French Feminisms: Gender and Violence in Contemporary Theory

French Feminisms: Gender and Violence in Contemporary Theory

French Feminisms: Gender and Violence in Contemporary Theory

French Feminisms: Gender and Violence in Contemporary Theory


Gill Allwood explores theories of masculinity emerging from French feminist theories of gender and from French feminist practice concerning violence towards women, highlighting both the commonalities and the specificities of the French case.


This volume is a particularly apt illustration of the aims of this series, Gender, Change and Society. As the title suggests, this book clearly deals with issues of gender but is especially significant here in that it deals with gender as concerning both men and women, masculinity and femininity. Further, through concentrating on the topic of violence, these terms are seen in interaction rather than as topics standing in isolation from each other.

This contribution is also clearly and directly dealing with issues of change. It is, of course, the wider process of social and political change that have put issues of men’s violence against women on to the agenda and Gill Allwood’s book both reflects and contributes to these changes in perspective. However there are also more specific processes of change under consideration here, namely changes taking place within feminism partly as a result of the tensions and shifts between theory and practice and the ways in which a focus upon issues to do with men’s violence inevitably, if unevenly, led to a critical examination of issues of men and masculinity themselves. Further, the book also points to issues of individual change as men come to look critically at their own practices and women shift from seeing themselves as victims of violence to more positive understandings around notions of “survivors”.

The society in question here is French society. More specifically, in fact the book is dealing with constructions of French society, and French feminisms, both from outside and from within. One of the most valuable contributions of this text is the way in which it enables us to look past some conventional Anglophone constructions of French feminism (concentrating on three “big names”) and to explore some of the complexities of feminism as an active movement, engaging with immediate individual and societal problems, rather than simply a body of rather complex theorizing. This is not to reject the role and significance of theory but to recognize that it can look rather different when seen through the prism of this particular issue of men’s violence against women.

However, this is not simply a comparative study of a highly specific period of French history. While some of the issues considered and debated here can only be understood in their historical and political contexts, there is much here that will be recognized as relevant to the experiences of women and men in English speaking countries. in this careful exploration of debates around violence

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