By Joan W. Scott
When feminists argued for political rights within the context of liberal democracy they confronted an very unlikely selection. at the one hand, they insisted that the diversities among women and men have been inappropriate for citizenship. nonetheless, via the truth that they acted on behalf of ladies, they brought the very proposal of distinction they sought to put off. This paradox--the want either to simply accept and to refuse sexual distinction in politics--was the constitutive situation of the lengthy fight through girls to achieve the ideal of citizenship. during this new ebook, amazing in either its findings and its method, award-winning historian Joan Wallach Scott reads feminist historical past by way of this paradox of sexual difference.
Focusing on 4 French feminist activists--Olympe de Gouges, who wrote the Declaration of the Rights of girl and Citizen in the course of the French Revolution; Jeanne Deroin, a utopian socialist and candidate for legislative workplace in 1848; Hubertine Auclert, the suffragist of the 3rd Republic; and Madeleine Pelletier, a psychiatrist within the early 20th century who argued that girls needs to "virilize" themselves so one can achieve equality--Scott charts the repetitions and adaptations in feminist historical past. time and again, feminists attempted to turn out they have been contributors, in accordance with the criteria of individuality in their day. repeatedly, they faced the belief that people have been males. but if sexual distinction was once taken to be a primary distinction, whilst purely males have been considered as members and hence as electorate, how might girls even be voters? The resourceful and brave solutions feminists provided to those questions are the topic of this enticing book.
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Additional info for Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man
Epistemological problems were political problems. And the effort to settle them foundered on their ultimate unresolvability; whether representation accurately reflected a prior reality or created the very possibility of imagining such a reality could finally not be known, but the stakes in knowing were nonetheless high. 4 One of de Gouges's strategies-a strategy characteristic of feminism-was to push the ambiguity of representation to its limit by toying with the relationship between sign and referent, using each interchangeably to establish reality.
It was they whose common interest as propertyholders enabled them to realize the social interest-the basis on which a unified nation could rest. ) Historians of natural rights theories usually describe active and passive rights as antithetical systems of law that cannot prevail at the same time. But this does not reckon with the ingenuity of the French revolutionaries, who, in their first effort at constitution-making in 1791, reconciled their fear of democracy and their commitment to liberty by establishing two categories of citizen-the active and the passive.
To be recognized as an author, then, meant for de Gouges recognition as an individual and a citizen. Referring to her plays, which she argued proved that gender was no bar to talent, she called them her "property;' the results of productive, creative labor. "Isn't it my asset? "68 To have herself published ("de me faire imprimer") meant not only to see her work in print, but literally to have herself imprinted, to be the source of her own representation, to be established as an author, and so to secure her very identity.