Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1999


Susan Bainbrigge

The Impact of Simone de Beauvoir's 
'universel singularisé' on the Politics of Representation and the Representation of Politics


In 1972, in an interview with Alice Schwarzer, entitled 'La femme révoltée', published in Le Nouvel observateur, Simone de Beauvoir cited her reasons for having espoused the feminist cause in response to Schwarzer's observation that it had taken her twenty-three years to do so (1). In her reply, Beauvoir remarked that over the past 20 years, women's situation had not changed significantly (2). It is perhaps fitting, fifty years on, to assess the influence of Le Deuxième sexe, and to acknowledge that this text still plays a crucial role in feminist thinking, as we consider now whether 'la situation de la femme a vraiment changé', as some deny that feminist activity still has a relevant role to play, and others are ready to proclaim a 'postfeminist' future. I would argue that the legacy left by Simone de Beauvoir should not be brushed aside too swiftly, and that there are still many aspects of her work which are highly revealing as regards women's (and men's) situation at this end-of-century. 

The reference to the 'universel singularisé' in the title of this article is taken from a conference paper which Simone de Beauvoir gave in Japan in October 1966, in which she stated: 

[...] je ne parle pas seulement de moi: j’essaie de parler de quelque chose qui déborde infiniment ma singularité; j’essaie de parler de tout, donc de faire une œuvre littéraire, puisqu’il s’agit pour moi de créer un universel concret, un universel singularisé (3).

This may seem to be a rather paradoxical enterprise, talking both about personal experience, about what is particular to oneself, and also embracing common ground - a 'universality of experience'. Indeed, such paradoxes merit further exploration. By considering Le Deuxième sexe, and the fourth volume of Simone de Beauvoir's autobiography, Tout compte fait (published in 1972), some of the paradoxes of Simone de Beauvoir's feminist and existentialist prises de position can be highlighted. How are these different genres used as means of communication for the feminist 'moi' or the feminist 'nous' or the feminist 'elles'? In the current climate would the definition of a universal 'nous' be replaced by that of a collection of 'individus singularisés et féministes'? I would like to assess the radically feminist legacy which Simone de Beauvoir has indeed left behind, as such terms provide a useful theoretical springboard for feminist theorists, and then consider the notions of universalism and specificity in the context of a recent feminist debate: the question of political parity. This particular debate is not only raging in France, but is also in my native Scotland, in light of the creation of a Scottish Parliament in May 1999, and has proved to be the catalyst for my exploration of this overlapping philosophical and political issue (4)

Might it be possible to consider whether some of the thinking about women's identity and situation, considered within this particular debate, reconciles some seemingly anatagonistic positions regarding the equality/difference debate (5)? Can we now, as we approach the year 2000, accept the valuable legacy of role models such as Simone de Beauvoir - who had to fight to be accepted as women intellectuals and to have the right to both a private life and a public position -yet also adapt and develop our thinking in relation to changing times? How do we now reconcile the fact that the 'universal' has often in fact not taken account of all women's needs, yet still preserve the political momentum of our collective voice as women? Gisèle Halimi reminds us of the problem of 'universalism' as a concept in her study of the parity issue, La Nouvelle cause des femmes: 'Jusqu'en 1944, l'universalisme républicain a exclu les femmes de la citoyenneté [...] L'universalisme de la Révolution française, par l'abstraction généralisante, a réduitle sujet universel des droits en sujet masculin qu'il y a tromperie sur la réalisation de ces droits' - a model which Christine Delphy has called a 'faux universalisme' (6). Halimi asks us to remind ourselves what universalism is: 'Résumons-nous: le citoyen universel est homme (et non femme), blanc (et non de couleur), bourgeois (et non ouvrier ou colonisé)' (7)

If we return to Le Deuxième sexe and Tout compte fait, the blurring of boundaries of the concepts of 'universel' and 'singulier' becomes evident. Indeed, a comparison of these texts highlights well some of the difficulties for the woman intellectual, working within an existentialist framework, for example, to put the theory into practice, or to assume what is defined in existentialist terms as the position of 'transcendent subject' (8). The influence of Le Deuxième sexe on Tout compte fait is striking, and invites speculation about the portrayal of women's situation via different genres such as essay, novel or autobiography. They offer quite different modes of speaking about oneself and about others, and raise questions about the various means of expressing both individual and shared experiences, crossing the boundaries between public and private, and not necessarily in the genres which we might initially expect. 

