- There Are 2 Sexes: Essays in Feminology by Antoinette Fouque
There Are 2 Sexes: Essays in Feminology
New York: Columbia University Press, 2015, 311 pp.
French feminism is most commonly associated with "l'écriture féminine" (women's writing) and its practitioners, Hélène Cixous or Luce Irigaray, or with radical feminists advocating androgyny and drawing inspiration from Simone de Beauvoir's dictum that "one is not born, but rather becomes a woman." However, Antoinette Fouque (1936–2014) does not fit neatly into either one of those two categories. Fouque carved out a unique space in the intellectual and cultural landscape of Western thought after 1968. Her reclamation of women's creative power on physical and symbolic levels engendered a distinctive notion of "women in movement" irreducible to feminism as an ideology, seeking what she called a "beyond feminism" (227).
In France, Antoinette Fouque's contributions to intellectual history have increasingly been recognized. Jacques Chirac awarded her the Légion d'Honneur in 2006, and in 2008 the collection Penser avec Antoinette Fouque celebrated and offered scholarly commentary on her philosophical oeuvre from well known philosophers and psychoanalysts such as Alain Touraine and Jean-Joseph Goux, who composed the foreword to the volume under review (Nicoli 2008). Fouque's key philosophical contributions are in her critique of psychoanalysis, particularly Freud and Lacan; her reevaluation of "femininity" that challenges the association of the feminine with absence, or castration, and passivity; and [End Page 383] her use of symbolic, as opposed to "naturalized," motherhood as a way to expand the ethical significance of "procreation" (227).
Along with her intellectual contributions and her many activist campaigns for women's rights, Fouque also founded, in 1974, the first female-run publishing house dedicated to women's writing, Editions des Femmes. Working with Marie-Claude Grumbach and Sylvina Boissonnas, who edited the current volume, Fouque created Editions des Femmes to overcome women's subordination within the literary milieu. In her trajectory from graduate student to intellectual icon, Fouque's life and work embodied the various currents of thought within the leftist student milieu of 1968. Fouque's thought took shape at the intersection of the 1968 street protests and the poststructuralist academy as she met and collaborated with Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Marguerite Duras, Nathalie Sarraute, Maurice Blanchot, Roland Barthes, Josiane Chanel, who translated Marcuse's The One Dimensional Man into French, and Monique Wittig (Sweatman 2014, 32).
There Are 2 Sexes embodies what Fouque called the "heterogeneous and heteronymous nature of my work," as it brings together discrete texts produced at various moments and for different audiences. These include interviews, excerpts from letters, previously published articles, text versions of speeches delivered to various international and national bodies, as well as texts written to support Fouque's accreditation as a research supervisor at Université de Paris VIII. Fouque's philosophy is embedded in the narrative of her life and in her analysis of "gynocide," or the systematic violence done to women around the world. Fouque frequently mentions that her own pregnancy, and the birth of her daughter, Vincente, was a turning point in her life that "confirmed […] that there truly are two sexes" (36). Fouque's philosophy not only engages with the landscape of post-1968 French politics, but it is also inseparable from her own lived experience.
Jean-Joseph Goux's foreword to the volume makes clear Fouque's importance to "women's struggles for access to authentic freedom," and directs the reader toward core concepts Fouque has contributed to French feminist thought: the uterine libido, genitality, and the call for a science of women, or "feminology" (xiii). Fouque's concept of "genitality" refers to "a principle of living production—a stage of 'the being with,'" a concept Fouque uses to explore how women bring a different approach to politics, culture, and society (Fouque 2007, 97). Genitality is linked to "generation," or creation, but also to "generosity" in an ethical sense that includes hospitality to the "other," an acceptance based on the mother's incorporation of a "foreign body" into her body during pregnancy (52). Fouque asserts a distinctive...