sense of the words Citizenship was at least partially predicated upon pubhc-pohtical association It was through pubhc parncipation and aSSOCiatIOn that one was educated 10 the obhgations. hving human bodies contmues to be confused with the health of the body politIC Antigone IS a compelling figure who has by and large escaped the notice of contemporary ferrumsms Her dilemma-the challenge she puts to the state as both a woman and a citizen member of the pnvate sphere-prefigures the dilemma of contemporary women although 10 a way that Elshtam entirely ignores Elshtam omits 10 her analysis the controlling fact that Sophocles' drama IS a tragedy and that Antigone. dangerous. for all the honor she may ultimately deserve. and threatemng (Dworkm 1974.hypstia "standpomt"-her defense of the clarms of kmship. disorderly. IS not honored 10 her rebellion but banished from the City. first Silenced. where pohucs cannot presume to dictate to the human soul" (Elshtam 1982. or 10 which the health of sensuous. Elshtam appears content to point out only that women are potentially capable of noble deeds and consequently fails to note at what pnce such deeds have often been performed Women hke Antigone who stray from their culturally legrtimated roles or sphere of activity have been portrayed as corruptive. 54) This assertion gains urgency m a world in which mternanonal pohtics is likened to poker. her loyalty to family honor and to those hvmg and dead-that Elshtam claims IS a new base for consciousness and a new point of departure for acnon By her action. as Antigone was. SIncethey were excluded from parncipanon In governance and SInce such parucipauon was taken to 6 . condemned to die alone and unwept The ambigurties surrroundmg her action and her death become secondary issues. women's obligations and duties 3 Carol Gould (1976. parts I and II) However noble their acts may fmally appear. destroyed. they are. duties. and habits of hvmg which provided for and sustained the POSSibility of a commonly held world 3 Confmed to the pnvate sphere.
even when compelled by necessity to do so. their kinship obhgations and rehgious duties withm It could necessitate action when transgression against this realm was made Thus by actmg. what was defuutive was pohtIcal"-that activity which "alone perrmtjted] men to hve as equals. to mchne toward tyranny and thus chaos and disorder Yet as ciuzens of the pnvate realm. who speaks and does not speak. these quahties could hardly be defirunve of their humamty. the full meamng of this IStransvalued by the fact that she ISa woman and women are not. trans Elizabeth Wyckoff (1956) 7 . as well as her mtennon to act despite It. or Creon. withm the first fifty hnes of the drama 4 Her fate IS deceptively transparent 10 this sense It IS unhke that of Oedipus. 214) To the extent therefore that women were not educated In those things which made a "human" world possible -freedom.266) It ISJust this conflict that Sophocles presents In ItS full complexity In the Antigone The drama tells of a woman who both acts and does not act. who recreates the possibrhty for order withm the pohty while at the same time threatemng that order by her deed The nature of her action IS unclear throughout the drama and remains unresolved at ItS end While Its consequences are clearly pohtical.engaged them In activiues which had an exclusively functional or biological end-the production and reproduction of life This activity did not transcend Itself morally or existentially nor was It transacted 10 associanon among equals While activity In the pnvate sphere sustained and maintamed the possibility for collective life and thus constituted a necessary condition for It. for whom knowledge of the consequence of word and deed IS partial and selfescaping even though each assumes such knowledge With hubnstic certainty The fate. equahty and Justice-their acnon was thought. women were simultaneously Intruders In and sustamers of the pohs=-threatenmg ItS very foundation while servmg and preservmg It (Michael Shaw 1975. under no master but the law. free.. Agamemnon. trans Fitts and Fitzgerald (1977). properly speaking. Antigone knows the end to which her actions destme her She announces this end. necessanly. trans F Storr (1912). [pohucal arurnal] women were taken to be not fully human . (pohtical) actors Unlike most other tragic figures. moreover. givmg them the opportumty for biography as well as biology" (Peter Euben 1978. The Oedipus Cvcle. of each of these figures embraces both be the essence of nature of the human as zoon poltt Ikon. Clytaemnestra. reciprocity. 4 1have relied on three translations of the Antigone making rumor changes where appropnate These are Antigone. Antigone. It was not In Itself distmcnve of human nature "Because men [SIC]shared such necessity with all other species.
