J A C Q U E L I N E R O S E ............................................................................................................................................. . . . . .

What Does Feminism Want?

want to address, as my way of responding to this conference, the problem of collective identifications, of how to form a collectivity. Socrates once said that hardly anybody ever acts sanely in public affairs. The psychoanalyst Ernest Jones commented that, even after a lengthy period of analysis which may have quite dramatic effects on a patient’s erotic proclivities and preferences, their sexual life and their dream life, there will be absolutely no change in their public identities or in how they behave when they go out into the collective world. If we are thinking about the future of feminism, one central issue we have to address is the kind of political movement we think we can be part of, not just in terms of the challenge posed to any such collectivity by differences between women, crucial as these are, but in the sense of what we think a collectivity can be. Perhaps our experience as feminists puts us in a unique position for thinking about the difficulties of identification with a collective to which so many of us have belonged but which is also seen by many as in some sort of crisis today. One way of approaching this issue might be through another question, one which has also emerged very clearly from this conference. To use, but modify, a well-worn phrase: `What does feminism want?’ We could start with the following list: equality, justice within or beyond the law, freedom, pleasure (even pain has slipped in at moments as a part of freedom, as in the whole range of psycho-sexual possibilities), recognition or civil sexuality. But if each of these have emerged in the course of the conference, we have demonstrated again how hard it is for us to think or talk about the collective dimension of our psychic self-imaginings, that is, the process of group ...................................................................................................................................................................... . . . . . . .
Women: a cultural review Vol. 11. No. 1/2. ISSN 0957-4042 print/ISSN 1470-1367 online # 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals

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.. to cite Cora Kaplan.. but about the divisions between subjects as a problem of how to constitute a viable collectivity. Freud wrote....... the kinds of internal.... almost sadistic coercion to which they make their appeal.. ......... at the image of the superego `in command’... politically and ethically much less. is claiming as his own (which also says something about the power of the leader... `Ethics’..... what it does have to say is not always easy or encouraging. Blairism. .. tough on the causes of crime’ which now Gordon Brown. What can you do about the factÐwhich all calls to parental severity should considerÐthat the voice requiring us to be nice might not be a nice voice.. unified women’s movement under the pressures of race....... Even if..... Has it perhaps ...]. that a moral imperative is a knife that cuts both ways... that when we tell ourselves what to do..140 . The psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion.... the problem here is not just the socially punitive nature of these moral demands emanating from the Blair government but the form of the injunction itself.. and of group identifications). We are faced with the increasingly vociferous moral demands of our........ is one of the few analysts to have written extensively about group psychology after Freud. at least partly we assume..... as an endeavour to achieve by means of a command of the superego something which has not so far been achieved by means of any other cultural activity’.. `is to be regarded as a therapeutic attempt...... hence of recognition and ethics.* Let’s remember that Tony Blair shot to the top of the Labour Party on the back of his truly punishing formula `Tough on crime. do we not also need to think about the difficulty of group identification? Our project has been one of justice.. as it were. although that is something in fact about which psychoanalysis has just as much to say as it does about the vagaries of sexual identity and difference.. in his new biography...... by demanding for example that parents be penalized for their children’s absence from school... identification through which we formulated those demands in the first place and by means of which..... * Cora Kaplan’s conference paper.. We have heard much about difference and about division internal to subjects. sexuality and class. I believe. from the very strength of the call to collective identification... WOMEN: A CULTURAL REVIEW . But in psychoanalytic terms... ... It is a problem rarely addressed by those who try to personalize the effects of inequality.. which has been very present at this conference as the context in which feminism in Britain now has to place itself... they will have to be achieved... ...... discussed by Mary Jacobus... as my opening reference to Ernest Jones is there to remind us..... of course prides itself on its `ethics’ (and not just in Robin Cook’s famous and now discredited promise of an `ethical’ foreign policy)..... We could pause here....... is not included in these pages [ed........ `relentlessly conservative and modernizing government’..... however noble the imperative......... because it brings us straight to the heart of the problem. what might be working at a deeper level is a profound distrust always on the ready to be provoked at the hint of any collective demand..... suffered from this. Feminism in Britain and the United States has.. `Spectres of Class: Socialist Feminism’s Undead’. When we think about the loss of a singular. ....

