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The Question of the Other Author(s): Luce Irigaray and Noah Guynn Source: Yale French Studies, No., pp . 7-19 Published b y : Yale Universit y Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2930321 Accessed: 21/11/2010 02:03 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates y our acce p tance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the p ublisher re g ardin g an y further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=yale . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Yale University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Yale French Studies. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-2" src="pdf-obj-0-2.jpg">

The Question of the Other Author(s): Luce Irigaray and Noah Guynn Source: Yale French Studies, No. 87, Another Look, Another Woman: Retranslations of French Feminism (1995), pp. 7-19 Published by: Yale University Press

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The Question of the Other Author(s): Luce Irigaray and Noah Guynn Source: Yale French Studies, No., pp . 7-19 Published b y : Yale Universit y Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2930321 Accessed: 21/11/2010 02:03 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates y our acce p tance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the p ublisher re g ardin g an y further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=yale . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Yale University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Yale French Studies. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-52" src="pdf-obj-0-52.jpg">

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LUCE IRIGARAY

The Question ofthe Other

Westernphilosophy, perhaps all philosophy,has been constructed arounda singularsubject. For centuries, no oneimagined that different subjectsmight exist, or thatman and womanin particularmight be differe'nt subjects. Of course,since the end of the nineteenth century, more attention has beenpaid to the questionof the other. The philosophicalsubject, henceforthmore a sociologicalsubject, became a bit less imperialist, acknowledgingthat identities different from his own indeedexisted:

children,the mad, "savages,"workers, for example. These empiricaldifferences had to be respected;not everyonewas thesame, and it was importantto pay a bitmore attention to othersand to theirdiversity. Yet thefundamental model of the human being re- mainedunchanged: one, singular, solitary, historically masculine, the paradigmaticWestern adult male, rational, capable. The observeddi- versitywas thusthought of and experiencedin a hierarchicalmanner, themany always subjugated by the one. Others were only copies of the idea of man, a potentiallyperfect idea, which all the more or less imperfectcopies had to struggleto equal. Theseimperfect copies were, moreover,not defined in and ofthemselves, in otherwords, as a differ- ent subjectivity,but ratherwere defined in termsof an ideal subjec- tivityand as a functionof their inadequacies with respect to thatideal:

age, reason,race, culture, and so on. The model of the subjectthus remainedsingular and the "others"represented less ideal examples, hierarchizedwith respect to the singularsubject. This philosophical model corresponds,furthermore, to thepolitical model ofthe leader consideredto be the best,indeed the only one capable of governing

YFS 87,Another Look, Another Woman, ed. Huffer, ? 1995by Yale University.

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citizensmore or less worthyof their identity as humanbeings, more or

less civil.

This positionrelative to the notion of othernessno doubtexplains

Simonede Beauvoir'srefusal to identifywoman with the other.Not

wantingto be "second" with respectto the masculinesubject, she

asks,as a principleof subjectivity, to be man'sequal, to be thesame as,

or similarto, him.

Fromthe point of view of philosophy, that position entails a return

to thesingular, historically masculine, subject, and the invalidation of

thepossibility of a subjectivityother than man's. If de Beauvoir'scriti-

cal workon thedevalorization of woman as "secondary"in cultureis

valid on one level,her refusalto considerthe questionof woman as

"other"represents, philosophically and evenpolitically, a significant

regression.In fact,her thinking is historicallyless advancedthan that

of certainphilosophers who ponderthe notionof possible relation-

shipsbetween two or more subjects: existential, personalist, or politi-

cal philosophers.In thesame way, she is notat theforefront ofwomen's

strugglesto be recognizedas havingtheir own identity.

Simonede Beauvoir'spositive assertions represent, in myview, a

theoreticaland practical error,since they imply the negation of

an/other(woman) [d'un[e] autrel] equal in valueto thatof the subject.

The principalfocus of my workon femininesubjectivity is, in a

way,the inverseof de Beauvoir'sas faras the questionof the otheris

concerned.Instead of saying,"I do not want to be the otherof the

masculinesubject and, in orderto avoidbeing that other, I claim to be

his equal," I say,"The questionof the other has beenpoorly formulated

in theWestern tradition, for the other is alwaysseen as theother of the

same,the otherof the subjectitself, rather than an/other subject [un

autresujet2], irreducible to themasculine subject and sharingequiva-

lentdignity. It all comesdown to thesame thing:in ourtradition there

has neverreally been an otherof the philosophicalsubject, or, more

generally,of the culturaland politicalsubject.

