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The Purloined Gender: American Feminism in a French Mirror

Eric Fassin
French Historical Studies
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter, 1999), pp. 113-138
Published by: Duke University Press
DOI: 10.2307/286704
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/286704
Page Count: 26
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The Purloined Gender: American Feminism in a French Mirror
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Abstract

How can we account for the recent nationalization of gender rhetoric, opposing France and the United States? Mona Ozouf's essay "Les Mots des femmes" is a reflection on the two sides of the so-called French exception--both the ideology of the harmony of the sexes, inherited from the Old Regime, and the politics of the exclusion of women, derived from the Revolution. To reconcile these two exceptions, Ozouf defines both French feminism and femininity in contrast with an American model, opposing abstract universalism and the embodiment of difference--and thus mistaking a tension within for an opposition between national cultures. Ozouf resorts to a ready-made rhetorical contrast developed since 1989 to reflect on the politics of immigration, as well as on homosexuality and gender. This revival of the rhetoric of national character reveals the tensions of transatlantic academic circulation while veiling the tensions surrounding gender issues in France today, such as sexual harassment or "parite."

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