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Feminism and Deconstruction Author(s): Mary Poovey Source: Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pp.

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FEMINISM AND DECONSTRUCTION

MARYPOOVEY Thereare as many deconstructions as there are feminisms.To discuss the relationshipbetween "deconstruction" and "feminism" is thereforeto beg-or defer-the question of definition.It requires that I posit two entitiesthat have no existenceas such so as to examine a relationship that indisputablydoes exist in contemporary - particularly criticism literarycriticism.In this essay, I will posit these two, overly simplified,provisionalentities for the purposes of discussion,but my primaryprojecthere will be to suggestsome of the reasons why the difficulties of definition multiply when these two nouns are broughtinto conjunction.I want to try to explain both why deconstructioncalls feminism into question and In the process, I will sughow feminism can use deconstruction. that feminism must rewrite deconstruction so as to incorgest a its and into that this rewriting porate strategies politicalproject will necessarilytransform will it take us (confeminism-possibly, feminism ceptually)'"beyond" altogether. Firstof all, the problem:to acceptthe antihumanist premisesof is alreadyto questionthe possibilitythat women, deconstruction as opposed to "woman," exist.' This is not to say that biological females do not exist but, rather,that neither sexualitynor social identityis given exclusivelyin or throughthe body, however it is sexed. Insteadof reflectinga unitary"self," as identityis relational; is a "woman" that its definisuch, only position gains (provisional) tion from its placement in relationto "man." This formulationof the problem follows from the philosophicalprogramof deconstructionas it has been practicedby JacquesDerridain particular. Partof Derrida's critiqueof Westernmetaphysicshas involved a of thatthe demystification presenceor identity.By demonstrating idea of presence depends upon language,which simultaneously stands for and stands in the place of the things words represent,
Feminist Studies 14, no. 1 (Spring 1988). ? 1988 by Feminist Studies, Inc. 51

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Derridaarguesthat presenceis always elusive and relational-not the ground of truth but the illusion produced by the endless substitutionof signifierswith which we (hopefully,but futilely)
try to capture it.2 One effect of the demystification of pres-

ence-and one of the strategiesby which Derridahas achieved of binaryoppositions. this demystification-is the deconstruction Presence,in otherwords, seems fixed and its ontologicalintegrity ensured because it seems to stand in oppositionto anotherfixed term-absence. Yet Derridahas arguedthat the interdependence of these terms means that neither can be autonomousand that both of them really take their definition relationally,from the chain of signifiersto which they belong. None of the membersof that produces this linguisticchain has priority,and the "ground" the effect of meaning and essence is the play of substitutionsto which I have alreadyalluded.The projectof deconstruction, then, the very is not to reverse binaryoppositionsbut to problematize idea of opposition and the notion of identity upon which it thereforeunderminesidentity,truth,bedepends.Deconstruction endless deferral or play for these substitutes as it such; ing essences. From the perspectiveof this project,a feminism that bases its epistemologyand practice on women's experienceis simply aninstituother deluded humanism, complicitwith the patriarchal tions it claimsto oppose.3To arguethatwomen'sbiologicalnature groundsa set of experiencesand feelings is obviouslyto fall into this humanistic trap, but even to maintain that all women to man and that their necessarilyoccupy the position of "other" social oppressionfollows from this binarysplit is to risk reducing positionto essence, because it retainsboth the concept of unified identity and the oppositional logic that currently dictates our of sex differenceand the natureof woman. To take "knowledge" deconstructionto its logical conclusion would be to argue that is onlya social constructthat has no basis in nature,that "woman" in otherwords,is a termwhose definitiondependsupon "woman," the contextin which it is beingdiscussedand not upon some set of sexual organs or social experiences.This rendersthe experience women have of themselves and the meaningof their social relato say the least.It also callsinto questionthe extions problematic, periential basis upon which U.S. feminism has historically
grounded its political programs. The challenge for those of us who

