If feminine thought has always been hidden, masculine thought in all of its forms has, on the contrary, left its mark on the world as we see it. It is inscribed in things, forms, art, thought, in different social systems, with the tireless persistence of a child sure of its mother's approval.
But then, is that not a woman's primary duty: approval?
There is not a murderer, a concentration camp torturer, a degenerate monarch, who could not find a wife, usually totally devoted to him, and no court has ever asked the question: "Why didn't you leave that man?"
When woman penetrates at last -- always through a side door -- into this mysterious masculine world from which she was for so long excluded (this center of so many marvelous adventures recounted in song and story, surrounded by the aura of a long-forbidden culture), she is struck by the fact that abstraction dominates in two ways: system and hierarchy.
It is possible that man's thought reflects the order of structures outside of himself, but judging by the malaise she experiences contemplating these structures, woman knows very well that they are totally alien to her.
It is noteworthy, for example, that the first definition of the word "system" in the dictionnaire Robert is: "An organized ensemble of intellectual elements." It is only in the second definition that one finds: "An ensemble possessing a structure or constituting an organic whole."
From "Le système viril" [The virile system] in Les voleuses de langue [The tongue snatchers] ( des femmes, 1976). This is a series of essays that comes closer to feminist literary criticism as Americans understand it than other texts produced in France. Through the analysis of texts by women and men writers, Claudine Herrmann relentlessly illustrates her thesis that women and men are fundamentally different and write differently. The title contains a play on the verb voler ("to fly and to steal") that is frequently used by the new French feminists.