Theother (Of the Other Woman, the secondary title of Speculum) must

beunderstood as a noun.In French, but also in other languages, such as

Italianand English,this noun is supposedto designateman and

  • 1. Irigaray'soriginal suggests several possible readings: "of an other,""of a feminine

other,""of another subject," and "ofanother woman." [Translator's Note]

  • 2. Irigaray'soriginal suggests either "another subject" or "a subjectwhich is other."

[Translator'sNotel

LUCE IRIGARAY

9

woman.With this secondary title, I wishedto showthat the other is, in

fact,not neutral, neither gramatically, nor semantically, that it is not,

orthat it is no longer,possible to designateindifferently

both the mas-

culineand thefeminine using the same word.This practiceis current

in philosophy,religion, and politics:we speak ofthe existenceof the

other,of love for the other, of anxiety about the other, etc. But we do not

ask the questionof who or what this otherrepresents. This lack of

precisionin thenotion of the other's alterity has paralyzedthought-

includingthe dialectical method-in an idealisticdream appropriated

by a single(masculine) subject, in the illusionof a singularabsolute,

and has leftreligion and politicsto an empiricismwhich fundamen-

tallylacks ethics insofar as respectfor others is concerned.In fact,if the

otheris not definedaccording to its actual reality,it is no morethan

anotherself, not a trueother; it can thusbe eithermore or less than I,

and it can have eithermore or less thanI. It can thusrepresent (my)

absolutegreatness or (my)absolute perfection, the Other:God, the

Ruler,logos; it can designatethe smallestor themost impoverished:

children,the sick, the poor,strangers; it can name the one whom I

believeto be myequal. Trulythere is no otherin all this,only more of

the same: smaller,larger, equal to me.3

Instead of refusingto be the othergender [1autre genre4],the other

sex, what I ask is to be considered as actually an/otherwoman [une

autre], irreducibleto the masculine subject. From this point of view,

the secondary title of Speculum might have

seemed offensiveto Si-

mone de Beauvoir: Of the Other Woman. At the time of its publica-

tion, I sent her my book in all good faith,hoping forher supportin the

difficultiesI encountered. I never received a response, and it is only

recentlythat I came to understandthe reason forher silence. No doubt

I must have offendedher without wishing to. I had read the "Introduc-

tion" to The Second Sex well beforeI wrote Speculum, and could no

longer recall what was at stake in the problematic of the other in de

Beauvoir's work. Perhaps,for her part, she didn't understand that for

  • 3. Irigaray,J'aime a toi. Esquisse d'une fflicitW dans 1'histoire(Paris: Editions

Grasset,1992), 103-04.

  • 4. The word"genre" corresponds to theEnglish word "gender" only in the sense of

grammaticalgender (an elementof the French language which cannot be translatedinto English),and thereis no otherobvious translation for Irigaray's use of the word.The words"kind," "type," "category," or "sort"do notnecessarily imply gendered alterity (whethergrammatical or otherwise), and the word "gender" is, strictlyspeaking, a mis- translationof "genre"as it is used here.I have thereforetranslated it in variousways accordingto contextand have notedparenthetically wherever the word appears in the

originaltext. ITranslator's Note]

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me my sex or my gender[genre] were in no way "second,"but that

sexes or gendersare two,without being first or second.

In my own way,and in totalignorance of theirwork, I pursueda

problematicclose to thatof the American promoters of Neofeminism,

a feminismthat valorizes difference, one moreclosely related to the

culturalrevolution of May 1968than to de Beauvoir'segalitarian femi-

nism. Let's recall,briefly, what is at stake in this problematic:the

exploitationof woman takes place in thedifference between the gen-

ders[genres] and thereforemust be resolvedwithin difference rather

thanby abolishingit. In Speculum,I interpretand critiquehow the

philosophicalsubject, historically masculine, has reducedall other-

ness to a relationshipwith himself-as complement,projection, flip

side, instrument,nature-inside his world,his horizons.As much

throughFreudian texts as throughthe major philosophical methods of

ourtradition, I show how the other is alwaysthe other of the same and

not an actual other.