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are convinced both that real historicalwomen do exist and share certain experiences and that deconstruction's demystificationof presencemakestheoreticalsense is to work out some way to think both women and "woman." It isn'tan easy task. One approach to this problem has been offered by Derrida himself (as well as by other deconstructive critics like JeanFrangis Lyotard, Roland Barthes, and Michel Serres).In such Nietzsche's texts as Spurs: Derrida Stylesand "TheDouble Session," has investigated the possibilitythat "woman," as that which is concan subvertor problematize stitutedin the positionof "other," the entiremetaphysicsbased on presenceand identity.AlthoughI do not intend to analyze the specific argumentor strategyDerrida works out in these essays, his basic programis to exploreand exploit that principlewhich subvertsthe structureof binaryopposition-what he calls variously "differance," or "sup"writing," As the play of substitution, differancecan be proviplementarity." sionally figured as whatever problematizes opposition or representsthe in-between (the hymen, for example,which is the boundary between inside and outside and is thereforeboth; or whose accompanyingfantasiesboth do and do not masturbation, as a mode of speech, which Derridacallsthe "midconceptualized dle voice.""Diff~rance is not simply active,"Derrida writes; "it ratherindicatesthe middle voice, it precedes and sets up the opAs FrancesBartkowski position between activity and passivity."5 this middle in it "is which one the subjectand obvoice, explains are often the it is most in often found the reflexiveform same; ject where the subject-verb-objectrelationship is de-centered. It abolishes distance, and may therefore be seen as the form in which a distinct erotic componentis present."6 This middle voice, as a figurationof that which disrupts the structureof binary oppositionsand thereforethe identity of the terms the structuresupportsand depends upon, has been theorized by Frenchfeministssuch as LuceIrigaray and He61neCixous as a specificallyfeminine language.This is an elaborationof the Derrideanflirtationwith the feminine as writing ("ifstyle were a man ... then writingwould be a woman").7 Becauseit is the form in which most Americanshave encounteredand felt challengedto
grapple with deconstructive ideas and strategies, I will focus on this version of deconstruction instead of Derrida's own intermitmake the loved one present).4 Alternatively, this principle can be

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stand. tent adoptionof a "feminine" With the publicationin 1976 of Cixous's of the Medusa" "Laugh in Signs,the ideas of Frenchfeministsfirst beganto be accessible to U.S. audiences.Becauseof many Americans' linguisticinsularity and the stylistic difficulty of these writings, their popularity necessarily depended upon their being availablein translation. The appearanceof Cixous'sessay was followed by Signs' publication of two pieces by Luce Irigaray,"When Our Lips Speak the One Doesn'tStirwithoutthe Other" (1980)and "And Together" and the (1981) by publication,in 1980, of an entire anthologyof French feminist texts, New FrenchFeminisms, edited by Elaine Marksand Isabellede Courtivron.8s Almostas soon as these texts enteredU.S. librariesand bookstores,commentaries beganto apfrom pear. Such early works as Carolyn Burke's 1978 "Report Paris: Women'sWritingand the Women'sMovement"and her Ann RosalindJones's 1981 "Irigaray throughthe LookingGlass," 1980 "Writing the Body: Toward an Understandingof l'Ecriture and Psychoanalysis (1982) helped U.S. audiences interpretthese often elusive, stylisticallyexperimental writings.Soon Americans were embracing Frenchideas,as in the collaboratively edited 1981 American Contexts.9As French feminism (often unjustifiably homogenizedinto a single "school" by U.S. readers-as I am doing has made its onto as well as graduate here) way undergraduate its dissemination and have assimilation continued. Two syllabi, have been recent events the in 1985by Corsignificant publication nell University Press of Luce Irigaray's Speculumof the Other Woman(translated by Gillian G. Gill) and Toril Moi's sweeping critiqueof U.S. feminismin the name of the kind of feminismMoi
associates with Julia Kristeva (Sexual/TextualPolitics: Feminist LiteraryTheory).'0 issue of YaleFrenchStudiesentitled FeministReadings:FrenchTexts/ Feminine," and Jane Gallop's The,Daughter'sSeduction:Feminism

