feminism / feminine

  ---- by Victoria Grace
  Baudrillard has been an arch-critic of feminism, of movements for women's liberation and sexual liberation, and yet he would be (and has been) the first to say that there have been some genuine and problematic misunderstandings as a result. From the point of view of many feminists, both in continental Europe and the Anglo-American contexts, Baudrillard has been viewed as the ultimate defender of the very patriarchal values and politics that feminism confronts and seeks to overturn. This is even more galling when Baudrillard is categorised as a postmodern, critical thinker within the general terms of the radical 'Left'.
  Baudrillard is concerned to challenge feminism's relentless insistence on instantiating female subjectivity, or women's identity. From Baudrillard's point of view not only is this a project inevitably doomed to reincarnate the feminine in the very terms that constitute the masculine, but it also turns its back on the strength of the transformational potential of the feminine: that of seduction. While the sexual order is predicated on a division of bodies into male and female, on an axis of masculine and feminine, the femalefeminine body is effectively annexed to the phallic order and condemned to non-existence. Within the structural logic of identity/difference, the structural bar of exclusion opposes the masculine to that which it is not, the feminine. This opposition of masculine and feminine is a masculine one (S). Where feminists expose the politics of this logic and critique this binary form, Baudrillard finds no cause to object. But when feminists then oppose this logic with a demand for women's autonomy, identity as difference, specificity of desire, of pleasure, of speech and writing, then he takes up a very different stance. Baudrillard incites feminism instead to oppose this logic with seduction. According to Baudrillard, the idea that sexual liberation lies in the securing of rights, status and pleasure is a manifestation of an enduring Enlightenment humanism that assumes the liberation of a servile sex, race or class in the very terms of its own servitude.
  When Baudrillard was asked if feminism had influenced his thought in any way, he said that it had never influenced him 'a great deal' and that in fact 'it is truly one of the most advanced forms of ressentiment' (BL, 209). By demanding the right to be an autonomous subject, to wish to take up the definitional mantle of identity with its apparent existential security, is illusory. In Baudrillard's terms, there is nothing gained or achieved by the feminine attempting to somehow pass through the structural bar to set up camp on the other side, to 'cross terms' (S, 6). Either the structure will stay the same and the impossibility of this attempt will fuel renewed ressentiment, or the structure will collapse to mean there is no longer male and female, masculine and feminine. It is this latter that Baudrillard claims is evident today as we witness the rise of the transsexual position in the context of a polyvalent non-differentiation, trending to complete neutralisation of sexual difference. As he writes in The Perfect Crime (1996c [1995a]), 'what is "liberated" is precisely not their [the sexes'] singularity but their relative conflation and . . . their respective indifference' (PC, 118).
  Baudrillard invokes the figure of the feminine, not as one subjected to a position of the excluded and 'different', but rather as an agency of seduction. This is 'her' strength, and as Baudrillard sees it, the very strength that feminism does not see, repels through a certain ressentiment, or regrettably misunderstands. A feminism that celebrates a triumphant mastery within the structure of identity/difference encloses the feminine within the structure that condemns it.
  The feminine, however, is, and has always been, somewhere else. That is the secret of its strength. Just as it is said that something lasts because its existence is not adequate to its essence, it must be said that the feminine seduces because it is never where it thinks it is, or where it thinks itself. (S, 6)
  The feminine neither 'is' nor 'is not' ('is neither a marked nor an unmarked term' (S, 7)); it enacts the indeterminism of things; it operates as a kind of uncertainty principle that eludes the phallic, or any other, exchange standard. If the sexes are not opposed, if they are incomparable, then the feminine is not of the order of identity/difference but rather is that which seduces this structure.
   § seduction
   § sex / gender

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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