Thus my critiquesof Freudall come downto a singleinterpreta-

tion: you (Freud)only see the sexuality,and moregenerally the iden-

tity,of the littlegirl, the adolescentgirl, or woman in termsof the

sexualityand identityof the little boy, the adolescent boy, or man.For

example,in yourview, the little girl's auto-eroticism lasts only as long

as she continuesto confuseher clitoriswith a small penis; in other

words,she imaginesthat she has thesame sexualorgan as a boy.When

she discovers,through her mother, that woman doesn't have the same

sexualorgan as man,the little girl renounces the value of her feminine

identityin orderto turntoward the father,toward man, and seeks to

obtaina penis byprocuration. All herefforts are directedtoward the

conquestof the male sexualorgan. Even the conceiving and engender-

ingof a childhas onlya singlegoal: theappropriation of the penis or of

the phallus; and this beingthe case, a male child is preferableto a

femalechild. Thus, a marriagecannot succeed, a woman cannotbe-

come a goodwife, until she givesher husband a male child.

These dayssuch a descriptionwould make many women, and even

manymen, laugh. But just a fewyears ago, barely twenty years back, a

woman who directedour attentionto our culture'sstaggering ma-

chismowas laughedat and was not allowedto teachat theuniversity.

Yettoday things have not become as clearas it mightseem. True, a bit

oflight has beenshed on thissubject, but, if Freudian theory is macho,

it merelyreproduces an existingsociocultural order: Freud, in this

sense,did not inventmachismo; he merelynoted it. Wherehe goes

LUCE IRIGARAY

11

wrongis in his cures:like de Beauvoir,he does notrecognize the other

as other;and, albeit in differentways, they both proposethat man

remainthe singularmodel ofthe subject,which woman must try to

equal. Man andwoman, through quite different strategies, must there-

forebecome alike. This ideal conformsto thatof traditional philoso-

phy,which seeks a singularmodel of subjectivity, one whichis histori-

callymasculine.

At best,this singularmodel would allow fora balancingact be-

tweenthe one and the many,but the one remainsthe model which,

moreor less openly,controls the hierarchy of multiplicity: the singular

is uniqueand/but ideal, Man. Concretesingularity is onlya copyof the

ideal,an image.The Platonicview of the world, its notionof truth, is,

in a certainsense, the inverse of day-to-day empirical reality: you be-

lievethat you are a reality,a singulartruth, but you are only a relatively

goodcopy of a perfectidea ofyourself situated outside of yourself.

Heretoo, we can'tlaugh too soon,for we mustfirst ponder the still

currentpertinence of such a conceptionof the world: we arechildren of

theflesh but also ofthe word, nature but also culture.Now, children of

culturesignifies children of the idea, incarnations that conform, more

or less, to theideal model.Often, in orderto liveup to thismodel, we

mimic,imitate like children,that which we perceiveto be ideal.These

areall Platonicways of being and doing, and all conformto a masculine

notionof truth. Even in thereversal constituted by the privilege of the

manyover the one, a verycurrent reversal often called democracy, even

in theprivilege of the other over the subject, of the you over the I (I am

thinking,for example, of certain works by Buber and a certainpart of

Levinas'swork in whichthese privileges are perhapsmore moral and

theologicalthan philosophical), we just endup witha stand-infor the

model of the one and the many,of the one and the same, in whicha

singularsubject inflects one meaningrather than another. In thesame

way,privileging concrete singularity over ideal singularitydoes not

allow us to challengethe privilege of a universalcategory valid for all

menand all women.In fact,each concrete singularity cannot decree an

ideal valid forall men and all women,and, to ensurecohabitation

betweensubjects, notably within the republic,only a minimumof

universalityis required.

To get out fromunder this all-powerful model ofthe one and the

many,we mustmove on to themodel of the two, a twowhich is not a

replicationof the same, nor one largeand theother small, but made up

oftwo which are truly different. The paradigmof the two lies in sexual

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difference. Why there? Because it is therethat two subjectsexist who

shouldnot be placedin a hierarchicalrelationship, and because these

two subjectsshare the commongoal ofpreserving the human species

and developingits culture,while granting respect to theirdifferences.