The commercialsuccess of Frenchfeministtexts is a measureof the appealthis theory holds for U.S. feministaudiences.For U.S. feministacademics,the attraction of Frenchfeminismresidesnot so much in its philosophical of binarythinking(which dismantling it shares with deconstruction)as in its argument that the inbetween mode of speech Derrida describes is feminine discourse-a special languagethat seems to articulate,if not derive from, the female body and female sexualityin particular. Calling

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for "woman" to "write her self,"Helne Cixousset the stagefor this essentialistic of Frenchfeminismwith her emphasis interpretation on "whiteink."In "TheLaughof the Medusa," Cixous associates this "ink" with "mother's milk," and, even thoughshe problematizes the literal connection between female biology and the kind of produces,her text certainlyallows for the interwritingthis "ink" that such pretation writingmust be done by women becauseit expresses what is biologically unique to them. Woman, Cixous states, "mustwrite about women and bring women to writing, fromwhich they have been drivenaway as violentlyas fromtheir bodies- forthe same reasons,by the samelaw, with the samefatal She writes that "awoman'sbody, with its thousandand one goal." with more than one language."'1 Luce Irigaray tongue reverberate also authorizesthis returnto biologyand essentialismin her creation of a myth of female desire and in basing"feminine" language on the physical propertiesof female genitalia."Woman's desire most likely does not speakthe same languageas man'sdesire," she writes. 'Woman finds pleasuremore in touch than in sight.... The value accordedto the only definableform [by the dominant, male imaginary]excludes the form involved in female autoeroticism. The one of form, the individualsex, propername, literal meaning- supercedes, by spreading apart and dividing, this touchingof at leasttwo (lips)which keeps woman in contactwith herself."12 a femininelanguage The reasonFrenchfeministspostulate "based in on"the femalebody is thatthey maintainvalues are reproduced languageand that a languagethat privilegesidentity, singularity, and linearityperpetuates the oppressionand nonrepresentation of woman. By the definition of this "economyof the same"(the woman is not-man;as such, she is "other" to phrase is Irigaray's), that which is the norm. As one exampleof this, woman'ssexuality has been theorizedas lack because it has been conceptualized in in terms of male sexuality; keeping with this, woman has been renderedsemanticallypassive because she has been relegatedto the positionof the object,not the subjectof desire.13 The projectof Frenchfeminists, then, is to develop a differentlanguageso that women can tell a differentstory."Ifwe continueto speakthe same
language to each other, we will reproduce the same story,"Irigaray thresholds of ardor . .. will make the old single-grooved mother

explains in "When Our Lips Speak Together."This language

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celebratespluralityand semanticindeterminacy, the slippageengendered by contradiction,the waywardness of digression befemalegenitals,which aremultipleinsteadof causethese are "like" Sex WhichIs Not One," Woman, argues,in "This Irigaray singular.
is indefinitely other in herself. That is undoubtedly the reason she is called temperamental, incomprehensible, perturbed, capricious-not to mention her is unable to language in which "she"goes off in all directions and in which "he" discern the coherence of any meaning. . . . In her statements-at least when she dares speak out-woman retouches herself constantly. She just barely separates from herself some chatter, an exclamation, a half-secret, a sentence left in suspense - When she returns to it, it is only to set out again from another point of pleasure or pain. One must listen to her differently in order to at the hear an "othermeaning"which is constantly in the process of weaving itself, same time ceaselessly embracing words and yet casting them off to avoid becoming fixed, immobilized. For when "she"says something, it is already no longer identical to what she means. Moreover, her statements are never identical to anything. Their distinguishing feature is one of contiguity. They touch (upon). And when they wander too far from this nearness, she stops and begins again her body-sex organ.'4 from "zero":