I would argue that in fact TCF seems to have more in common with Le Deuxième sexe than with the preceding volume of autobiography, La Force des choses, which could perhaps be grouped alongside other texts written in the 1960s, where Beauvoir confronts again the subjects of ageing and death, and in which women are protrayed as being caught in, and victimised by, a patriarchal society (9). Evidently in the 1970s, the focus had changed.Had the collective feminist activity and Beauvoir's newly-declared stance as a feminist in the early 1970s found its mirror in Tout compte fait, as an appeal to a younger generation of women? Was there a desire on the part of the author to erase the representation of the ageing body in preference for the 'femme intellectuelle' whose voice lives on? In fact subsequently Simone de Beauvoir finds a more distanced means of contemplating death and ageing in her study La Vieillesse, modelled on Le Deuxième sexe. This also offered a means to explore her own situation, but crucially, not through the autobiographical medium, but rather through a more distanced essay style again, where first person identification tends to be avoided in favour of the more impersonal third person. 

The fact that Beauvoir had embarked upon Le Deuxième sexe when in the process of planning an autobiographical work also highlights the extent to which the 'woman question' had engaged her (10). She put the autobiography to one side to concentrate on the more distanced analysis of women's condition, where writing in the first person was replaced most often by 'elle' (11). I would argue that such examples of genre switching reveal the various preoccupations of the woman writer, where writing about intensely personal and sometimes painful experiences may be dealt with more easily in a genre other than autobiography, perhaps via the third person, than the process of writing about oneself in the first person. So, already it is possible to see the blurring of the boundaries of 'universel' and 'singularisé'. How is the 'universel singularisé', which is put forward by the author to combine her particular experiences with those of her society, represented? And a related question is the extent to which one can promise to speak for others, in the context of ethical practice and the universal (12)A certain oscillation between the 'je' and the 'nous' is revealed in this extract from an interview with Alice Schwarzer: '[Parce que] je me suis rendu compte qu’il faut bien, avant que n’arrive le socialisme dont nous rêvons, qu’on se batte pour la condition concrète de la femme' (13)

What becomes striking is the use of the collective 'nous', the personal 'je', the impersonal 'on' or third person 'elle'. This is particularly noticeable in the author's preference for the third person in the many references to 'la femme indépendante' in the latter chapters of Le Deuxième sexe, and indeed in the discussion of the difficulties posed for the woman writer (14). Paradoxically, Le Deuxième sexe, published over twenty years before Tout compte fait, appears to have offered Beauvoir greater freedom of expression autobiographically via the third person, than the first person narrative of a now very public persona would seem to allow her in Tout compte fait. In the latter, I would argue that Beauvoir's selection of material and more distanced, academic stance as essayist prevails. This final volume of autobiography seems to encompass the death of representations of the embodied self with the decision not to put the private self up as object for the reader to view, yet also presents the paradoxical failure of an existentialist narrative looking to the future, under the weight of various counter-narratives - those which rewrite the past, and explore nostalgia, for example. Such examples have been used to try to highlight the difficulties posed when writing about issues which cannot easily be categorised as slotting into specifically private or public spheres, or when the image imposed by society is one which serves to alienate the speaker. This highlights the 'universel singularisé' as a problematic notion for the woman writer. Here, one can acknowledge Beauvoir's valuable contribution, and recognise the need for changes in society which enable women to speak as intellectuals who are not necessarily conceptualised as gender non-specific. 

