- The Feminist Seduction:Cyborg Writing and Womanspeak
The death of Jean Baudrillard in 2006 brought about a resurgence of scholarship on his work. While writing this essay a wealth of specifically feminist scholarship appeared including a 2011 panel at the American Comparative Literature Association conference entitled "Rethinking Baudrillard and Feminist Theory." In her call for papers Ingrid M. Hoofd writes: "From Jane Gallop's 'French Theory and the Seduction of Feminism,'…to Douglas Kellner's 'Baudrillard's Affront to Feminism,' the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard has been widely condemned in the 80s and 90s as an anti-feminist philosopher." Hoofd suggests that it is not just Baudrillard's death but his increasing relevance that makes him important to feminism: "It has become urgent to revisit Baudrillard's relevance for feminist theory in light of the latter's decreasing grip on global politics." According to Hoofd, Baudrillard has become progressively relevant by defining many theories of global politics. Thus, Hoofd argues that feminists need to reconsider their earlier critiques of Baudrillard in order to increase and maintain their own political relevance.
But in most of the recent feminist scholarship on Baudrillard, save for sociologist Victoria Grace's Baudrillard's Challenge: A Feminist Reading (2000), feminists have focused on Baudrillard's later theories of simulation, the trans-sexual, and cybernetics in order to maintain global relevance, forestalling any reconsideration of his earlier text Seduction (1979).1 In the most recent full length feminist work on Baudrillard, Cyborgs and Barbie Dolls: Feminism, Popular Culture, and the Posthuman Body (2007), Kim Toffoletti only tangentially addresses Seduction: "My purpose here isn't to defend Baudrillard on the topic of seduction…rather I look elsewhere in his body of work using his theory of simulation to make sense of posthuman images in a climate characterized by the abundance of signs and the implosion of meaning" (2007, 49). [End Page 295] Toffoletti's assumption here is that a theory of seduction is not as important as simulation for understanding today's "climate." A critical engagement with Seduction is, I argue, key to understanding just how we, as feminists, are now in the position of not only trying to "make sense" of the "implosion of meaning" but also defending our "grip on global politics." I agree that a feminist revaluation of Baudrillard's work is "urgent," but I also argue that as long as feminists refuse to engage with Seduction, they will continue to miss an unacknowledged historical strand of feminist theory that speaks to our continued grip on global politics.
Contrary to popular feminist belief, Baudrillard's work on seduction is not rooted in a fundamental disregard for or antagonistic stance toward women. But the fact that this remains a prevailing point of view proves that feminists ban together more than most people give them credit for. Jane Gallop blacklisted Seduction in the 1980s and, since then, most feminist scholars skip over this seminal work, usually with a nod to Gallop,2 before moving on to engage later works, such as Simulations or Transparency of Evil.3 In "French Theory and the Seduction of Feminism" Jane Gallop states that the "primary" reason for her dismissal of Baudrillard is what she sees as a "rather rabid attack on feminism" (1987, 113). He is the French theorist who outright establishes "an adversarial relation to feminism" (1987, 113). Gallop is admittedly not upset with what Baudrillard says about the feminine but rather by his assertion that women should allow him to counsel them: "Baudrillard cannot seduce feminism with his truth, because he protects his truth from being seduced by feminism" (1987, 114). Gallop's issue with Baudrillard, then, is that he refuses to see feminism as itself seductive.
Thus, Gallop has laid down a challenge that many feminists have been loath to take up, preferring to reduce Gallop's critique to the idea that Baudrillard is sexist. In one such example, Rebecca Schneider argues that the timing of Baudrillard's theory of seduction is significant because it occurred just as women and people of color were beginning to gain access to the spheres of production: "Baudrillard might be read as representative of an anxiety born of...