Whetherany women "really" speaklike this is no morethe point than whether male sexuality is "really" singular. Instead, the of fantasy,language,and endeavoris to imaginesome organization reality other than one based on identity and binary oppositions, which is currentlythe dominantmode and thereforeequatedwith the dominant sex, men. If French feminism shares with deconstruction the project of demystifying the dominant symbolic economy, then, it differsfrom the generalpracticeof deconstruction in focusing primarilyupon the recuperativeproject of rethe economyof the coveringthat which mighthave come "before" same and which thereforemay not have been appropriated by in quotationmarkshere becausethis entermen. 5 I place "before" prise, like any other quest for origins within a system that criwill necessarilybe not only specutiques presenceand originality, lative but projectiveand fictional.Yet the fact that postulatinga is criticalto Frenchfeminism reinforcesthe essentialism '"before" that the analogyto the female body also encourages.That is, in theorizingthe possibilitythat a languagemight have existed (and might exist again)that had not (yet) been organizedinto binary oppositions, noncontradictorylogic, and self-identical terms, French feminists open the door to the idea of some "natural" articulates the human subject and language that "accurately"

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especiallythe human body. That this body is biologicallyfemale and therefore"multiple" instead of male and "singular" does not mitigatethe essentialismthat deconstructiontargetsas a ruse of metaphysics. French feminism, then, when given the reading many Americanshave given it, can be said to play back into the and binaryoppositionthat it is deconstruction's very mystification to dismantle or deconstruct. (other)goal The problemthat Frenchfeminisminadvertently introducesfor U.S. feminists in particularhas been addressed by Jonathan Culler-even though Culler's explicit subject is not French feminism but the three "moments" of U.S. feminist criticism. Cullerarguesthat asking women to read as "woman"- or, by exretension, to write as "woman"-isto make a self-contradictory "it to a if for the condition of as it quest, appeals being woman were a given and simultaneouslyurges that this condition be createdor achieved." One cannot read or write outside the dominant economy, in other words, because one has been constituted as a subjectbythat economy;in orderfor there to be a "feminine" the economy reading or writing, some position that is "outside" would have to exist. Failingthat, this "outside" would have to be produced as a desirable but ultimately unattainablegoal-and even then, it would still necessarilybe conceptualized in termsderivedfromand allowedby the dominantsystem of representation. Accordingto Culler,so powerfulis the appealof this (nonexistent) point of referenceand so convincingis the impressionthatwomen are outside the dominant representationalsystem that nearly every feministsooneror laterreproducesit and the essentialismit the most sophisticated theoristsmake this appeal," implies. "Even Cullercharges,"eventhe most radicalFrenchtheorists... always So we are backto the problemwith which I began.Is it possible to be a woman if one accepts the philosophicalprogramof deconstruction,or must a deconstructivecritic be a "woman"? By way of proposingmy answer to this question, I want to outline what I see as the positivecontributions deconstruction makes to a feminismthatis interestednot only in the idea of "woman" but also in the concrete,class-and race-specific facts of historical women. I will concludewith an analysisof the limitationsof deconstruction
and some suggestions about how and why feminism must finally use deconstructive strategies to demystify the category of "woman" have moments . .. when they speak as women."6

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whose seductiveappealthreatensto prevent some kinds of questions from being asked. Fromthe perspectiveof a feministinterestedin historyand such as race and class, the primarycontribution social determinants of deconstructionis not its recuperativeprogrambut the projectof demystification. Because deconstruction reveals the figurative nature of all ideology, it can expose the artificeinherentin such and gender.This,in turn,opensthe possibilias "nature" categories ty for (although,as I will arguein a moment, it does not presuppose or mandate)a genuinely historicalpractice-one that could analyze and deconstruct the specific articulationsand institutionalizations of these categories,their interdependence, and the uneven processesby which they have been deployedand altered. Given this emphasis, deconstructive strategies could enable feministsto write a historyof the variouscontradictions within institutionaldefinitionsof woman that would show how these contradictionshave opened the possibilityfor change. The fact that the nineteenth-century for example, legal principleof "coverture," institutionalized the marriedwoman as the normative"woman" meant that unmarriedwomen enjoyed rights which "naturally" belongedto men. Despite other institutionaland ideologicalconwithin the category straintsupon theirbehavior,this contradiction "woman" facilitatedthe entry of increasingnumbers of (middleclass)women into waged work, andit helped exposethe artificiality of an oppositionthat alignedlegaland propertyrightswith sex. The second contributiondeconstructioncan make is to chaland oppositionallogic. Becausethe practiceof lenge hierarchical deconstruction transforms binaryoppositionsinto an economy in which terms circulateratherthan remainfixed, it could (although it does not usually or necessarily) mobilize another ordering of false unitiesintrinsicto binary systemin which the construction In would not prevail. otherwords, in its demystifying oppositions does not simply offer an alternativehierarmode, deconstruction and opens to scrutiny chy of binaryoppositions;it problematizes the very nature of identity and oppositionallogic and therefore makes visible the artifice necessary to establish, legislate, and maintainhierarchical thinking.Given this emphasis,deconstructive strategiescould enable us to chartmore accuratelythe multiple determinants that figure in any individual's social position and (relative)power and oppression. All women may currently occupy