on exactly the day that the benefit cut to single women was announced and put into place (even if he subsequently had to climb down).. We might then say that.... More powerful or disturbing. goes to the heart of questions of sexual difference which have been so central to one strand of feminist analysis over the past years.. you seek your self-worth in them becauseÐor rather in direct proportion to the extent you believe or have been persuaded to believe thatÐsociety and collective accountability has ceased to exist. non-normative sexuality from the WHAT DOES FEMINISM WANT? . . Diana. then. I want then to take just a few instances where it seems to me that the question of identification has been central to our contemporary political climateÐdeliberately chosen in response to Elaine Showalter’s........... domineering weight of the superego? When we say `feminism’ it seems to me we are talking at least partly about not just a grand narrative to which we may or may not choose to affiliate ourselves but also of a collective identification which for some good (recognition of differences) and some not so good reasons (the perils of group life) at least partly failed..... the for many of us frightening or chilling identification of Tony Blair with Margaret Thatcher... 141 ..... with the power of a sexual ideal: Blair who seems able to permit himself certain relentlessly conservative policies on the back of what is obviously a partial idealization (or even idolization) of Thatcher as woman prime minister. with an extraordinary acting out in our public life of the force of sexual identification.. been a problem for feminism that its call to a different type of collectivity for women has been unable to by-pass the oppressive. that is. for me extraordinary. Today the issue for psychoanalysis and politics might not... although she crucially qualified it in class terms..... as Regenia Gagnier so evocatively put it. feeling acts..... for those of us who have been involved in the dialogue between psychoanalysis and feminism....... also be seen partly as a symbol of Thatcherism... while belonging to the axis of identification.... who can. .... by seeing the problem almost exclusively as that of liberating a complex..... loving.. suggestion that two of these might be some kind of role model for feminism in our time.............. kind. surely..... be so much desire as identification: `The hardest thing’.. across the barrier of sexual difference. . You can identify with benevolent... ..... more phallically masquerading than any man today would allow himself or dare himself to be.. First.. We are then confronted with a reality which. And just to run the two together. The question that Diana carried on behalf of the collective was how to feel good when you (meaning the `you’ who voted in the Conservative tax........ `is to identify with another’s pleasure’........ ... we have made it too easy by subordinating identification to desire........... Second... charitable........ precisely because she was a woman..... we could see as the ultimate legacy of these two figures combined: the disturbing image of Tony Blair cuddling up to the monarchy on the fiftieth anniversary of the other royal wedding.....and welfare-slashing government which has left so many people so tangibly worse off) are feeling so mean... We are confronted....... I would argue..........

.... that is.. I could nonetheless be so sure (which I realize is not to address the issue of transsexuality or the extent to which I may have got it wrong). if only partially and erroneously. How does. as I see it now. how people come to recognize themselves. .. crucial as that move was.... that is to say........ in terms of language.. as men and women...... When I was asked last night how many men there were at the conference I said about 5 per cent. if you bring in the question of how collective identitiesÐand Blair with his moralism and Diana with her benevolence are there as reminders of the dangersÐare made and unmade... Things become much more difficult if you bring in the question of the superego and of collective identifications. In fact today I think we should acknowledge that the debate got terribly stuck... it is simply harder in relation to the collective to be sure you will always be on the right side. .. What you decide about this internally embroiled argument about psychoanalysis (if it interests you at all) is likely to depend on whether you think feminism is advanced by a theory of how sexual difference is produced. That difference I would argue is still a founding difference for human subjects’ recognition of themselves.. peculiar investments we make in collective identifications far less. ...... It was at this point that the debate stalled because these are different desires. But when Griselda Pollock asked from the floor for a `theory of femininity’..... that is.......... but what a woman is. let’s say. straitjacket of a heterosexist culture. It was too easy when the opposition was between... for a long time. has not gone away (it was the focus of John Fletcher’s paper).142 .. The question of sexual difference... psychoanalysis speak about itself? Psychoanalysis boasts that it knows how to listen in... or should.. a phallic... Not how sexual difference is produced.. ... or about how psychoanalysis.............. So there is also a point to be made here about the limits of theory. the idea of the no less complex. while being part of one feminist discussion.... as I see it.. Or to put it another way.. giving voice to the theoretical imperative which came from the other side of the debate......... capable of theoretical resolution.... she was... WOMEN: A CULTURAL REVIEW ......... That has been one part of the dialogue between psychoanalysis and feminism. however.. If we are trying to pull psychoanalysis in the direction of a radical politics....... nor.. In relation to feminism.... masculine overconfident ego and the vagaries and uncertainties of unconscious sexual ambiguities and desire.... about fifteen men amongst the 300 here... given that things unconsciously are so much more muddled........ Is there a risk that anyone talking about psychoanalysis in public treats . Psychoanalysis. ever were. presented itself or failed to present itself to the wider feminist constituency outside........ the idea of unconscious sexuality struggling against the dominant has an immediate political appeal. offered us a theory of how. but its form........... one might say. not just in relation to the content of its theories. which are not. the relevance of psychoanalysis will be decided. ... however muchÐas psychoanalysis also insistsÐit is also fraudulent and oppressive as regards the complexities of any one individual’s sexual identity.

