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The Sex Which is Not One [Paperback]

Luce Irigaray , Burke Porter , Catherine Porter , Carolyn Burke
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 12.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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The Sex Which is Not One + Speculum of the Other Woman + In the Beginning, She Was
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1st Edition edition (10 May 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801493315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801493317
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 317,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irigaray 16 Jan 2013
By alface
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As far as postmodern female perspectives go, Irigaray, surpassed all expectations. If you are an avid reader of Freud or Levi-Strauss then this is a must.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the effort. 15 Nov 2005
By Lily P - Published on Amazon.com
I disagree with the previous review, although I agree that this is an excellent book. Personally, I was glad to have studied Irigaray under the tutelage of an excellent professor, otherwise I would have, and I think many readers could, misread her drastically. Irigaray is simply not a clear and easy writer.

Simply put, Irigaray's writing falls under the category of "difference feminism", rather than egalitarian feminism, like most of the liberal feminists we, particularly in North America, are used to. Instead of trying to subsume male and female experience under the same account, Irigaray plays up the differences between the embodied experiences of men and women-- she is not an essentialist, it is more that she doesn't attempt to separate gender from sex in lived experience.

Her work is provocative-- some find it sexy, some off-putting. She attempts, for example, to redefine the ways males and females experience their sexuality, by challenging the central position of the phallus as an organ of domination. Her psychoanalytic language can be difficult to get through if you aren't, as I'm not, well-versed in that particular method.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent critique of Freud 28 Mar 2007
By Andrea - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is Irigaray's best known book. Although at times her linguistic approach is difficult (namely when she discusses Lacan), I found these essays & interviews fascinating and meaningful. Essentially she presents a critique of Freud's conclusions on feminine sexuality; in his view, women exist only in relation to men; pretty much to provide pleasure and birth (hopefully male) babies. Irigaray describes how this notion came to be--not because women are intrinsically passive and masochistic, but because historical, linguistic, and social conditions construct this situation. She asks how women can be defined/seen/thought of just as women, not because of sexual capabilities. How can phallogocentric structures of language and commerce (basically our whole worldview) be revised or destroyed to allow women to exist without being objectified and commodified? It is unclear how optimisitc Irigaray is about this possibility, but her questioning has proved significant for many fields of study. In my opinion chapter 4, The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine, is the most succinct summary of her main ideas.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irigaray Tells Women: GO FOR IT! 20 Aug 2013
By Martin Asiner - Published on Amazon.com
Lucy Irigaray published This Sex Which is Not One in 1977, first in French, then in 1985 in English. This book, along with her earlier Speculum, represents the foundation of her theories regarding the valorization of woman. It is a collection of eleven essays on a wide range of topics, all of which share a common link: the recognition that women have throughout history been marginalized in politics, economics, literature, and even in medicine. It is no surprise, then, that Irigaray addresses these varying issues in essays that are marked by not only thematic differences but also by a protean richly textured prose style. The title gives the reader a clue that connects this book to the theme of Speculum, namely that over the centuries men have treated women as a gender-in-absence. Irigaray addresses first women to shake them out of a patriarchal blanket of a hegemonic denial of self to re-invigorate in them the long-buried notion that there are indeed two human genders, each of which must be equal to the other, but only one of them tries mightily to suppress the other. She obliquely addresses men as well, but only in the sense that since she knows that men will not read her books in any significant number, it is up to women to reconfigure the gender trajectory of men to bring them into alignment with women. This will be no easy task since the domination of women by men has built up over the eons a massive inertia that resists change, especially when one considers that this domination has thoroughly infested the totality of social intercourse between the genders.

Regardless of the topic of each of the eleven essays, Irigaray posits the interplay between the totemic significance of male hegemony--the phallus--and how it has been used to de-valorize women on an astonishingly wide variety of levels. Briefly, here are the eleven essays and their respective loci.

"The Looking Glass, from the Other Side:" The vision of women as fragmented is shown from the odd perspective of Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Here Alice looks at women from the vantage of one who has "crossed over" from beyond the mirror to note how women struggle mightily but vainly to assert their primal voices.

"This Sex Which is Not One:" Irigaray takes this title as the title of her book to emphasize that for far too long men have treated women either as a gender-in-absence or what is worse as smaller but inferior versions of men. She uses anatomy to make her point as men (read Freud) have treated the clitoris as naught but a reduced penis.