Gisèle Halimi and Sylviane Agacinski recognise the groundbreaking nature of texts such as Le Deuxième sexe, and then go on to consider, in different ways, the new circumstances in which women find themelves (15). This recent re-evaluation has not been without sticking points, as opinions diverge on how best to theorise women's situation in the political context. For example, Halimi refers to Beauvoir's famous phrase 'On ne naît pas femme' but also reminds us: 'A quoi sert de répéter que "l'on ne naît pas femme, on le devient" si l'on n'explique pas que le conditionnement socio-économique, le poids des traditions, des mentalités, de la culture (de la législation encore récemment) tendent à faire, dès la naissance, d'un être de sexe féminin une femme' (16).

Sylviane Agacinski suggests that, 'la honte du féminin a hanté le féminisme' (17). According to her, women can now be recognised as equals without necessarily negating 'le féminin', and in her study Politique des sexes, she advocates the adoption of the notion of 'mixité' as an ethical stance: 'Je crois qu'à présent il faut sortir de la logique du manque et jouer la mixité sans être dans la guerre [...] Cette mixité a une valeur éthique: elle oblige à respecter l'altérité tout en admettant l'interdépendance entre les sexes' (18)However, this stance has been criticised by some as one which excludes same-sex interdependencies. 

On the differentialists' side, Luce Irigaray claims that there is no 'neutral' category in which to universalise the human race. In a lecture entitled 'La nécessité de droits sexués', she argues that the concept of 'neutre', 'anéantit la vie de notre corps et celle du monde dans des mécanismes vides et abstraits du sentir, du contenu de la pensée, de l'art, de l'éthique' (19)Antoinette Fouque, founder in the 1970s of the group 'Psychanalyse et politique' which stood in sharp opposition to feminist groups championing women's rights, focusing instead on the symbolic nature of women's oppression and intent on creating a feminine future, also rejects the notion of universalism outright, as is evident in the title of her book, Il y a deux sexes

La seule alternative à l'exclusion semblait être l'assimilation. Ce retour d'un universalisme absolu, ce militantisme pour l'indifférence me semblait pré-analytique et archaïque par rapport aux avancées de la pensée contemporaine[...] Le féminisme individualiste me semblait être: "Toutes sur le même modèle, et chacune pour soi". Nous, nous étions dans le désir et l'utopie de "chacune suivant sa singularité et ensemble" (20)

Yet these arguments stand in sharp contrast to Elisabeth Badinter, the philosopher, who advocates the importance of 'universalism': she warns of separating 'la cité en deux genres', and is opposed to any 'idéologie de différence', and argues for the concept of a 'citoyen abstrait' (21).

In her book La Nouvelle cause des femmes, Gisèle Halimi offers this perspective, which perhaps goes some way towards going beyond the 'difference' versus 'equality' stalemate highlighted above: 'Il faut dire d'abord ce que nous sommes, femmes et hommes dans le genre humain', with the emphasis placed on the realisation of a 'humanité sexuée' and a 'universel égalitaire' (22). This argument seems to reconcile some of the paradoxical positions which have been discussed, but is still problematic for theorists who question the validity of both sex and gender as terms of reference (23). By combining theory and practice, I would like to suggest that such questions can have a radical impact on current socio-political issues. The demand for political parity is one example of the desire for women to be treated as both embodied and equal partners, and to be allowed to speak up collectively but also to be treated as individuals in their own right. Certainly, the tendency to stereotype women politicians in the public sphere is just one example of the ways in which myths and patriarchal codes (explored in Le Deuxième sexe)do remain and serve to limit women's freedom of expression. 

