Rachilde (pseudonym of Marguerite Eymery Vallette) ( 1860-1953). Any attempt to discuss feminism* in relation to the life and work of Rachilde must recognize the obstacle posed by her claim to reject feminism in the 1928 tract Pourquoi je ne suis pas féministe. Taken at face value, this short book is an explicit rejection of feminism, but closer reading reveals that it is less a reasoned political argument against feminism than an autobiographical, highly idiosyncratic collection of remarks grouped under general topics such as religion and education*. Rachilde did oppose votes for women, but it would be a mistake to assume that suffrage was synonymous with feminism for many French women of her era. Moreover, given Rachilde's cynicism regarding politics, her belief that women would be better off not participating in this realm makes the meaning of her opposition more ambiguous. Rachilde also made various statements about the intellectual inferiority of women, but given her desire, evident elsewhere, to be provocative, as well as her general misanthropy, such statements call for careful and measured interpretation.
Certainly Rachilde's life, as opposed to her writing, offers ample evidence of a belief that women are entitled to independence, economic equality, careers, sexual expression, freedom from unwanted pregnancy, and most of the other demands associated with contemporary feminism. She asserted her independence early in her life, becoming a writer while still a teenager, and later never shied from controversy. She wrote throughout her life and continued to support herself through writing after the death of her husband, Alfred Vallette, a founding editor of Mercure de France, in 1935.
She always favored the underdog and defended those attacked for nonconformity, and this attitude extended to a lifelong sympathy with homosexuals. This sympathy began at an early age, continued in her early years in Paris, when she befriended, among others, Jean Lorrain and the sexually ambiguous Alfred Jarry, and is also evident in her defense of Oscar Wilde and Alfred Douglas. In