When feminists argued for political rights in the context of liberal democracy they faced an impossible choice. On the one hand, they insisted that the differences between men and women were irrelevant for citizenship. On the other hand, by the fact that they acted on behalf of women, they introduced the very idea of difference they sought to eliminate. This paradoxthe need both to accept and to refuse sexual difference in politicswas the constitutive condition of the long struggle by women to gain the right of citizenship. In this new book, remarkable in both its findings and its methodology, award-winning historian Joan Wallach Scott reads feminist history in terms of this paradox of sexual difference.
Focusing on four French feminist activistsOlympe de Gouges, who wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen during the French Revolution; Jeanne Deroin, a utopian socialist and candidate for legislative office in 1848; Hubertine Auclert, the suffragist of the Third Republic; and Madeleine Pelletier, a psychiatrist in the early twentieth century who argued that women must "virilize" themselves in order to gain equalityScott charts the repetitions and variations in feminist history. Again and again, feminists tried to prove they were individuals, according to the standards of individuality of their day. Again and again, they confronted the assumption that individuals were men. But when sexual difference was taken to be a fundamental difference, when only men were regarded as individuals and thus as citizens, how could women also be citizens? The imaginative and courageous answers feminists offered to these questions are the subject of this engaging book.
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About the Author
Joan Wallach Scott is Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and winner of the Herbert Baxter Adams and the Joan Kelly prizes of the American Historical Association.
Table of Contents
Rereading the History of Feminism
The Uses of Imagination: Olympe de Gouges in the French Revolution
The Duties of the Citizen: Jeanne Deroin in the Revolution of 1848
The Rights of "the Social": Hubertine Auclert and the Politics of the Third Republic
The Radical Individualism of Madeleine Pelletier
Citizens but Not Individuals: The Vote and After
What People are Saying About This
A feminist's history of feminist history, one that is likely to shape the debate not simply over the history of gender but over the larger questions of political and cultural history.
Mark Poster, University of California, Irvine
Joan Scott's tour de force is written with clarity, grace, humor, trenchant knowledge, imagination, and a sense of the politically extravagant...After Scott's brilliant book, none of us will be able to read French feminism in the same way again.
Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
It is the sense of feminism as dynamic, searching, inventive, historically specific, and often divided against itself, rather than abstract, timeless, or doctrinaire, that gives this story its spin.
Laura Englestein, Princeton University