It becomes quite another The drama opens with Antigone and her sister Ismene in counsel outside the walls of the household Then very location outside suggests dtslocatton. Creon." Antigone resolves to give Polyneices proper bunal. fearing that they Will "pensh ternbly If [they] force the law I and try to cross the royal vote and power" (Wyckoff 1956. the other a traitor to It With the war concluded and the city tenuously secured. they are not framed by nature to contend Withmen (F Storr 1924. n 198) Importantly POints out that "a common fear of Greeks was that after death the ntes would not be performed for them. the one a defender of the City. the presence of confhct (Shaw 1975. Mary Ann Chne Horowitz (1976. then membership IS exclusively pnvate To be taking counsel. and Oedipus' fate as much about the general nature of human bhndness as about the particular nature of hIS blindness Antigone's actions are not disclosmg m this dual sense They reveal less about her particular nature than about the general nature of obhganons m the pnvate realm and the relanonship of this realm to that of pubhc affairs From the outset the terms of her deed are clear and bounded m the same sense that the terms of her existence as a woman are clear and bounded Her deed ISexecuted by necessity as her hfe as a woman IS bound by necessity Yet. the consequence of her deed IS transformed as are ItS terms Antigone herself IS not transformed. because she acts pubhcly.the general and the particular Creon's fate reveals to us as much about the general nature of tyranny as about the particular nature of hIS tyranny. hne 61) To oppose Creon would be to exceed their 5 About Greek burial practice. and that In consequence their souls would wander about restlessly The happiness of the dead was dependent on the connnuuy of descendents who would guard and respect the household hearth and ancestral tomb . 8 . hnes 59-60) As women. therefore. the king.. 132-133) 5 Ismene rejects this appeal. and by this act uphold the gods' unwntten laws to honor the dead as the gods have honored them She challenges Ismene to show herself noble. has Issued an edict which gives honor m the tomb to Eteocles while denymg bunal to Polyneices The pumshment IS death should any of the cinzens defy the decree Declanng that she "shall never be found her brother's traitor. passim) As women and members of the polity. but rather the meanmg of her deed It assumes a sigmficance WhIChfar exceeds ItS imnal mtenuon Seeming to be one thing. to join With her m labor and in deed and to cancel by this action the hatreds of a divided house (R P Wmmngton-Ingram 1980. outside then proper sphere of action prefigures a disturbance withm It Then two brothers. have slam each other m struggle for the throne. Polyneices and Eteocless.
380-384) Initrally they understand the decree as Creon's own. understanding Antigone to have "broke[n] bounds WIth established law" and thus to have defred and threatened both himself and the state In response to this charge. men nch In possessions" (Wyckoff 1956. but they soon confound ItS claims. as they." she counsels that we two are women. for It establishes the terms according to WhIChAntigone's action will be misunderstood as the drama proceeds Ismene's confusion merely anticipates that of the others For she. hnes 210-220. 66-68. It would belie their natural constitunon as women (Wyckoff 1956 lmes 50-60) "We must remember. their shared place and locanon Not only would It threaten further disorder withm the state. will fail to see the loss of order WhICh succeeds Creon's resolution and which IS already foreshadowed by their presence outside of the household Ismene IS the first (but not the last) to mistake Creon's decree for law and thereby to suppose that It has ItS origins In the approval and resolve of the cmzenry=-hence her refusal to act against the cinzens ThIS confusion IS shared In turn by the Chorus-"men of the City. on the grounds that as women they are obligated to obey (at least as much as they are obligated to honor the claims of kmship and relIgIOUS duty) Her response IS sigmficant In another sense. Antigone appeals to the authonty of unwntten laws and opposes this authonty to Creon's as head of state For me It was not Zeus who made that order Nor did justice who lives WIth the gods below 9 . 78-79) Ismene's response places her In what appears to be a more tradinonal role for women She ISboth submissive and unquestioning and YIeldsto the power of the state.valerie & hartocIIi natural hrrutanons. and so not to fight WIth men SInce we are subject to strong power we must obey these orders or any that may be worse In these things I am forced and shall obey the men In power I know that wild and futile action makes no sense I shall do no dishonor But to act against the citizens I cannot (Wyckoff 1956 hnes 61-64. however misdirected It might be. but. which enforce an exception to the tradinonal ntes of bunal. more fundamentally. line 481). WIth those having pohtical-legal status Eventually even Creon mistakes the will of one (himself) for the will of the many (Wyckoff 1956. however.