In fact, in France the question of political parity remains high on the agenda, and continues to provoke vociferous debate, particularly as the bill 'tendant à la création de délégations parlementaires aux droits des femmes et à l'égalité des chances entre hommes et femmes' made its way through Parliament this year, and was ratified on 12 July 1999. In fact the term 'la parité' has been interpreted in a variety of ways: some have applied it to society at large, to institutions, professions and administrations. However it is often used specifically in the context of government, with elected assemblies and political parties. One could cite, for example, cases in the Assemblée nationale, the Sénat and the European parliament, where a number of initiatives have been put forward concerning for example the feminisation of terms, the limits on the number of posts which can be held by one person ('cumul des mandats'), and of course the recent insertion of the principle of parity in the Constitution: 'La loi favorise l'égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats et fonctions'. 

So, how does the 'Mouvement pour la parité' position itself ideologically? From which discourses do its activists borrow? They use not only Simone de Beauvoir as a reference point, but go much further back. In a collection of essays published by the group, they cite Olympe de Gouges (the 18th century revolutionary who wrote a 'Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne', made public in 1791), thus emphasising their feminist, revolutionary heritage: 

La loi doit être l'expression de la volonté générale; toutes les Citoyennes et Citoyens doivent concourir personnellement, ou par leurs représentants, à sa formation; elle doit être la même pour tous: toutes les Citoyennes et tous les Citoyens, étant égaux à ses yeux, doivent être également admissibles à toutes dignités, places et emplois publics, selon leurs capacités, et sans autres distinctions que celles de leurs vertus et de leurs talents (24).

Simone de Beauvoir has also been used as a symbol in this debate, to support the parity cause. Sylvie Chaperon, a historian, links Beauvoir's name to 'parité' in an article in Le Monde diplomatique

Malgré ses limites, le vote, le 15 décembre dernier, par le parlement français du projet de loi visant à inscrire dans la Constitution le principe de l'<<égal accès>> des deux sexes aux mandats et aux fonctions électifs confirmeles avancées du combat des femmes. La question de la parité, dans les instances politiques comme dans l'activité sociale, est désormais au centre des débats. Que de chemin parcouru depuis l'époque où quelques femmes se battaient pour le droit de vote ou le droit à une maternité librement choisie [...] Comment ne pas reconnaître à Simone de Beauvoir son apport inestimable dans cette longue marche vers l'égalité (25).

One might wonder why the parity question has been so problematic: it transgresses certain ideals in France, namely the principle of democracy and the notion of the universal non gender-specific 'citoyen'. In an article which appeared in Le Nouvel Observateur in January 1999, the emphasis was placed on the fact that it is amongst feminists that much of the debate about parity is ongoing (26). These divisions, in the eyes of the media, place the 'universalists' on one side and the 'differentialists' on the other (27)

For the universalists, the problem with the notion of parity is that it gets rid of the abstract notion of the gender non-specific citizen and replaces it with male and female, placing difference at the heart of politics. As a means of social cohesion, French universalism depends on its abstraction: there can be no defining or differentiating features - no sex, no race, no religion. Thus the long-standing equality/difference polarisation in feminist theory finds a certain parallel in the political sphere. Indeed, the debate seems to have divided the feminist community to such an extent that in 1995 the journal Nouvelles questions féministes (founded by Simone de Beauvoir and Christine Delphy in 1977) devoted two issues to the parity debate, one entitled 'Pour' and the other 'Contre' (28). A certain feminist lineage has informed the current political debate, and it will be interesting to see which arguments or theories are used to underpin and justify various political strategies in the future. Inevitably the question of theory and praxis is raised, since changes to the Constitution and the effect of such thinking on French society can only be measured by the ways in which politics changes in practice. 

