As well as a Helene Cixous who I mentioned very briefly the other day I want to make a note of Luce Irigaray who worked with Lacan until she made a departure from his teaching and was consequently pushed aside. I think it might be useful for me to add some of her writing to my reading list (which is ridiculously long. I’m not sure how everyone else on UVC copes but I feel like we are having such a whirlwind introduction to so many big thinkers that I barely get to discover anything about anyone or anything before it is time to move on. I think I will need to make a decision about what/who to focus on properly at some point, so I can absorb more comprehensive, less superficial knowledge in an area.)
The very tiny little bit I have so far heard about Irigaray is that she is concerned in particular with language and how it excludes women. I am extremely interested in this. On the site about Irigaray above, it says that she believes women cannot be subjects in their own right, as there is no space for them to be so in our patriarchal structures.
When I became a mother I was fascinated by how women and very young children were excluded from economic activity, unless they chose to distance themselves in some way from their biology and behave as men do. Instead many mothers seem to have limited choices about how they spend their time while caring for infants, and so, for instance might spend their mornings in church halls watching their babies from the side of the room doing very little themselves other than drinking tea and chatting about nappies and sleep. (That’s fine for a day or so but for extended periods of time it becomes stultifying). Steiner (Waldorf Education) at least sets up a more positive dynamic where parents attending baby and toddler groups are set a creative task to complete in an adult group, while the children are left to play. That ties in with comments made by Jean Liedloff in the Continuum Concept, where she explains that the mothers she lived with in a South American tribe did not spend their time focusing on their children but got on with the business of being an adult. During the in-arms phase the child is attached in a sling as the mother, who, supported by her community, contributes to group economic activity. A toddler is likely to stay near the mother watching her being fully involved in life. Liedloff tells us that as children grow up they see that being an adult is interesting and fulfilling, whereas in our society, toddlers don’t see that. They are either excluded from the mother as she works away from her children, or they watch her sitting at the side of the church hall with little to do but watch her back. This lack of economic inclusion is one of the contributing factors to post-menopausal depression, suggests Liedloff.
Irigaray is approaching this from a very different place, and one that is far more studied and academic, but I believe she is tackling, at least in some part, similar themes. “Since Irigaray agrees with Lacan that one must enter language (culture) in order to be a subject, she believes that language itself must change if women are to have their own subjectivity that is recognized at a cultural level. She believes that language typically excludes women from an active subject position. Further, inclusion of women in the current form of subjectivity is not the solution. Irigaray’s goal is for there to be more than one subject position in language.” (Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)
It is a shame that Liedloff’s work has been misinterpreted in certain areas, and the ‘attachment parenting’ movement looks like it chooses to ignore various aspects of her thesis. Some of the observations she made, although questionable in terms of academic rigour and subjectivity, are worthy of consideration.
Image (c)SJField 2015