a mortal man. strong that you. nor yesterday's. women are not naturally constituted to act-to contend With men That Antigone must so act. Antigone IS "bound to serve the children of [her] mother's womb" as she IS bound to serve the gods their Just due (Wyckoff 1956. and no one knows then origin in time So not through fear of any man's proud spmt would I be likely to neglect these laws. draw upon myself the god's sure punishment (Wyckoff 1956." underscores both the relIgIOUS and the pohtical pollunon WhICh has 10 . but the drsmtegration of their coherence as mutually dependent realms By appeahng to a structure of divine but unwntten law. as well as the consequences WhICh she effects by actmg. in order to defend these claims and represent transgression against them. Creon see'> himself as representmg and embodying the claims of the state. Antigone accepts those which she takes to be drvme and asks to be understood at least in part as doing so On the other hand. the question IS one of the relanonship of the divine and human worlds and the claims appropriate to each On the one hand. the obhgatrons which motivate her to act. by virtue of his power and throne. his practice of the government and the law Each proceeds as If then claims were antithetical and exclusive. she must leave the household and enter the pubhc realm As Ismene counseled. thereby secunng not the mtegranon of the divine and human worlds. hnes 450-459) In these terms. could overrun the gods' unwritten and unfailing laws Not now. Antigone IS not altogether outside of the human world but rather actmg consistently With her responsibihties withm part of It Although a transgression agamst the gods occasions her deed. antagomstic to ItS claim for order and disciphne Yet because these unwritten laws frame and authorrze the claims of the private realm-of kmship and religious duty-they exist m conjunction With the laws of convention In this sense. they always live. hne 512) But. Antigone appears to locate herself outside of the human world. in order to defend the natural claims of the household and so avoid "the gods' sure punishment. are embedded in the world of human affans both pubhc and private To regard her action strictly m terms of the relIgIOUS obhganon It fulfills Ignores the circumstances which foster It and the pohtical dilemma which It in turn fosters As a woman and CItizen of the pnvate realm.hyplltia mark out such laws to hold among mankind Nor did I think our orders were so.
