Feminism Beyond Hysteria:Reading Feminine Ethics - Kristine Klement

Second wave feminism offered women another sort of cure, a new ideology by which to explain their experiences and their suffering, another way of expressing “the problem that has no name.” But so far feminists have not been able to displace the phallic signifier, reliant as we are on the social meanings of sex, gender and sexuality which it structures. Feminist thinkers have often taken either the masculine position, relying on a messianic fantasy of phallic power to come, or the hysteric’s position, blaming others for what they lack. However, what feminism needs to contend with is that the question What does a woman want? has no universal answer because the Woman does not exist. Without a signifier for woman’s desire, each woman is alone to produce her own signifier for herself. She can take the route of the hysteric by looking for an external limit, or she can take this responsibility on herself. Which is why Copjec claims that the ethical act is feminine, because to act ethically is to take responsibility for limiting one’s own jouissance in the face of the absent Other, that is, without the fantasies of love and sex offered by the social world. Acting ethically is not transgressing an oppressive law, or following some kind of morality—that is the masculine logic. It is this feminine ethics that I think may offer feminists a new way of approaching feminine difference and a new politics of women’s suffering.



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