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the position"woman," for example,but they do not occupyit in the same way. Women of color in a white-ruledsociety face different obstaclesthan do white women, and they may sharemore important problemswith men of colorthan with theirwhite "sisters." By deconstructing the term "woman"into a set of independent all women invariables,this strategycan show how consolidating has helped mask the operationsof to a falsely unified "woman" power that actually divide women's interests as much as unite them. Deconstruction's third contribution is the idea of the "inbetween."Even as an ad hoc strategy,the "in-between" constitutes one tool for dismantlingbinary thinking. Once the binary constructis revealedto be artificial, the identityof the two, apparently fixed terms and the rigidityof the "structure" that prevents other formulated could be from destabilized. Such a possibilities being strategywould not abolish either the hierarchicalthinking that lurks within binary oppositions or power more generally conceived. But it would enableus to rethink"power" (alongwith idenas so its to We could then see tity) perceive fragmentary quality. make the most the various of) power (and groups of women do wield and the limitations of the powerthatseems currently expose to be (but is not) the "property" of some unified rulinggroup.17 Thus, just to provide one more concrete example,deconstruction providesthe tools for exposingthe fact that the oppositionbetween the "sexes," like the definitionsof "women" and "men," is a social construction,not a reflection or articulationof biological fact. In so doing, deconstructionsets up the possibilitythat the supposedlyfixed oppositionof masculine/feminine might lose its social prominencebecause we could beginto recognizethat there is no necessary connection between anatomical sexuality and gender stereotypes or roles. This, in turn, might legitimate behaviors that do not seem to "derivefrom"sex (boys might be allowed to be more nurturing,for example).This social liberation of the concept from its natural"referent" might, in turn, open the door for examiningeven the fixity of the anatomicalcategories upon which the binary oppositionseems to be based. Insteadof all biologicalvariantsinto the two categories, and "male" relegating "female" "abnormal" is that "left (with absorbingeverything over"),
this practice might enable us both to multiply the categories of sex and to detach reproduction from sex-a hitherto unthinkable con-

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cept increasinglymade possible by new reproductivetechnoloof sexualidentitygoes gies. Sucha focus on the socialconstruction of social construction beyond the more common understanding not only the many feministsnow endorse,becauseit deconstructs and certain but also the between women social roles relationship term a sex and the in"woman." Such of reconceptualization very program.It would challengethe very basis of our currentsocial In so doing,it would necessarilyfeel like a loss, but it organization. might also createthe conditionsof possibilityfor as yet unimagined organizations of human potential. This brave new world of the reconceptualized subjectmay be but it does not follow impliedby deconstruction, necessarilyfrom its currentpractice.Indeed,as it is most typicallypracticed -both in its recuperativeand its demystifyingmodes- deconstruction tends to work againstthe kinds of historicallyspecific, political practices to which I have just alluded. It must be obvious to anyone familiarwith deconstruction today that its politics,when are are most conservative. One reason for visible, typically they this is the popularity of what I have called deconstruction's recuperative project.I have alreadysuggestedthat the particular formulationof the subversive position as a "feminine" language allows for the kind of biologismall too compatiblewith conservative argumentsaboutfemale nature.Beyondthis, however, the to a unified positionhas two limiting relegationof the "feminine" On the one it subordinates the diversityof hand, consequences. women who occupythatpositionto the likeness the realhistorical And on the other they shareby virtueof theirplacementas "other." of it works who comes to occupy that hand, againstany analysis position,why certaingroupsoccupyit at varioustimes, or the relationshipsamongthose groups.Justto give one exampleof this second problem, the deconstructiveproject can be (and has been) of peoples of color as well as used to analyzethe marginalization women, and the recuperativeemphasis of deconstructionhas of black"signibeen invokedto describethe subversiveoperations or fyin(g)" "jive."18 Yet althoughthis emphasis on placement and subversive lanthe guagesundoubtedlyprovidesa vocabularyfor conceptualizing
positive effects of difference and therefore for undermining negative stereotypes, it does not facilitate our understanding of the reladividual is the radical-and logical-extension of deconstruction's