and Judged as a pnvate person-one who IS not properly educated 10 those thmgs which made a commonly held world possible Although she must denounce transgressions agamst the pnvate realm. she IS understood as havmg forsaken her responsibihnes within It She ISno longer considered a proper representative of the claims and concerns of the pnvate sphere and forfeits her right to represent these claims to the public Because Antigone ISa woman. undercuts her claim to do so At the moment she attempts to assert. futile and unmtelhgible. as CItizensof the pnvate sphere. Antigone's deed would be. claimmg what IScommon as hISown "Is the town to tell me how to rule?" he asks "Am I to rule by other mmd than mme?" (Wyckoff 1956. are the protectors Because the divmely sponsored claims of kmship and religious duty constitute the terms and substance of women's membership withm the polity. politically.valerie & hat10uni befallen Thebes Divisrveness pervades the city-tyranny reigns and. collapsmg the will of many mto the will of one He has robbed the gods of what IS properly theirs and confounded the public and pnvate spheres. she IS seen. place and location WIthout law. her actual defense of that realm. the authonty which IShers by virtue of tradinon to preserve and protect both kin and hearth. 736) Because Creon claims what IScommon as his own. he brmgs about the political disorder his edict mtended to prevent HIs rule has occastoned not order. she ceases 11 . heard. and lends coherence to human claims and actions that the common world has defuunon and human life and action within It. the only law that can be appealed to IS that unwntten and divme law of WhIChwomen. overstepped the boundanes of his political authonty. neither effective speech nor effective action are possible That a woman acts when others cannot underscores thrs political Impotence To the extent that tyranny IS upon Thebes. her acnon IS mherently problematic To give her brother proper bunal. lines 734. Antigone must act to defend Its claims and avert the gods' wrath Because she IS a woman. mediates. the public realm or world-held-in-comrnon ISeffectively nonexistent WIth conventional law undermmed. she exceeds her proper place In so domg. with It. Anugone must go outside of her naturally constituted sphere of action. she must enter the public realm Yet by leavmg the pnvate sphere. however. publicly. however." without proper location and without boundanes Creon has. the only acnon which ISpossible 10 defense of them ISthat of a woman As a woman and defender of the pnvate realm. silence If law stili mediated and structured the common world. "wild. but absolute disorder It ISonly when law bounds. as Ismene claimed.
and by her action challenged not only the sphere of pohncal rule and discourse." but for having ceased to function well In her place (Wyckoff 1956. WIthout regard for what IScommonly held These are the terms In WhIChAntigone's deed IS understood As a result. lines 657-658). thus threaterung the very existence of the polity To act ISto exceed her proper place WIthout place. [but] If I allow disorder In my house I'd surely have to license It abroad The man the state has put In place must have obedient heanng to hIS last command when It'S nght and even when It'S not He who accepts this teaching I trust. to function In hIS place. Antigone acts WIthout "Just claim" or authonty. this IS Creon 12 . but also the sphere of (women's) household duties. or ruled. 676-680) 6 Having left the private realm. WIthout place or location." says Creon (Wyckoff 1956. I must guard the men who YIeld to order. however. ruler. the responsibrhnes for their misdeeds passed to their closest male relative It IS no small Irony that. and WIthout membership she IS seen as one who thmks and acts alone. ItS deeper sigrnficance altogether escapes those who witness It Creon condemns Antigone not only for having "broken bounds beyond estabhshed law. 1956 hnes 659-660. If It must happen. and thus challenges law and the order WhIChIssues from It What both Ismene and Creon have failed to see. lmes 480-580) As a woman who has acted. and because as a consequence all speech and action are WIthout proper place and location Both understand her only as havmg aspired to be other than she IS For as a woman she IS not naturally fit for public 6 Because women were not considered legal equals of men. In Antigone's case. Antigone has gone beyond all bounds "Let her SIng her song of Zeus who guards the kindred. Antigone IS WIthout membership. not let myself be beaten by a woman Better. ISthat she acts only because the law ISno longer the cohenng pnnciple mediatmg Just claims (both public and pnvate).665-669.hypatia to possess It For by her deed she seems to transgress necessanly bonded spheres and recklessly to challenge the Imperatives and responsibihnes of each. that a man should overset me I won't be called weaker than womankind (Wyckoff.