My firsttheoretical gesture was thusto extricatethe two from the

one, the two fromthe many,the otherfrom the same, and to do so

horizontally,suspending the authority of the One: ofman, the father,

theleader, the one god,the singular truth, etc. It involvedmaking the

otherstand out fromthe same,refusing to be reducedto the otherof

thesame, to theother (man or woman) of the one, not by becoming him

orbecoming like him,but by inventing myself as an autonomousand

differentsubject.

Clearlythis gesture calls into questionour entiretheoretical and

practicaltradition, particularly Platonism, but without such a gesture

we cannotspeak of women's liberation, nor of an ethicalbehavior with

respectto theother, nor of democracy. Without such a gesture,philoso-

phyitself risks its owndemise, vanquished along with other things by

theuse oftechniques that, in theconstruction of the logos, undermine

manessubjectivity, an easierand quickervictory if woman no longer

maintainsthe pole ofnature standing opposite to masculinetechne.

The existenceof two subjects is probablythe only thing that can bring

the masculinesubject back to his being,and thisthanks to woman's

access to herown being.

To accomplishthis goal, the feminine subject had to be freedfrom

theworld of man to makeway for a philosophicalscandal: the subject

is not one,nor is it singular.

Next and at thesame time,this feminine subject, just barelydefined,

lackingoutlines and edges, without norms or mediations, needed to be

mappedout, in orderto nourishher and ensureher becoming[son

devenir].After this critical phase in mywork that was addressedto a

monosubjective,monosexualized, patriarchal, and phallocraticphi-

losophyand culture,I thusattempted to definesome characteristics of

thefeminine subject, characteristics which were necessary to affirmit

as such,for fear that it mightsuccumb once againto a lack ofdifferen-

tiation,that it mightonce againbe subjugatedby the singular subject.

One importantdimension of assistingthe becomingof the feminine

subject,and thusmy own becoming, was to escapefrom a

singlefigure

of genealogicalpower, to maintainthat "I was bornof man and

of

woman,and thatgenealogical authority belongs both to man and to

LUCE IRIGARAY

13

woman."It was thusimportant to retrievefeminine genealogies from

oblivion,not to repress the existence of the father pure and simple, in a

kindof reversal cherished by previous philosophical methods, but to

returnto thereality of the two. But it's true that it takestime to locate

and restorethis two, and it cannotbe thework of one womanonly.

Aside fromthe returnto and reconcilationwith genealogy,with

femininegenealogies-which are still a longway off-woman, women,

neededa language,images, and representationswhich suited them

on a culturallevel, even on a religiouslevel, god being the philosophi-

cal

subject'sgreat accomplice. I

beganto workon thisin Speculumand

Ce

sexe qui n'en estpas un and continuedthe project notably in Sexes

etparentes, Le tempsde la difference, and Je, tu, nous.5 In thoseworks,

I discussthe particularities of the feminine world-a worlddifferent

fromthat of man-with respectto language,with respect to thebody

(to age,to health,to beauty,and, of course, to maternity), with respect

to work,with respect to natureand the worldof culture.Two exam-

ples: I attemptto showthat life's unfolding is differentfor woman than

it is forman, since it consistsfor women of much morepronounced

physicalstages (puberty, loss ofvirginity, maternity, menopause) and

requiresa subjectivebecoming which is farmore complex than man's.

As faras workis concerned,I show that socioeconomic justice does not

consistof merely putting a ruleinto practice-"equal workfor equal

pay"-but consistsalso ofrespecting and valorizingwomen in terms

ofchoice in the endsand meansof production, professional qualifica-

tions,relationships in theworkplace, social recognitionof work, and

so on.

In these works,I also began to speak of the necessityof rights

specificto women.As I have writtenelsewhere, it is myopinion that

women'sliberation cannot progress without taking this step, as much

on the levelof social recognitionas on the level ofindividual growth

and communalrelationships, between women and betweenwomen

and men.These juridicalproposals were viewed with marked interest

and a certainmistrust: interest on thepart of nonspecialist, nonfemi-

nist women who understoodthe importanceof what was at stake,

  • 5. Severalof these books exist in Englishlanguage editions: Speculum of the Other

Woman,trans. Gillian C. Gill (Ithaca:Cornell University Press, 1985); This Sex WhichIs

Not One, trans.Catherine Porter (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985); Sexes and

Genealogies,trans. Gillian C. Gill (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1993); and le,

Tuz,Nous: Tbwarda Cultureof Difference, trans. Alison Martin (New York:Routledge,

1993).Le tempsde la difference. Pour une revolution pacifique (Paris: Librairie Generale

Frangaise, 1989)does notexist in English. (Translator's Notel

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interestalso on thepart of feminists in certaincountries who have long

been concernedwith the necessary mediation of the law in thelibera-

tion ofhumankind, and particularlyin women'sliberation.