The intellectual back-up offered by texts such as Le Deuxième sexe and La Nouvelle cause des femmes may serve to strengthen discussions concerning women's rights, as individuals and as a community. This is where, I think, we are reminded, fifty years on, of Beauvoir's radically feminist legacy, of her willingness to articulate what others may have thought privately, as we deal with both theory and practice, and the inconsistencies or paradoxes that may present themselves. The historian Michelle Perrot, in an interview in Libération, followed a similar vein, when asked whether Beauvoir would have fought for parité:

Je crois que oui. Sans doute pas en 1949, mais elle a beaucoup évolué dans les années 70. Peut-être pas pour dire, comme on l'entend parfois, que les femmes en politique apporteront un autre regard. Mais pour une parité, comme un droit et la possibilité d'autres pratiques. Une parité non pas justifiée sur la "nature" mais justement par l'existence des femmes. Elle aurait probablement mis beaucoup de subtilité dans le débat actuel (29).

It is important here, I think, to note this emphasis on the evolution and 'subtilité' of Beauvoir's thought, which contrasts to a certain extent with more entrenched polarisations in current feminist debate.

Why is Le Deuxième sexe a valuable resource to those involved on both sides in this political debate? It would seem to offer something for both sides. Beauvoir recognises the need for changes in society which enable women to speak as intellectuals who are not conceptualised as gender non-specific. Her emphasis on the 'situated self' - not on an abstract notion of the self - is fundamental here. Gender cannot be ignored if we adopt her perspective of considering the individual within the context of lived experience. But also, she denies the existence of an 'éternel féminin', and highlights in Le Deuxième sexe the influence of social conditioning: 'On ne naît pas femme, on le devient'. In her autobiography Tout compte fait she completes the thesis: 'On ne naît pas mâle, on le devient. La virilité non plus n'est pas donnée au départ' (30)In particular, Beauvoir reminds us in Le Deuxième sexe of the problems of binary frameworks, where for example, mind is separated from body, public from private, masculine from feminine (31). Questioning more closely the various ethical positions of sharing a commonality of experience, yet recognising at the same time the right for each person to be allowed to be 'singulier', might prove to be a positive and fruitful approach. In a wider context, Stevi Jackson and Jackie Moore emphasise in their study of contemporary feminist theories the importance of recognising women as a social category: 

Feminist theory for the future must continue to acknowledge the specific localised actualities and global contexts which shape women's lives in a changing world. What we have said entails a recognition of the many, and often vast, differences among women, but acknowledges that women are still a recognisable social category in all these local contexts. While women constitute an extemely diverse collectivity, feminism cannot afford to abandon the category women, to ignore the persistent, patterned inequalities between women and men which are evident all over the world. We have only just begun to find ways of theorising diversity and working across our differences, to learn that we speak from specific locations and can never speak for all women. Yet, collectively, and individually, as differently located women, we are thinking for ourselves (32)

Studying feminist theories in the context of political practice reveals much about the presentation and resolution of current socio-political issues. Certain key figures, such as Beauvoir, or her feminist predecessors and successors, can be, and have been used to legitimate in interesting ways a particular point of view. There is not only a certain representation of politics here, but also a politics of representation. Her sophisticated analysis has been used by women on both sides of the parity debate. A glance at contemporary French politics reveals that women from both sides of the left-right political spectrum have been brought together, either under the parity banner, or in firm opposition to it, revealing new groupings and alliances which reveal much about the nature of the republican heritage in France and the almost sacred place of the universal in the national psyche. The vociferous nature of current debates on parity reveals seemingly intractable differences of opinion within the feminist community. Nevertheless, in many respects Simone de Beauvoir's analyses would seem to be able to reconcile some of these differences, or offer at the very least, varied frameworks from which to view the issues, in her perceptive and subtle explorations of identity in both the essay and autobiographical genres. 


(1). ‘La femme révoltée’, propos recueillis par Alice Schwarzer, Le Nouvel observateur, 14 février 1972, pp. 47-54, in Les Ecrits de Simone de Beauvoir, ed. by Francis and Gonthier (Paris: Gallimard, 1979), p. 482. 
(2) Ibid., p. 482. 

(3) Ibid., pp. 450-51. 