" they reflect. "no fnend to bewail her fate" (Wyckoff 1956. hne 878. lines 692-697. 832-836) Yet 10 then sympathy. arguing that If Ismene actually understood the responsibihnes which attend place and membership she would join m her deed Ismene rejects this and thus rejects her responsibrhties to kmship and the gods In response to the Chorus's depiction of her life as "god-like" and self-suffrcient. nor does she understand herself as such She has acted in accord WIthher responsrbrhties as a woman and member of the pnvate realm At first she attempts to enlist the support of her sister. even though her deed ultimately recreates the pOSSIbIlIty such a world Moreover. Creon's "fellow cmzens't=-the polls-fundamentally misunderstand the character of her deed and bamsh her from the human world as Creon has done "Your selfsufficiency has brought you down. she has forfeited her nght to It 10 death Her bamshment from the city simply echoes this pronouncement She has lived alone and must dre alone While this reflects a fundamental misunderstandmg of Antigone's deed. and by this recogmzes the funhty of her deed Its true glory has been WIthout audience and her life WIthout dISunction The ambiguity of Antigone's deed and the contradictions 10 her status as a woman and member of the polity are made clear 10 contraposition to the words and deeds of Creon The POSSibIlItyfor redempnon=-wrsdom through suffenng=-is offered to Creon while It IS WIthheld from Antigone (Wmmngton-Ingram 1980. 834-836) 10 ongmal] To charactenze Antigone as "god-lIke" 10 hfe and 10 death=-sufftcient unto herself-suggests that she does not hold a world 10 common WIth others (through her blood relationships). Antigone mourns that she WIlldie unwept. In death you will have your fame to have gone ltke a god to your fate in ltvtng and in dying altke [emphasis not (Wyckoff 1956. lme 77.parncrpation Antigone IScondemned to die entombed outside the city walls The town gneves for her.881) If she were self-sufficient and understood herself as such. "unjustly doomed If ever a woman was to die 10 shame for glonous deed done" (Wyckoff 1956. 118) Where 13 . It ISa rmsunderstanding which ISnot reconciled by the drama's end Antigone ISnot self-sufficient. It sugfor gests that she has lived as only beasts or gods can hve. she would need no fnend and no tale sung of her 10 remembrance Yet she recalls her mortality. Ismene. that IS. as one alone Because she was not understood as having lived withm a commonly held world. yet.
women themselves do not speak or act They are members of the pohty although invisible. 15). she ISentombed outside the walls of her city Her sphere of action contracts. reflected 10 her movement from the public realm to the pnvate realm to entombment as one alone With Creon. women are "of the polity but not 10 It" (James Redfield 1977. It nonetheless precludes her further membership In creating the possrbihty for reconcihation between the human and divine worlds. jomed 10 death only later by Haemon. as well as between the public and pnvate spheres. Antigone's dilemma IS still WIth us Over the last three and a half centunes there has been a certam "constancy of prescnptrve attitudes towards women's place" (Wilham Chafe 1977. even though the movement and circumstances of action for each are symmetncally developed The drama opens with Antigone outside the household Once convicted. interpreted by federal courts as recently as 1970 as women's pnmary "CIVIC duty" (Susan Okm 1979). Creon's son and her husband-to-be Whereas Creon bnngs Haemon's body back mto the City. 161) In many ways. and at Its end he has lost both city and family As WIth Antigone. there IS a similar spatial development When the drama commences he IS king of Thebes. Antigone IS not. there IS a movement from pubhc to pnvate to one alone What distingurshes them. she IS taken inside the house and once condemned. as It proceeds he becomes tyrant of Thebes. participants Without the necessary concomitant of word and deed As Antigone's fate so clearly suggests. however. however. the conflation of their biological and social function so that reproducuve capacity has been taken to constitute a "naturally" denved SOCIal role." Antigone IS left behind With no further mention (Wyckoff 1956. for the ultimate wellbemg of both While her action was necessary. citizens although pnvate. recogrnzmg that "It'S best to hold the laws of old tradition to the end of hfe. their "exclusion from the full range of possrbihnes and responsibihnes within the categones 'person' and 'CItizen' because the category 'woman' has alone been sufficient to drfferentiate [them] from the category 'male' which has been synonymous With 'person' or 'human being' " (Elshtam 1974.hypada Creon IS reconciled with hIS fate. her action contradicts the very pnnciples It re-establishes For although women's actrvines ultimately sustain the realm of speech and acnon. hIS suffer109 becomes a source of WIsdom For Antigone. IS their ulnmate fate While Creon has suffered. lines 1113-1114) She penshes outside the realm of both public and pnvate affairs. even when these attitudes have borne only indirect relevance to women's dally hves The immersion of women 10 the pnvate sphere. 14 . there IS no such resolution Antigone dies alone.