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tionship between women and blacks, for example,nor does it account for the specific kinds of oppression or subversiveness women or blacks (or black women) may suffer or exercisewhen assigned to that position. In providing no tools for analyzing specificity, moreover, the recuperativemode of deconstruction provides no model of change. If we cannot describewhy a particular group came to occupy the position of "other" or how its tenurein that positiondiffersfromthe effect such positioninghas on other groups, we have no basis upon which to posit or by which to predict any other state of affairs.We have no basis, in other words, for politicalanalysis or action. The more fundamental limitation of deconstruction follows from the reluctanceof deconstructivecritics to examine the artited deconstructive critics, everything seems subject to deconstruction's itself. Insofaras dismantling gazeexceptdeconstruction it purportsto be a master strategyinstead of the methodological to a historicallyspecificconceptualization of language counterpart and meaning, deconstruction-even in its demystifyingmodein the very process it claimsto expose. The very proparticipates boundto a preocject of deconstructing binarylogicis inextricably with the structures of and cupation language conceptualization, afterall, insteadof, for example,an interestin the social relations or institutionsby which languageand ideas (including deconstrucare and reinforced. As tion) produced, distributed, long as it is - as an ahisviewed only accordingto its own implicit definition - deconstructionmust remain outside of torical master strategy politics, because no stableposition (otherthan its own) can exist. This gives deconstructionan apparentlyunassailablehold on the of meaning. But this, I suggest, is not because conceptualization deconstruction is "true" or becauseit necessarily supersededpolitics but only because it has refused the historicizing tendency it contains but has not so far turned upon itself. My originalproblem,then, returnswith a vengeancebornof my politicalcommitmentto the futureas well as the present.Because of its ability to dismantlebinarylogic and deconstructidentity, I do think deconstructionhas provided and continues to offer an essential tool for feminist analysis. But in order for this doubleedged blade not to reproducethe system it purportsto cut apart,
deconstruction itself must be historicized and subjected to the fice - and historical specificity - of their own practice. To commit-

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same kind of scrutiny with which it has dismantled Western metaphysics.As part of this historicizingproject,we should examine the extent to which deconstruction'sfeminization of philosophy is implicated in the feminization-and appropriation-of other practices traditionallyconsideredmasculine (and I would also thereforeunacceptablyexplicit in their aggression). like to see some analysisof the kinds of questionsdeconstruction its questionsin terms of structures precludesby conceptualizing andplay and moreanalysisof the politicalinterestsdeconstruction currently serves-as well as the interests in which it could be enlisted.'9Ultimately,my predictionis that feminists practicing and otherpoststructuralist deconstructive techniquesfrom an explicitlypoliticalpositionwill so completelyrewritedeconstruction as to leave it behind, for all intents and purposes, as part of the historicizationof structuralismalreadyunderway in several disciplines. Forthe present,however, and lookingtowardthe future,I profeministsneed to pursuetwo projectssimulpose that materialist is taneously.On the one hand, we need to recognizethat "woman" a within a both dominant, symbolic binary position currently orderand that that positionis arbitrarily (andfalsely)unified. On the other hand, we need to remember that there are concrete historicalwomen whose differencesrevealthe inadequacyof this unified categoryin the present and the past. The multiple positions real women occupy-the positions dictatedby race, for ex- should alertus to the inample, or by class or sexualpreference selves without making us and of unitary adequacy binary logic still dictated has this that does) some aspects of (and logic forget same At the treatment. social women's time, however, this emnatureof what ahistorical the lead us to question phasis must also if of feminism. basis has been taken as the For, the position if and one's is falsely unified identityis not given (solely "woman" not remain a legitimaterallyingpoint for political actions. Real historicalwomen have been (and are) oppressed,and the ways and means of that oppressionneed to be analyzedand fought.But at the same time, we need to be ready to abandon the binary thinkingthat has stabilizedwomen as a groupthatcouldbe collectively (althoughnot uniformly)oppressed. I suggest, then, that materialistfeminists need to do battle on
or necessarily) by anatomy, then woman-or even women-can-

