Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

By Rosemarie Putnam Tong | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Postmodern Feminism

SINCE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN postmodernism and feminism is an uneasy one, feminists who classify themselves as postmodern feminists often have difficulty explaining how they can be both postmodern and feminist. Postmodern feminists, like all postmodernists, seek to avoid in their writings any and all reinstantiations of phallogocentric thought, ideas ordered around an absolute word (logos) that is "male" in style (hence the reference to the phallus). Thus, they view with suspicion any mode of feminist thought that aims to provide the explanation for why woman is oppressed or the ten steps all women must take to achieve liberation. Some postmodern feminists are so suspicious of traditional feminist thought that they reject it altogether. For example, Hélène Cixous wanted nothing to do with terms such as feminist and lesbian. These words are, she claimed, parasitic upon phallogocentric thought because they connote "deviation from a norm instead of a free sexual option or a place of solidarity with women."1 Better for women seeking liberation to avoid such terms, which suggest a unity that blocks difference. Although postmodern feminists' refusal to develop one overarching explanation and solution for women's oppression poses major problems for feminist theory, this refusal also adds needed fuel to the feminist fire of plurality, multiplicity, and difference. Postmodern feminists invite each woman who reflects on their writings to become the kind of feminist she wants to be. There is no single formula for being a "good feminist."


Some Major Influences on Postmodern Feminist Thought

Anglo-American feminists initially referred to postmodern feminism as "French feminism" because so many of its exponents were either French

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