29) 7 7 To pursue a career or enter the workforce IS one thing To call Into quesnon the SOCial aspects of traditional gender Identities IS quite another It IS true that some women now have greater access to educational opportunities and that greater numbers of women are securing Jobs In previously male-dominated professions The pohtrcal gains which Increased access to education or to the labor force mark.35-351). are merely formal As Susan Okrn observes." If treated as an end In Itself." behefs about the natural charactensncs of the sexes as well as about the tradinonal structure of the mstitunon of the family and ItS relation to the pubhc sphere contmue to frame and inform judicral opimon m such areas as pregnancy and employment. what does the "attainment of real equahties" mean Within a socio-econorruc structure In which women's pnncipal role In the labor force IS. Carol Pateman 1980. 3. the status of women In tins country. 47) Although the last decade has seen discernible change m. and rape (Okm 1979. for example. measured In terms of occupation. women have been denied the fundamental nghts of cinzenship throughout much of Amencan history "Even more pernICIOUS [IS] a pattern of informal discnrmnanon WhICh [has] suffused nearly all areas of hfe. 34) As Antigone was.459).." full members without full membership status On the baSIS of certain physical charactenstics. the judicial attitude regarding "sex as a reasonable classificanon standard. "to provide Just about the cheapest labor possible?" Second. (1979.273." and which serves to reinforce women's social and economic subordmation (Chafe 1977. battenng. personhood status m their fulfillment While "produc(mg as they] have [always] produced goods and services for SOCIety large as well as for at their famihes" (Joan Kelly 1979. 290) these gains have "In no way ensured the attainment of real equahnes In the SOCial and economic aspects of women's hves In spite of the prevalent assumption that women have It Within their power to be the equals of men. following Zillah Eisenstein (1981. relative to whom IS the "attainment of real equahnes" sought when access to societal wealth IS disproporuonately distributed along the lines of class and race as weJl as sex? And. Simply by taking up the equal opportunities offered them. education and income has been gradually but persistently dechrung over the last few years . however. women have been assigned to a status to wlnch an automatic set of duties and responsibihties correspond-c-duties which have compnsed membership but have excluded women from full participatory. In what sense IS "equal opportunity before the law. a solution to mstuunonahzed inequahnes (as opposed to an extension of them)? 15 . together prefigure what Sheila Rowbotham has called "woman's profound ahenation from any culture WhIChcan generahze Itself" (Sheila Rowbotham 1974. finally. Lenore Walker 1977) The last two decades have seen "less of a change m the defuution of women's place than an extension of this defuunon to incorporate new features" (Chafe 1977. contemporary women are snll "of the polity but not m it. 221). This raises several questions First.