(4) For a detailed analysis of gender issues in Scottish politics, see Alice Brown and Esther Breitenbach, Gender Audit, 1998 (Edinburgh: Engender, 1999).

(5) Christine Delphy believes that this is not possible. In 'The Invention of French Feminism: An Essential Move', Yale French Studies, 87 (1995), 190-221, she argues that, 'the debate between these two currents of feminism is still alive and well, and its terms - "Difference" versus "Equality" - are still amazingly similar after a century and a half. There is a tendency to pretend that it is over and that we can go "beyond" it. But [...] articles that purport to transcend the debate always end up on one side or the other [...]' (pp. 207-8). 

(6)La Nouvelle cause des femmes (Paris: Seuil, 1997), pp. 98-99. In Halimi, p. 99. 

(7) Ibid., p. 103.

(8) In this context, Michèle Le Doeuff has made some thought-provoking remarks on the sexism in existentialist thought in her study, L'Étude et le rouet (Paris: Seuil, 1989).

(9) See for example the following extracts fromLa Force des choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1963) and La Force de l’âge (Paris: Gallimard, 1960): ‘les heures trop courtes me mènent à bride abattue vers ma tombe’ (FC, p. 685), and ‘les aiguilles d’une montre se mettent à galoper, mues non plus par un mécanisme, mais par un désordre organique caché et affreux’ (FC, pp. 682-83); ‘Pour m’en convaincre, je n’ai qu’à me planter devant la glace. A quarante ans, un jour, j’ai pensé: “Au fond du miroir la vieillesse guette; et c’est fatal, elle m’aura”. Elle m’a’ (FC, pp. 684-85); ‘Et j’avais peur de vieillir: non parce que mon visage changerait et que mes forces diminueraient, mais à cause de ce goût qui allait s’épaissir et qui pourrirait chaque instant, à cause de cette barre noire qui se rapprocherait, inexorablement’ (FA, p. 619).

(10) In La Force des choses she describes this turning point ‘C’est étrange et c’est stimulant de découvrir soudain, à quarante ans, un aspect du monde qui crève les yeux et qu’on ne voyait pas’. ‘J’entrepris de raconter systématiquement, de l’enfance à la vieillesse, comment elles se créent [...]’ (FC, p. 204).

(11) This decision not to implicate the self too directly, a strategy which feminists have often criticised, accusing Beauvoir of being 'male-identified', and of accepting patriarchal codes, can be understood in the context in which the work was written, where Simone de Beauvoir sought to be recognised first and foremost as an intellectual, and knew that women's writing was often devalued or marginalized. 

(12) Shoshana Felman explores the implications of speaking for women in detail in 'Women and Madness: the Critical Fallacy', Diacritics (Winter 1975), 2-10, in The Feminist Reader, ed. by C. Belsey and J. Moore (London: Macmillan, 1997), pp. 117-32 (p. 120).

(13)Les Ecrits de Simone de Beauvoir, op. cit., p. 485. 

(14) See for example, 'Or, quand elle aborde sa vie adulte, elle n'a pas derrière elle le même passé qu'un garçon; elle n'est pas considérée par la société avec les mêmes yeux; l'univers se présente à elle dans une perspective différente. Le fait d'être une femme pose aujourd'hui à un être humain autonome des problèmes singuliers' (DS, II, p. 600); 'Elle refuse de se cantonner dans son rôle de femelle parce qu'elle ne veut pas se mutiler; mais ce serait aussi une mutilation de répudier son sexe' (DS, II, p. 601); 'La femme indépendante - et surtout l'intellectuelle qui pense sa situation - souffrira en tant que femelle d'un complexe d'infériorité [...] L'intellectuelle essaiera avec autant plus de zèle qu'elle a peur d'échouer: mais ce zèle conscient est encore une activité et il manque son but' (DS, II, p. 604); 'Ainsi, la femme indépendante est aujourd'hui divisée entre ses intérêts professionnels et les soucis de sa vocation sexuelle; elle a peine à trouver son équilibre; si elle l'assure c'est au prix de concessions, de sacrifices, d'acrobaties qui exigent d'elle une perpétuelle tension' (DS, II, pp. 618-19); 'En se voulant lucides, les écrivains féminins rendent le plus grand service à la cause de la femme; mais - sans généralement s'en rendre compte - elles demeurent trop attachées à servir cette cause pour adopter devant l'univers cette attitude désintéressée qui ouvre les plus vastes horizons' (DS, II, p. 635). 