"Psychoanalytic Theory: Another Look:" Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan have both advanced theories related to the development of male/female sexual desire and sexual organs that privilege the male over the female. Irigaray goes into a highly technical analysis into this interplay.

"The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine:" This essay is a printed interview that Irigaray gave in 1975. Here she elaborates on themes from Speculum, focusing on her critique of Freud who refused to acknowledge women as separate but equal genders, preferring instead to see women only in relation to men. This view of course justified his privileging men over women, an act which in turn justified society doing much the same.

"Cosi Fan Tutti:" Irigaray accuses Lacan of falsely claiming that the phallus is an ahistorical master signifier of the Symbolic Order. There is nothing "ahistorical" about such a claim since both Lacan and Freud assume the existence and continuity of a primacy of the male gender relegating all women to the hinterlands of non-existence.

"The "Mechanics" of Fluids:" The encroachment of patriarchy has even encompassed science. Irigaray notes that language is used to relate men with desirable scientific traits like solidity and women with less desirable ones like fluidity and changeableness.

"Questions:" The "Questions" referred to are those questions that men might likely ask of Luce Irigaray based on her book Speculum: "What is a woman?" "What is the double syntax?" "What is the relation between speaking (as) woman and speaking of woman?" Her focus is less on providing hard answers and more on identifying their structures and intents.

"Women on the Market:" Irigaray takes a Marxist approach to the value that women have on the open market. Women are "scarce" and their value flows from this scarcity. The economy of a patriarchal society is not unlike the psychological/linguistic setup of that society, which is based on the name of the Father and the name of God. It is men who decide that this male-centered view of economics is both natural and inevitable. Women of course take orders but do not give them.

"Commodities among Themselves:" This essay flows from the previous one in that it is men who use women as commodities and currency. Since only men are the center of control it follows that this center is a homosexual center. Heterosexuality comes in only when men assign economic roles to other men who may work with women. Thus only men are the producer-subjects while only women are the productive commodities.

"'Frenchwomen,'" Stop Trying:" Irigaray addresses those men whom she calls "libertines." Such men are pornographers who use women to create images of women as sexual playthings for the gratification of other men. It is irrelevant that such women enjoy themselves. What is relevant is that they seem to do so. Thus, Irigaray urges Frenchwomen to stop trying to please men in such a debasing manner.

"When Our Lips Speak Together:" Language between the genders has contributed to gender inequality. She considers the phrase spoken by a man to a woman: "I love you." What does it mean? Does "love" go way? Does it return? What becomes of the woman? Kissing, loving, and speaking all combine into a complex ball of gender inter-subjectivity that requires both genders to recognize that two genders really mean two.

Overall, it becomes clear that in This Sex Which is Not One, Luce Irigaray seeks to make women aware of a very long established pattern of patriarchal hegemony and once having done so points to a need to reconfigure this out of balance massively kinetic inertia. She does not, however, outline a precise Plan of Action. In effect, Irigaray tells women: "I have passed you the torch. You decide where, when, and how you will run with it.
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite 13 July 2013
By Emily E. Osborne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There was very interesting to discuss in my Irreverence (Cross-disciplinary Philosophy/Art) class. She does not have the best arguments I have seen.
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary 15 Mar 2013
By Joyce Metzger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In eleven widely ranging essays, Irigaray considers female sexuality in contexts that are relevant to theories and practices of feminist ideals and mystic. This is a meticulous, knowledgeable, exacting, studious research. With cheerfulness, Irigaray, examines the writing and lectures of Freud and Lacan in their attempt to understand womanhood. Irigaray examines the difference between the experience of men and women. She does not attempt to separate gender from sex in our experience. Her work is provocative.
She questions that the phallus is an organ of domination. How can phallogocentric language and commerce (world view)be revised to accommodate basic needs of women without their becoming objectified. Feminist theory is minutely examined, placed beneath microscopic thought, and analyzed with close deliberation. Luce Irigaray writes with a preponderance of ideas and proven theories. Kudos to those who challenge the outdated, stale theories of Sigmund Freud. The world has changed immensely since his stumbling theories were expounded, accepted, and revered by psychoanalytic male minds. At that time, the male family head ruled with an iron hand. Today, women are educated and liberated chiefly through their own efforts.
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