to claim the pnvate sphere-which others besides Elshtam now note IS not a separate sphere or domain of existence but a posinon within SOCIal existence generally" (Kelly 1979." a certain "revaluation" of women's sphere. of women's acnvities witlun It. 58. women as mothers may also foster values WhIChclash WIth prevailmg pubhc norms (Elshtam 1982) In this respect the imphcanons of then acnvities withm the pnvate sphere are potentially radical Yet Elshtam 16 . detached from and unresponsive to the actual condinons of human hfe A government WhICh10 pnnciple denves Its legitimacy from a people or citizenry now can and does operate virtually independent of that cinzenry It has ceased "to be 10 any Important sense a government of. histoncally. and exclusion. she does not consider or cntically reassess the problematic status of the pnvate sphere and the equally problematic status of women's traditional aSSOCiatIOn ith this sphere In accepting both as W social "givens" rather than as SOCial"constructions. have been "harnessed to sustain and reproduce" a sex-gender system which prefigures sexual hierarchy and male dommance (Kelly 1979. the formulation of pohcy within this state. and ItS abstract and hence hfe-threatemng apphcanon of power into focus and maps these Issues onto the terram of femirust pohncal discourse However. the growth of the bureaucratic state. 7) Elshtam bnngs the Issues of incorporation. 221)-and from It to cntique the state Of greater pohtical sigmficance for her than women's history of exploitanon. oppression. and for the people [and] at best functions merely as a benevolent paternahsm" (Christopher Lasch 1981. IS the current threat of a radically antidemocratic state. It occupies and has occupied a subordinate SOCialPOSition relative to the "pubhc" realm Women's labors withm It have been devalued and. 225) Elshtam imphes that through "social fenurust awareness. Sara Ruddick 1980) Whtle fostering values WhIChsupport societal hfe. or. of "received categones" can be brought about from withm those categories themselves Accordingly." she leaves her femimst "account" theoretically ungrounded While the private sphere may not constitute a separate SOCialdomain. by. and the claims for mcorporation that many contemporary femirusms legmmate m terms of this history. more generally. "maternal thought" or mothenng capabrhtres=-vdramancally at odds With the prevaihng norms of our bureaucratic and increasmgly technological pubhc order" -can provide a base and a means for fermrnsts to examme and cntique an over-controlled pubhc world Without enhancing ItS powers of regulation and control 10 the process (Elshtam 1982.hyptltia This ISthe context withm which Elshtam urges women to adopt the standpoint of an Antigone.
a certain moral supenonty to her pubhc counterpart=-drffers substantially from culturally sanctioned and prescnbed norms regarding womanhood While Elshtam may intend a difference. however. nuclear family model from which they are derived are umversal-or for that matter sufficiently particular to sustain the pohtical claims Elshtam wants to make in terms of them 17 . that nerther these relationshrps nor the heterosexual." possessing. she stands apart from and outside of established law and custom Acting to sustain both. Creon. takes her to be acnng leginmately Because of her action. while Iegitimate 10 terms of the tradinons It seeks to restore. 10 her ideahzanon of farmhal bonds and her ardent call for "the redempnon of everyday hfe. nor how her "new" female subject=-vlocated histoncally and grounded 10 tradinon. she transgresses both Having left the pnvate sphere to represent ItSclaims. nor to reascnbe the terms of their membership Moreover. IS not recognized as such either publicly or pohtically before or after her death Ismene. as well as the Chorus.does not consider how this revaluanon-s-this renaming and reconstitunon of "femimruty. to reconstitute meaning. what this could lead to WIllalways be problematic as long as mothers are SOCIally subordinate" (Elshtam 1982.59) 8 The pivotal pohtical problemanc hes 10 this Issue of SOCIal ubordmation Elshtam's failure to engage It s cntically leaves open the question of how we get from a "functionahst" reasonmg of women's sphere to a "femmist" reasomng of this sphere when the concepts WhIChinform both remain uncontested and essentially unaltered The challenge that Antigone puts to the state. Haemon. by rmphcation. WIthout legrtimate author8 I suspect that Elshtam's "ideahzanon" of the farmly grows out of her attempt to take what she assumes are baSIC. It It not clear 10 what this difference could consist when women possess neither the culturally recognized authority to name. and to theonze from these relanonships an altemative understanding of collective hfe and pohucs which lays the groundwork for a more human reconsntuuon of both The pomt IS. middle class. but no one. heterosexual segments of SOCIety The closest she comes to addressing these Issues IS when she notes that "while the psychic-socral authority of mothers ISenormous. despite therr sympathies.commonly shared expenences of mnmate associanon and relationship. all understand her as settmg herself against the king as Creon sets himself against the nes of k1O. she forfeits the right to do so She ISWIthout locanon." of female childbearmg and childreanng acuvrty=wrll be effected culture-wide She does not suggest how the social aspects of tradinonal gender roles and identmes will be srgruficantly altered.' her analysis remains oblIvIOUSto the reahties of the dally lives of many women-partIcularly those who are not members of the white.