Resistancecame fromwomen of two different persuasions. Women

in favorof egalitarianismdo not understandthe necessityof special

rightsfor women; they agree that equal rightswith men mustbe ob-

tained;they are readyto struggleagainst discrimination; but theydo

not pay attentionto the factthat women are forcedto make specific

choicesin theirrelationships with men, and thatthe choices cannot

remainindividual or private but must be guaranteedby law: thefree-

dom ofchoice in reproduction,work patterns, sexuality, the raising of

minorsin cases ofdivorce or separation,keeping in mindthe context

ofmulticultural marriages, where traditional spousal rights differ be-

tweencultures. In myview, the lack ofspecial rights for women does

not allow themto move froma state of natureto a civilizedstate:

the majorityremain nature-bodies, subservient to

the State,to the

Church,to fatherand husband,without access to the statusof civil-

ians,responsible for themselves and the community.

Womenwho aremore sensitive to a cultureor politics of difference

also contestthe necessity of civil rights specific to women, for they fear

thelaw as requiringservitude to theState. Yet civil rights for individ-

ual personsrepresent, on the contrary,a guarantee that citizens can

opposethe power of the State as such;they maintain a tensionbetween

individualsand theState, and can evenensure the evolution of a state-

controlledsociety into a civil society,whose democraticcharacter

wouldbe supportedby people's individual rights.

  • I can onlyhope thatwomen understand and promotewhat is at

stake in individualrights, both because theserights are essentialto

protectthem and to affirmtheir identity, and because as feminine

subjects,they are more ready to takean interestin rightshaving to do

withthe individual and with relationships between individuals, rather

than in rightsdetermined by assets-possessions, property,belong-

ings-rightswhich make up the majorityof masculinecivil codes.

Existingcivil codes and constitutionswould have to be completedby

includingrights for women and rightsdefined according to women's

spirit[genie], in otherwords, beyond sexual specificity,for citizens

(bothmen and women)as people.

The unique characterof feminine spirit [genie] also leads me back to

thequestion of the otherin thisfinal section of my essay.

LUCE IRIGARAY

15

Havingbecome an autonomoussubject, it is now woman'sturn to

situateherself with respectto the other,and the specificityof her

identityallows herto pay much moreattention to the dimensionof

alterityin the processof subjectivebecoming [le devenirsubjectif].

Traditiondictates that woman is theguardian of love and has imposed

on herthe duty of loving, and of loving despite the misfortunes of love,

withoutexplaining why she mustperform such a task.

  • I certainlywill not become an accompliceto thiskind of imperative

on the subjectof love, nor to the correspondingimperative of hate

whichseems to me to be its complementaryprinciple.

Rather,I will pass on to you resultsobtained from research into

the wayin whichlittle girls, adolescent girls, and womenspeak, and

will propose an interpretationof the characteristicsof feminine

language.6

The languagethe mostaware of the otheris thatof the littlegirl.

She addressesherself to the other-in my researchsample, to the

mother-askingfor her agreement concerning an activitythey will do

together:"Mommy, will you playwith me?"; "Mommy,can I comb

yourhair? " In such statements,the little girl always respects the exis-

tenceof two subjects,each havingthe right to speak.Moreover, what

she suggestsis an activitywhich involvesthe participationof both

subjects.In thisrespect, the littlegirl might serve as a model forall

men and women,including the mother,who addressesher daughter

using wordslike these: "You'll have to put yourthings away if you

want to watch TV"; "Pick up some milk on yourway home from

school." The mothergives orders to the daughterwithout respecting

theright of both subjects to speak,and she proposesnothing that they

mightdo together,as two [a"deux]. Interestingly, the motherspeaks

differentlywith a boy;she is morerespectful of his identity:"Do you

wantme to come to yourroom and kiss you goodnight?"As forthe

littleboy, he alreadyspeaks like a littleleader: "I wantto playwith the

"

ball"; "I wanta toycar. In a way,the mother gives the little boy the you

whichthe little girl has givenher.

