Thursday, December 23, 2010

Women And Motherhood: A French Feminist Perspective

I could probably spend days reading through the links on the syllabus at The New Inquiry. While older - from August - this interview with Elisabeth Banditer certainly offers an interesting perspective on the choices women face, and the differing cultural pressures, as well as generational changes, effecting women's realities. While her particular view is parochially French, her constant compare/contrast with German domestic culture and the pressures German women face is reminiscent of the same pressures American women face.

Because of the large influx of German immigrants here, much of our domestic culture in the United States is a rough adaptation and translation of the "kinder, kurche, kirche" notions of Wilhemine Germany. With the heavy weight of these demands, the demands of second wave feminism in the 1970's were felt as every bit revolutionary as the Civil Rights Movement. That these ideas were baptized by a cultural Christianity didn't help, at least here in the United States.

It is also nice that Ms. Banditer notes the socially structured limits on women's choices, that these structured limits aren't as present in France as they are in Germany (and the US as well). Yet, it is precisely at this point that I think Second Wave Feminism failed. While they pointed to the correct problem, placing it solely at the feet of patriarchy as a socio-cultural-political force ignored the capitalist system's demands, not just upon women, but men as well. The one attempt to redress the critique of patriarchy and capitalism - Catherine MacKinnon's Toward A Feminist Theory of the State - places feminism and Marxism in dialogue. MacKinnon, however, has far too many other issues, far too much baggage, to give her the kind of credibility needed to work through the synthesis such a dialogue might construct.

In any event, I recommend several reads-through as it offers up a whole salad for thought.

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