The high-profile sexual harassment cases attest to the fact that women continue to pursue their liberation, this time with the support of a mass movement. Those who put forward the arguments and counter-arguments bear witness to the importance of what is at stake. Let us salute this movement as strongly as we can. The belittling of women by a certain number of men has always seemed structural. But times are changing. The Name of the Father is losing ground, and a large number of women are coming out today to say no to the contempt, harassment and, more importantly, the violence which goes right up to the point of crime. They now refuse the yoke that some men, so insecure in their own being, freely impose on them. This is a good thing.
Lacan casts fresh light on the cause of women by allowing us to envisage women as defying all universal definition and, therefore, every attempt at essentialisation. There is no essence of woman. This is the meaning of his famous statement “The woman does not exist.” More than any other speaking being, woman, as such, escapes any attempt at normalisation. To say that the norm is male is to say that as soon as the norm appears, we find ourselves in the phallic register and non-feminine jouissance. It is in so far as women especially object to this that they are humiliated – even to the point of aggression. Those men who are stupefied, overcome, or even anguished by women refuse to fall under women’s spell and mistreat them instead. In this perspective, we will applaud a first aspect of this campaign for the liberation of women, but will regret a second one.
Let us rejoice, first of all, at the fact that the impunity of men who are powerless to love women, and who believe that they are forced to dominate them, is now being seriously undermined. The unfolding of events that is emerging today imposes, at least to begin with, a necessary restraint. Let us also rejoice at the fact that the fate of women now moves the Western world as a whole enough to make it difficult for it to collude with the ideologies that make the negation of women their business, because these ideologies are enemies not just of women but, through them, of the human race. The period we are going through reminds us that a significant number of countries see that the daily lives of women are affected by crimes that are accepted. Compared to these countries, that are like so many worlds coexisting alongside ours, democracy appears beautiful and great! And democracy arouses desire, as was shown at our forum in Turin, “Desire for Democracy in Europe!” Because it must be said that democracy, if it is not enough to ensure the effective equality of men’s and women’s rights, is still the most favourable political regime for women – but don’t forget, it could be better.
But the moment in which we are living also brings to light the way that some women seem to have to free themselves from the yoke of men in a phallic mode. The single statement “Balancetonporc” – the French version of #metoo – is a sign of this. It is so not subtle that it seems to have been borrowed from misogynist men and turned back against them by women that hate men, rather than invented by women who love women and defend them as such. And beyond the statement, the current advance of the cause of women that we are witnessing also seems to be an opportunity to give free rein to a certain hatred of men. Now, if it is necessary to sound the death knell of the era of men against women, is it only to announce that women are against men? When misogyny is, happily, on the decline, must misandry enter the scene? The cause of women will not perhaps advance without a measure of rage that is entirely justified, but rage is not hatred. In any case, to ape men who hate women, albeit if only to denounce the abuse, does not amount to demonstrating what we love of women as women.
If what distinguishes women – perhaps not all women, and perhaps not only women – objects to any standard or essence to the point that the very term “femininity” is doubtful, it is as futile to claim that women are inferior to men as it is to claim that they are men, or that they oppose them electively. As long as we consider them one by one, each one would shatter the entire set where we pretend to delineate the women: not identical, neither for nor against … but rather Other – which makes it all the more imperative that they should be equal to men before the law.
Let us add that to think ‘women up against men,’ which is something of a temptation in part of public opinion – and not only its feminine part – is a way of not getting bogged down in the implication that man and woman are physically very close to each other, up against each other, hugging, making love. But that’s a whole different story. If sexuality makes the symptom, the objectification of women is a guilty way of treating this symptom, this kind of treatment where to enjoy a woman comes to alleviate the powerlessness of the ones to make the others the object of an authentic love and desire. This is not good. It is even sometimes completely reprehensible. But revanchist desires, more hateful than angry, of which one gets a sense when certain denunciations – justified in most cases – are made by some women, speak of the same impotence on their side. Let’s bet that this is a first step, the one that sanctions exiting from a submission that has gone on too long. It calls for a second step. The cause of women is at once worthy, necessary and essential when it demands equal rights for men and women – which this campaign undeniably involves. On the other hand, it is obscured when it goes through a dilution of the not-all in the all, imitating not so much all men but those amongst them who have a serious gripe against women.
In short, people – female and male humans alike – let’s make one more effort to love women!
Translated by Janet Haney and John Haney
Illustration by Eleni Kalorkoti