Whydoes the littlegirl like dialogueso much?Doubtless because

as a woman,born of woman, with the qualities and characteristicsof a

woman,including the ability to givebirth, the little girl finds herself,

as soon as she is born,in theposition of having relationships with two

subjects.This would also explainher tastefor dolls onto which she

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projectsa nostalgiafor dialogue which was notalways satisfied by the

mother.

Yet the littlegirl will lose this,her first, feminine partner in dia-

logue,in thelearning of a culturein whichthe subjectis alwaysstill

masculine-he, He, they[ii, Ii, ils7]-whetherit is a linguisticcate-

gory[genre linguistique] in the strictsense or various metaphors

which supposedlyrepresent human identityand its becoming[son

devenir].

Forall that,neither the young girl nor the adolescent girl renounces

herrelationship with the other:they almost always prefer a relation-

ship with the otherover a relationshipwith the object.Thus, when

asked to givea sentenceusing the preposition"with" or the adverb

"together,"female adolescents and students,and manyadult women,

will respondwith statements such as: "I'll go out withhim tonight";

or"We'll always live together." Male subjectsinstead respond: "I came

withmy motorcycle"; "I wrotethis sentence with my pencil"; or "Me

and myguitar are goodtogether."

This differencebetween the statements of female and male subjects

is expressedin one way or anotherthroughout the majorityof re-

sponsesto a seriesof questionswhich seek to definethe sexualized

characteristicsof language. (The research was conductedin a varietyof

languagesand cultures,mostly Romance and Anglo-Saxon.)

Besides the alternationbetween a masculine choice of subject-

object relationsand a femininechoice of subject-subjectrelations,

thereare otherimportant characteristics of difference: women prefer

the presentand futuretenses, contiguity, a concreteenvironment,

relationsbased on difference; they prefer being with, being two [l'etre

  • (a) deux8];men, on the otherhand, prefer the past tense,metaphor,

abstracttransposition, relationships between likes [semblables],but

onlythrough a relationshipwith the object, relationships between the

one and themany.

Men and womenthus occupydifferent subjective configurations

and differentworlds. And it's not just a question of sociohistorical

determinationor a certainalienation of the feminine which could be

done awaywith by makingit equal to themasculine. True, women's

  • 7. In theFrench language, the plural pronomial form is alwaysmasculine-even if

thepronoun designates as fewas one maleor one masculine substantive within a group,

howeverlarge, of females or feminine substantives-unless the pronoun designates an

exclusivelyfeminine category. (Translator's Notel

  • 8. The originalphrase suggests the notion of "being together with another person"

and thatthe nature of "being" itself (existence) involves duality. ITranslator's Notel

LUCE IRIGARAY

17

languagedoes pointto variouskinds of alienation and passivity, but it

also demonstratesan inherentrichness which leaves nothingto be

desiredfrom men's language, in particular,a taste for intersubjectivity,

whichit would be a shameto abandonin favorof men's more inaccessi-

ble subject-objectrelations.

How thencan thefeminine subject-starting with me-be brought

to cultivatea sharedexperience with the otherwithout alienation?

The gesturethat must be made is the same gestureI made in Spec-

ulum: we mustbe carefulto treatthe otheras other.To

be sure,I as

woman,we as women,have a nostalgiafor dialogue and forrelation-

ships,but have we come to the pointthat we recognizethe otheras

otherand that we addresshim or her accordingly? Not really,not yet. In

fact,while the wordsof adolescentgirls and womenshow a definite

leaningtoward relationships with others, at the same timethere is a

desirefor an I-yourelationship that doesn't always recognize just who

theyou is and whathis orher own desiresmight be.

