On French feminism and universalism, by Joan Wallach Scott


This article tells a story about a French feminist attempt to refigure universalism in the 1990s in a movement for gender equality in politics that they called parité.1 It is a story that addresses a set of questions much debated by philosophers and psychoanalysts, to say nothing of feminists: What is the relationship between anatomical difference and its symbolic representation? Is sexual difference (understood as a psychic not an anatomical reality) a fixed or mutable phenomenon? These questions are at the heart of countless theoretical debates and, for many feminists they have required “an obligatory detour via philosophy” (Schor 17). My story, following the hunch of the parité movement as well as my own disciplinary inclination, takes a different route, seeking its insights not so much in philosophy as in history.

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Posted in Ideas and Papers.

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