but [It IS) because of the Increase In women working today and two worker farmhes. 9 In Mr Reagan's own words as reported In Time (July 12. and Ladles. I'm not pickmg on anyone. the standpoint of an Antigone. women's speech and action have no pubhc context Both remain incoherent 10 the existing pohtical terms It ISno different for contemporary women Action takes Its meanmg from Its context And withm a context 10 WhIChthe President himself attributes the currently severe unemployment rates to the large number of women entenng the work-force. dissolves m Its enactment Withm a culture that holds silence to be the condition of women's honor. 1982 23) "[part of the reason for unemployment) ISnot so much recession as It ISthe great Increase in the people going Into the Job market." It ISclear that traditional reasonings With respect to women's proper place and activity have yet to undergo the revaluation WhICh would make plausible or even noncable a "femmist" reappropnation of either ity." 18 .hypatia and without membership Once she acts. as 10 Antigone's case. she has no "standpoint " For by her action she displaces herself mto nonexistence The standpoint which Elshtam urges contemporary women to adopt.
man's world London Penguin Books Ruddick. edited by Carol Gould and Marx W Wartofsky New York G P Putnam's Sons Horowitz. edited by Lydia Sargent Boston Southend Press Elshtam. 29 Dworkin. edited by M J G McGrath New York Marcel Dekker Gould. Peter 1978 Political equality and the green polls In Liberalism and the modern poltty. Joan 1979 Double vision of femmist theory Feminist Studies 5 (1) 216-227 Lasch. J 1982 How long til equality? Time 120(July 12) 20-24. Zillah 1981 Reform or revolution Towards a unified woman's movement In Women and revoluton. Sara 1980 Matenal thinking Feminist Studies 6 (2) 342-367 Shaw. Michael 1975 The female Intruder Classical Philology 70 (4) 255-266 19 . James 1977 The women of Sparta Classical Journal 72 (2) 147-161 Rowbotham. RInehart and WInston Redfield. Carol K 1976 The woman question Philosophy of hberation and the hberation of philosophy In Women and philosophy Toward a theory of ltberatton. 26. Chnstopher 1981 Democracy and the crisis of confidence Democracy 1 (l) 25-40 Okm. Andrea 1974 Woman hating New York E P Dutton --1981 Pornography Men possessing women New York G P Putnam's Sons Eisenstem.valerie & hartouni Chafe. Susan Moller 1979 Women In western polutcal thought New Jersey Pnnceton Umversity Press Pateman. Robert 1968 The ecltpse of citizenship Power and parttctpatton In contemporary poltucs New York Holt. Mary Ann Chne 1976 Anstotle and women Journal of the History of BIOlogy. William 1977 Women and equality London Oxford Untversity Press Cocks. Sheila 1974 Woman's consciousness. 9 (2) 183-213 Kelly. Carol 1980 Women and consent Poltttcal Theory 8 (2) 149-168 Pranger. Jean Bethke 1974 The fermrust movement and the question of equahty Polity 7 (4) 452-477 --1982 Antigone's daughters Democracy 2 (2) 46-59 Euben.
hypatia Sophocles --Antigone 1956 Trans Elizabeth Wycoff Chicago University of Chicago Press 1912 Text with translation by F Storr New York G P Putnam's Sons --1977 The oedipus cycle Trans FItts and FItzgerald New York Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Walker. RP 1980 Sophocles-an tnterpretauon Cambridge Cambndge University Press 20 . Lenore E 1979 The battered woman New York Harper and Row Wmnmgton-Ingram.
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