"Am I That Name?". Feminism and the Category of 'Women' in by Denise Riley

By Denise Riley

'A vintage of feminist highbrow background. Am I That identify? is a kind of Anglo-American finish of innocence for a person who attempts to talk of 'women.' Riley makes the notice run, given that she can't make it stand nonetheless. She bargains a historical past of the way feminism has confronted its paradoxical core.' - Voice Literary complement crucial examining for philosophers, historians, and feminist theorists.' - heritage evaluate of Books

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In the very decades when new fonns of positivism developed. There was nothing innovatory about the conception of women as improvers. Some Enlightenment theorists had advanced their own versions of it; Millar'sDrigin of the-Distine~iopt l'f-RiZnks-in 1771 had included 'women' as indices of civilisation, as a kind of social leaven. 8 Other fonns of installing them in society were more problematic. :ed th~m d~ econvmic. 9·The economic assignation of 'women' continued to be uncertain, but their status as elevating agents was simpler and less troubling.

If, therefore, it is wished that the principal object of the French republic should be emulation in mental improvement and philosophy, it would surely be a rational plan to promote the cultivation of the female mind, in order that men may find companions with whom they may converse on subjects the most interesting to themselves. Nevertheless, since the revolution, men have thought it politically and morally desirable to reduce the female mind to the most absurd mediocrity: the conversation they have addressed to women, has been in a language as devoid of delicacy as of sense; and consequently the latter have had no inducement to excite the powers of their understanding.

A woman who resembled a man, like the old woman who haunts the scene of the main crime in Richardson's Clarissa, had a uniquely nightmarish and unspeakable caste. She exemplified a hybrid nature, which was not simply 'masculine' and therefore susceptible at least to analysis, but was indescribable. Diderot too discusses the mongrel'homme-femme'. His Sur les Femmes of 1772 dwells on the play of the female reproductive cycle, and on an invalidism which marks out the entire being of the woman, such that her whole condition is also pathological; 'it seems that Diderot regards femininity as a kind of permanent hypnosis', observes Rita Goldberg.

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