One of my cousins says: “Wikipedia is the Devil. The Devil, I tell you!” Here’s a case in point.
It is sadly the case that women get mistreated in pretty much the same shitty ways all over the world. (Shitty and other American English expressions explained below.) Certainly there are some places where it is much worse for women than it is in other places, and in very regionally specific ways–female genital mutilation in some parts of Africa, honor killings in the Middle East, widow immolation in some parts of India, female infanticide in some parts of China–but, all in all, the same issues of violence, sexual abuse, and underpay plague women all over the planet.
Given a certain homogeneity of experience, you might expect feminism to be the same everywhere–the null hypothesis is that everything is the same as everything else, right? However, it has often been observed that feminism in America and feminism in France have different sets of concerns and preoccupations. Here’s a capsule description from the Wikipedia article on feminism in France:
In the English-speaking world, the term ‘French feminism’ refers to a branch of feminist theories and philosophies that emerged in the 1970s to the 1990s. French feminist theory, compared to its English-speaking, is distinguished by an approach which is more philosophical and literary. Its writings tend to be effusive and metaphorical being less concerned with political doctrine and generally focused on theories of “the body”.
I’m surprised by the statement that French feminism’s “writings tend to be…less concerned with political doctrine…” …as that is completely the opposite of the impression that I have. The renaming of an important French feminist group seems relevant as an example of this. In the forward to their collection New French feminisms: An anthology, Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron describe it like this:
Women concerned with the woman question in France use the words “feminism” and “feminist” less often do their counterparts in the United States. …[T]here is a … profound reason. The desire to break with a bourgeois past–with the inadequacies and fixed categories of humanistic thought, including feminism–has led to a vigorous attack against the labels by one of the most influential and radical of the women’s groups (known originally as “Psychanalyse et Politique”–“Psych et Po”–and more recently as “politique et psychanalyse)…”
My point being: French feminists are really, really into critiquing psychoanalysis. (American feminists aren’t crazy about it, either–the amazing American sociolinguist Robin Lakoff and her colleague James Coyne wrote a book about Freud’s Dora case–but it’s not the subject of nearly as much discussion in the US.) If the group felt so strongly that politics should have top billing over psychoanalysis that they actually changed the name of the group to reflect that, then that’s an indication that they feel that politics is really, really important.
The third chapter of the feminist classic Le deuxième sexe, by Simone de Beauvoir (she’s shown up in this blog before, as Nelson Algren’s lover, before she dumped him for Sartre), is devoted to Engels. The Wikipedia page on her book describes one of its (indirect) effects like this:
European women became more involved in politics and by the 1990s held six to seven times more legislative seats than the United States, enabling them to influence the process in support of programs for women and children.
The moral of the story: be as cautious of Wikipedia as you would with any other source. It’s great, but like anything else, it’s not foolproof–citations, or no citations.
French and English notes below.
Want to know more? Follow these links for:
- la psychanalyse: psychoanalysis. Pronunciation: [psikanaliz]
- bien avant: well before, well in advance. Le féminisme en France naît au milieu du XIXe siècle mais bien avant des personnalités s’étaient préoccupés de l’égalité entre les hommes et les femmes. (Source: Wikipédie page on French feminism.)
- le courant: branch (of a party); trend, movement. Either of them should work for this sentence: Plusieurs courants ont coexisté et des divergences existent encore même si le but est le plus souvent le même, à savoir l’égalité totale. (I’m not sure how to translate si in that sentence–even if?? Can a native speaker help?)
- shitty: (of a person or action) contemptible; worthless. (Definition from Google.)
- capsule (adjective):
- top billing: