New French Feminisms: An Anthology

By Elaine Marks; Isabelle De Courtivron | Go to book overview

Julia Kristeva

psych & po: A different1 relationship to the text becomes manifest in our practice,2 and it is one in which you participate. Could you be more specific with regard to how your work is the "work of a woman," or rather, how does being a woman have a bearing upon this type of endeavor? How does the women's struggle, an activity in which you seem to want to involve yourself more and more, transform something in your relationship to writing, to the text, to theoretical and textual production?

Kristeva: The belief that "one is a woman" is almost as absurd and obscurantist as the belief that "one is a man." I say "almost" because there are still many goals which women can achieve: freedom of abortion and contraception, day-care centers for children, equality on the job, etc. Therefore, we must use "we are women" as an advertisement or slogan for our demands. On a deeper level, however, a woman cannot "be"; it is something which does not even belong in the order of being. It follows that a feminist practice can only be negative, at odds with what already exists so that we may say "that's not it" and "that's still not it." In "woman" I see something that cannot be represented, something that is not said, something above and beyond nomenclatures and ideologies.

From "La femme, ce n'est jamais ça" [Woman can never be defined], an interview by "psychoanalysis and politics" in Tel quel, Autumn 1974. This interview was to appear in the radical feminist journal Le torchon brûle. Like many of the feminist journals, Le torchon brûle had a relatively short existence, 1971-1973. The interview was published for the first time in the avant-garde journal, Tel quel, and later in a collection of Kristeva writings entitled Polylogue. The title, "La femme, ce n'est jamais ça", stresses the conviction of Kristeva and other feminist thinkers that women cannot be defined, indeed should not be defined, since the term is a social and not a natural construct.

____________________
1
"Different" refers back to Julia Kristeva's opening statement in which she describes the theoretical discourse developed in her book La révolution du langage poétique ( Editions du Seuil, 1974). -- Tr.
2
In French pratique suggests a relationship between theory and practice, the process of moving from one to the other. -- Tr.

-137-

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