. As well as from a theory.. the transsexual. of the disreputability of human subjects.... the ones we like...... she is talking about UtopiasÐthe opening poem is called `The Guardian Angel of the Little Utopia’Ðand she uses an expression........ In the title poem............ I was struck that the language of the hysteric against the master was functioningÐin a way that takes us back. Jacques Lacan..... To end with an extract from a poem by the Pulitzer Prize winning woman poet Jorie Graham from her latest collection The Errancy (last week the Times Literary Supplement published a poem about Graham by David Lehmann called `Big Hair’ which spoke volumes about the risks for women..... dissolute as opposed to dissolved...... to the opening dialogue between psychoanalysis and feminism in the 1970sÐin some sense as the discourse of truth..... Nicolas Abraham and  Maria Torok. the shopper or shoplifter............ But if the hysteric is no longer the candidate then what are the alternatives? We might list a few which have presented themselves here: the feminist S&M practitioner who is willing to admit that she gets pleasure from sadism..... Disreputable as opposed to infinitely multipliable or increasingly plastic..... `The Errancy’: WHAT DOES FEMINISM WANT? .... . as does the whole poem in which it appears.. the audience as if they were in some sense the analyst (the French psychoanalyst... in these brief summary remarks. Feminism still has much to gain from what psychoanalysis might have to say about how subjects bind themselves into their social identities. be? A final question which seems to emerge strongly from this conference: Do we.. want something to serve in the place of some kind of truth? Listening to Elisabeth Bronfen. assuming that.......... 143 . if we generalize trauma.... made this a matter of principle). . On this latter we might ask.. listening in is what the audience should also do? We need another formÐand here I agree with Elaine Showalter although obviously I am not buying her examplesÐof public speech.. the `cadaverous swallowings of the dream of reason gone’...... however estranged and estranging the discourse... ... which I think strongly evokes.. have said in public discussion that they developed the concept in order to deal with the unconscious repetition of Holocaust memory in the fantasies and dreams of secondgeneration Holocaust survivor patients........ as we enter the new millennium. or think a subject potentially can.... What does feminism want a subject to........ what does that do to the historical specificity of trauma in the century of which we now take our leave? The Hungarian emigre analysts..... The question of language seems crucial..... still today... . the ones that we don’t.. the crisis in self-imagining for feminism as collective identity which I have. been trying to evoke for us today........ the problem with which Elaine Showalter began). to cite Cornelius Costoriades... whose concept of `transgenerational haunting’ has come up at several points in the psychoanalytic papers...... of public self-presentation. .. These lines are from the title poem. the trickster or the trauma. although with different emphases....

.144 .... .... .... Utopia: remember the sensation of direction we loved........................ .......... WOMEN: A CULTURAL REVIEW ......................... ...... ....... how it tunnelled forwardly for us................ ... How we were built to fit and complyÐ as handwriting fits to the form of its passion ........ that being carried forward by the notion of human perfectabilityÐlike a pasture imposed on the rising vibrancy of endless diamond-dust ..... someday................. and us so feudal in its wakeÐ speckling of diamond-dust as I think of it now...... .......... And how we would comply......