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two fronts.We must recognizethatwhat (most)women now share is a positional similaritythat masqueradesas a naturallikeness and that has historicallyunderwritten oppression,andwe must be willing to give up the illusory similarityof naturethat reinforces binary logic even though such a move threatens to jeopardize what seems "special" aboutwomen. My argumentis thatthe structuralsimilaritythat pretendsto reflectnaturemasksthe operation of other kinds of difference(classand race, for example)precisely that seems desirable,because it gives by constructinga "nature" women what seems to be (butis not) a naturallyconstructiveand politicallysubversive role. In the long run, materialistfeminists will need to write not only the historyof women'soppressionbut We will need to turn from also the future of genderdifference(s). that the essentialism of sex differenceto procampaigns reproduce call that into the essentialism jects question very upon which our In has been based. this sense, conceptualizing the issue in history termsof realwomen is partof the solution,but it is also partof the problem. Deconstructionis a criticalcomponent of the political work I am outlininghere, but unless it is deployedupon itself, it will trapus in a practicethat once more glorifiesthe "feminine" instead of givingus the means to explodebinarylogic and make the social construction of (sexed) identities a project of pressing political concern. If deconstructiontook feminism seriously, it wouldn't look like deconstructionanymore. If feminism took at its word, we couldbeginto dismantlethe system deconstruction that assignsto all women a single identity and a marginalplace. NOTES
1. Here is Alice A. Jardine on the problematic notion of "woman."
"The problem" attendant upon French theorists' use of "woman" or "the feminine" as a metaphor for that which disrupts the paternal order of signification is that within the increasing use of quotation marks around the word "woman," women as thinking, writing subjects are placed in the position of constantly wondering whether it is a question of women or of woman, of their written bodies or of their written bodies. To refuse "woman" or the "feminine"as cultural concepts is, ironically, to return to metaphysical - anatomical - definitions of sexual identity To accept a metaphorization of woman, on the other hand, means risking once again the absence of women as subjects in the struggles against theories of metaphysical presence. The attempt to analyze, to separate ideological and cultural determinations of "the feminine" from "the real woman" - seemingly the most logical path to follow - may also be the most interminable where women become literally and figuratively impossible.

See her "Pre-Texts for the Transatlantic Feminist," Yale French Studies 62 (1981): 223-24. Jardine discusses this dilemma at greater length in Gynesis: Configurationsof Woman and Modernity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), esp. 31-49. Jonathan Culler also discusses this issue, but, although his analysis of "Reading As a Woman" illuminates the

