The Laugh of the Medusa
Leading practitioner of écriture féminine- feminine writing. The theory of écriture was developed by Derrida in Of Grammatology and on Writing and Difference and was later known as deconstruction. It reversed the hierarchy between speech and writing and redefined these terms. Speech had stood for immediacy, presence, truth, logos; writing had stood for deferral, difference, absence, lack, lawlessness, multiplicity and heterogeneity. Derrida argued that speech had never actually manifested truth directly and that, as writing, it was structured through the difference between signifier and signified. In any act of language there was a discrepancy between a sign and what it meant. Western philosophy after Plato was centred on the search for a fundamental truth or logos, which Derrida calls: logocentrism. Logocentric structures are organised through a series of binary oppositions (mind/matter; absence/presence; light/darkness; nature/culture, etc) the first term being desirable and positive, and the second negative. Theorists of écriture had to find new ways of making readable what had been repressed, obscured or unacknowledged in western thought. Insistence on two incompatible logics: on the one hand Cixous claimed that écriture féminine was characterized by the explicitly female body parts that had been repressed by traditional discourse and were being expressed by women writers. On the other she claimed that both men and women could write écriture féminine. The binary opposition male- female is set up as a relation not between A and B but between A and not A. Freud’s concept of castration, refined by Lacan, defines woman not in terms of what she is but in terms of what she lacks, that is a penis. Cixous declares she is not she is not a feminist. Feminism participates in the same logic of opposition as traditional logocentrism or phallocentrism (description of sexual difference as a difference between having or lacking a phallus). The new option is not between male and female, but between the logic of the one vs. the logic of the multiplicity. Phallogocentrism: the psychoanalytical system, in the patriarchal cultural system, in which sexual difference is define as a difference between having and lacking the phallus. Woman must write about her self and bring women to writing. Woman must put herself into the text. Woman must write woman and man, man. Men have committed the greatest crime against women; they have led them to hate women, to be their own enemies, to mobilize their enormous strength against themselves. There is no general, typical woman. Their individual constitutions are infinite and rich. You can’t talk about a female sexuality, uniform, classifiable. Their imagery is inexhaustible; their stream of phantoms is incredible. The entire history of writing has been one with phallocentric tradition. For her the poets, but not the novelists, have sometimes escaped this tradition imagining the woman who they could desire by breaking the codes that negate her, because poetry involves the unconscious, the place where the repressed manages to survive. By writing about her self woman will return to the body which has been confiscated from her. Censor the body and you’ll censor breath and speech. Writing will give her access to her native strength; it will give her back her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her bodily territories which have been kept under seal. It will tear her away from the structure in which she has always occupied the place reserved for the guilty. It is by writing and by taking the challenge of speech which have been governed by the phallus, that women will confirm women in a place other than that which is reserved in and by the symbolic. That is in a place other than silence. Woman is never far from mother, which is a metaphor of the one who nourishes, makes everything all right, etc. Americans remind us “We are all lesbians” that is don’t denigrate women don’t make of her what men have made of you. Sexual opposition has always worked for man’s profit. A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. Bi-sexuality is a total being fantasy in which every subject is not enclosed in the false theatre of phallocentric representation. Each one’s location in self of both sexes, non exclusion either of the difference or of one sex. A feminine text cannot fail to be more than subversive. It is volcanic. As it is written it brings about an upheaval of the old poetry. She also mentions abortion and says it’s up to woman to decide if she wants a kid or not.

Bibliography:
LEITCH, VINCENT B., The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W.W.Norton and Co., 2001.
BALDICK, CHRIS. Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
CASHMORE, ELLIS. Ed. Dictionary of Race and Ethnic Relations. London: Routledge, 1996.