The femininesubject thus favors a relationshipwith the other gen-

der['autre genre],which is somethingthat the masculine subject does

not do. This preferencefor a masculinesubject as partner-in-dialogue

demonstrateson theone handcultural alienation, but it also pointsto

variousother aspects of the feminine subject. Woman knows the other

gender[1autre genre] better than man does: shebegets him within her;

she mothershim frombirth; she feedshim fromher own body;she

experienceshim inside of her in theact oflove. Her relationship to the

transcendenceof the other is, consequently,different from that experi-

encedby man; she alwaysremains exterior to him,is alwaysinscribed

withthe mystery and ambivalenceof the origin, whether maternal or

paternal.Woman's relationship to manis linkedmore closely to shared

flesh,to a sensual experience,to an immanentlived experience[un

vecu immanent],including reproduction. No doubtshe experiences

thealterity of the other through his strangebehavior, his resistanceto

herdreams, to herwishes. But she mustconstruct this transcendence

withinhorizontality itself, in a sharingof lives which respectsthe

otheras otherabsolutely, extending beyond all intuitions,sensations,

experiences,or knowledgewhich she mayhave ofhim. Her tastefor

dialoguecould end up makingthe other as otherinto a reductiveges-

tureif she does not construct the transcendence of the other as such,as

irreducibilitywith respect to her:through fusion, contiguity, empathy,

mime.

18

Yale FrenchStudies

scendenceof the otherin J'aimea toi and Esseredue (theItalian lan-

guageedition9). I pointed out that the operation of the negative, which

typically,in orderto move on to a higherlevel in the processof the

becomingof the self [devenir soi-meme] must engage self and selfin a

dialecticaloperation, should instead engage two subjects, in ordernot

to reducethe two to the one, the otherto the same. Of course the

negativeis

appliedyet again to me,in mysubjective becoming, but in

thiscase it servesto markthe irreducibility of the other to me andnot

my subsumingof thatexteriority into myself.Through this gesture,

the subjectgives up beingone and singular.It respectsthe other,the

two,in an intersubjectiverelation.

This gesturemust first of all be appliedto therelationship between

the genders[es genres],since genderalterity is real and enablesus to

rearticulatenature in relationto culturein a truerand moreethical

way,thus rising above the essential flaw in ourspiritual becoming that

Hegel denounceswhen he speaksof the exile and deathof Antigone in

The Phenomenologyof Spirit.

This historicmovement from the one, singular subject to theexis-

tenceof two subjects of equal worthand equal dignityseems to me to

be rightlythe task ofwomen, on botha philosophicaland a political

level.Women, as I have alreadypointed out, are, more than man, des-

tinedto a relationshipof two [la relation'a deux],and in particularto

a relationshipwith the other.As a resultof this aspect of theirsub-

jectivity,they can expandthe horizons of the one, the similar, and even

ofthe many,and in so doingaffirm that they are an othersubject [su-

jet autre],and imposea two whichis not a second.By strugglingfor

theirliberation, they imply, moreover, that they recognize the other as

other,for otherwise they will onlyclose the circlethat surrounds the

singularsubject. Recognizing that man is otherclearly constitutes an

appropriateethical task forwomen, but it is also a necessarystep

towardaffirming their autonomy. Moreover, the deploymentof the

negativewhich is requiredto completethis task allows them to move

froma naturalidentity to a culturaland civil one,without giving up

(their)nature, since they belong to a gender[genre]. From now on, the

negativewill intervenein all relationshipswith the other: in language

of course (hence "j'aime a toi"),'1 but also in perception througheyes

  • 9. Essere due (Turin: Bollati Boringhieri,1994).

  • 10. Irigaray'smodification here of je t'aime(I loveyou) transforms the "you" from a

directobject into an indirectobject. [Translator's Note]

LUCE IRIGARAY

19

and ears,and eventhrough touch. In Esseredue, I tryto definea new

wayto approachthe other,including through the caress.

To succeed in thisrevolutionary move from affirmation of selfas

otherto therecognition of man as otheris a

gesturethat also allowsus

to promotethe recognitionof all formsof otherswithout hierarchy,

privilege,or authority over them: whether it be differencesin race,age,

culture,or religion.

Replacingthe one bythe two in sexualdifference thus constitutes a

decisivephilosophical and politicalgesture, one whichgives up a sin-

gularor pluralbeing [1e'tre un ou pluriel]in orderto become a dual

being[1'etre deux]. This is thenecessary foundation for a newontology,

a new ethics,and a new politics,in whichthe otheris recognizedas

otherand not as thesame: biggeror smaller than I, orat bestmy equal.

-Translated by Noah Guynn