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problem, he finally defers tackling the intersection of feminism and deconstruction. The telling footnote reads, in part: "The relation between feminism and deconstruction is a complicated question. . .. Derrida's Eperons . . . is a relevant but in many ways unsatisfying document in this case." All Culler has to add are "some brief indications" about how the conjunction might be more satisfactorily addressed. See Culler's On Deconstruction: Theoryand Criticismafter Structuralism(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), 61, n.10. Helpful analyses of feminism and deconstruction include Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's "French Feminism in an International Frame," Yale French Studies 62 (1981): 154-84, and "Displacement and the Discourse of Woman," in Displacement: Derrida and After, ed. Mark Krupnick (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), 169-95; Jane Gallop, "Annie Leclerc Writing a Letter, with Vermeer," in The Poetics of Gender, ed. Nancy K. Miller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 137-56; Frances Bartkowski, "Feminism and Deconstruction: 'A Union Forever Deferred,"' Enclitic 4 (Fall 1980): 70-77; Myra Love, "Christa Wolf and Feminism: Breaking the Patriarchal Connection," New German Critique 16 (Winter 1979): 31-53; and Elizabeth A. Meese, Crossing the Double-Cross: The Practice of Feminist Criticism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), esp. 72-87. 2. See Jacques Derrida, ". . . That Dangerous Supplement .. .,"in Of Grammatology,trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 141-64. 3. See Alice A. Jardine, "Opaque Texts and Transparent Contexts: The Political Difference of Julia Kristeva," in Poetics of Gender, 97-98; Spivak, "French Feminism in an International Frame," 175-76; and Beverly Brown and Parveen Adams, "The Feminine Body and Feminist Politics," m/f, no. 3 (1979): esp. 35-38. 4. See Jacques Derrida, "The Double Session," in Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 173-285, and ". .. That Dangerous Supplement ...," 144-52. 5. Derrida, quoted in Bartkowski, 72. 6. Bartkowski, 72. 7. Jacques Derrida, Spurs:Nietzsche's Styles, trans. Barbara Harlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 57. 8. Hel6ne Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa: Viewpoint," trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, Signs 1 (Summer 1976): 875-93; Luce Irigaray, "When Our Lips Speak Together," trans. Carolyn Burke, Signs 6 (Autumn 1980): 69-79, and "And the One Doesn't Stir without the Other,"Signs 7 (Autumn 1981): 60-67; Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron, New French Feminisms: An Anthology (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980). Future references to New French Feminisms are to the 1981 Schocken edition. 9. Carolyn Burke, "Reportfrom Paris: Women's Writing and the Women's Movement," Signs 3 (Summer 1978): 843-55, and "Irigaray through the Looking Glass," Feminist Studies 7 (Summer 1981): 288-306; Ann Rosalind Jones, "Writing the Body: Toward an Understanding of I'EcritureFeminine,"Feminist Studies 7 (Summer 1981): 247-63; Jane Gallop, The Daughter's Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982); See Feminist Readings: French Texts/American Contexts, ed. Colette Gaudin et al., special issue of Yale French Studies 62 (1981). 10. Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian G. Gill (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985); and Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (London and New York: Methuen, 1985). 11. H6lne Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa," in New French Feminisms, 245, 256. All future references are to this edition. 12. Luce Irigaray, "This Sex Which Is Not One," trans. Claudia Reeder, in New French Feminisms, 101.

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13. Ibid., 99-106. 14. Irigaray, "When Our Lips Speak Together," 69; "This Sex Which Is Not One," 103. 15. Julia Kristeva postulates a signifying mode in which every individual engages before the acquisition of language. This "heterogeneous," "maternally connotated" mode, which she calls "le s6miotique," is "detected genetically in the first echolalias of infants as rhythms and intonations anterior to the first phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, and sentences; this heterogeneousness ... is later reactivated as rhythms, intonations, glossalalias in psychotic discourse." See her "From One Identity to an Other," in Desire in Language:A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, trans. Thomas Gora, et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 133. Other feminists, like Sherry Ortner, have speculated that the "before" is phylogenetic-a literal presocial state of nature more or less preserved in "primitive"societies. See "Is Woman to Man As Nature is to Culture?" in Women, Culture, and Society, ed. Michelle Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974). 16. Culler, 49, 63. 17. See Brown and Adams, 47. 18. See esp. Hortense J. Spillers, "Interstices: A Small Drama of Words," in Pleasure and Danger: ExploringFemale Sexuality, ed. Carol S. Vance (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 73-100. 19. See Bartkowski, 76-77.

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