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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’identité féminine et les limites du genre

by Christian Godin

Feminine Identity And the Limits of Gender

{La Tentation de Pénélope} (Penelope’s temptation) by Belinda Cannone, Stock pub. 2010

Translated Thursday 1 April 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Isabelle Métral

Is today’s feminism undoing what the feminism of the seventies had so patiently woven? The novelist and essayist Belinda Cannone expresses her concern in her latest book. The recrimination - whether inspired by suspicion or by hatred - of some gender-warriors can discredit even the fairest cause. Women can do better than complain, the author insists, illustration is the best defence. But ours is a strange time, and a strange society, that have set the issue of identity above that of desire.

This notion of identity has gone beserk. In fact we are all what circumstances make us. There is not a feminine way of being intelligent, benevolent, or considerate , any more than there is a feminine way of being stupid, nasty, inconsiderate. Belinda Cannone expresses her scepticism in a discriminating and persuasive way concerning all the literature that promotes the notion of care –the “care” ethic so flourishing in the US - that would have us believe that there is a specifically feminine virtue (derived from the maternal function, naturally) that predisposes women to take good care of others.

Not that the author refutes the idea that there might be a feminine way of living and feeling. But this feminine way cannot be represented outside the realm of desire and pleasure, precisely. That one is not born a woman but becomes one (Simone de Beauvoir’s irrefutable idea) does not imply that all of “gender” should be a construction, hence promised to deconstruction. Pascal said that there are two kinds of folly: to believe that nature is everything, and to believe that it is nothing. We’ve simply swung from the former to the latter.

Belinda Cannone invites us to go along with her as she follows through that very simple and great premise: the suspension of the issue of gender. Does it interfere in any way with us being first and foremost(under Republican law) fellow citizens? The question of gender is poisoning the intellectual debate in the West. Against gender differentialism, the novelist remains faithful to the (now sadly) discredited stance of universalism inherited from the Enlightenment. Difference is a mask for inequality. That is crystal clear to the courageous militants of “Ni putes ni soumises!” [1]

[1(neither whores nor submissive) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ni_Putes_Ni_Soumises

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