The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Female Analysis

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Luce Irigaray takes an essentialist approach to feminism, and uses this essay to discuss ways to address feminist concerns and advance feminist ideals in a male-centered, male-driven society . This essay was challenging to understand (perhaps because, like some of the things we read from Lacan, it has been translated from the French). Its goal is to help women understand how to initiate discourse about gender appropriately and effectively, for only then can society’s construct of a “feminine” ideal be revealed as the inferior, artificial product it is. In discussing how women can begin to establish a voice for themselves, to break through the barriers of a hostile, masculine-oriented construct, she says: “There is, in an initial phase, perhaps only one “path,” the one historically assigned to the feminine: that of mimicry. One must assume the feminine role deliberately. Which means already to convert a form of subordination into an affirmation, and thus to begin to thwart it. Whereas a direct feminine challenge to this condition means demanding to speak as a (masculine)”subject,” that is, it means to postulate a relation to the intelligible that would maintain sexual difference” (Rivken & Ryan p 795). So Irigaray warns women that directly, openly issuing verbal challenges to the system draws attention to the victimized feminine in a bold but ultimately ineffective attempt to overtake a masculine-oriented arena. Instead of moving toward the dissolution of gender boundaries, that type of move reinforces the perception of difference between the genders by drawing attention to “the plight of the woman”. If the ultimate goal is for society to encompass masculine and feminine equally, for culture not to be structured around and governed by perceived differences in gender, it is necessary to gently awaken discussion about gender perception without deepening the
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