(15) For example, Agacinski notes: ‘Les effets libérateurs du Deuxième sexe furent assez considérables, notamment par l’accent mis sur la nécessaire indépendance économique, pour qu’on garde à l’égard son auteur une reconnaissance définitive, d’autant que son ouvrage manifeste, encore aujourd’hui, une incroyable audace par sa façon franche et crue de parler de la vie sexuelle et de ses rapports avec la vie sociale, et par sa liberté de ton. L’impudeur nécessaire de ce livre, qui fit un beau scandale à l’époque, a fait de son auteur un exemple de courage intellectuel; il a libéré des générations de femmes, et continuera de le faire dans l’avenir', Politique des sexes (Paris: Seuil, 1998), p. 60. 

(16) Gisèle Halimi, La Nouvelle cause des femmes (Paris: Seuil, 1997), p. 17. 

(17)Politique des sexes, op. cit., p. 60. See also her critique of Sartrean existentialism as framework: 'Regrettons cependant que Simone de Beauvoir, comme elle le revendique dès les premières pages du Deuxième sexe, soit restée dépendante de la conception sartrienne de la liberté et se situe "dans la perspective de la morale existentialiste" (DS, I, p. 34), car cette morale use et abuse de l'opposition entre la nature et la liberté', op. cit., p. 64. 

(18) In an interview with Jacqueline Rémy, 'La Question des femmes nous rattrape toujours', L'Express, 5 mars 1998, pp. 36-38.

(19) 'La nécessité de droits sexués' in Sexes et parentés (Paris: Minuit, 1987), pp. 13-18, p. 13). See also Parler n'est jamais neutre (Paris: Minuit, 1985).

(20) Antoinette Fouque, Il y a deux sexes (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), pp. 35-36.

(21)L'Un est l'autre (Paris: Odile Jacob, 1986).

(22) '[...] pour en déduire que le genre humain ainsi sexuellement différencié constitue bien la totalité des sujets différents et égaux, de droits universels. Il va de soi enfin que chaque femme, comme chaque homme, représente le peuple et l'intéret commun, et non les intérêts particuliers de chaque sexe, comme certains nous accusent de le vouloir. Ainsi coïnciderait, dans notre culture et notre vision du bien commun en politique, la reconnaissance d'une humanité sexuée et la réalisation d'un universel égalitaire', La Nouvelle cause des femmes, pp. 172-73. 

(23) Stevi Jackson explores problems identified with the sex-gender distinction in the writings of Christine Delphy, Judith Butler and Monique Wittig, for example, in 'Theorising Gender and Sexuality', in Contemporary Feminist Theories, ed. by S. Jackson and J. Jones (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), pp. 131-146.

(24)La Parité: Enjeux et mise en oeuvre, ed. by Jacqueline Martin (Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Mirail, 1998).

(25)Le Monde diplomatique, janvier 1999, p. 27.

(26) 'Parité: la révolution qui divise', Le Nouvel observateur, 14-20 janvier 1999, pp. 40-44.

(27) This polarisation has been explored in depth by feminist literary theorists who explain the emphasis on difference as part of a literary strategy. For example, Mary Jacobus writes: 'Difference is redefined, not as male versus female - not as biologically constituted - but as a multiplicity, joyousness and heterogeneity which is that of textuality itself. Writing, the production of meaning, becomes the site both of challenge and otherness; rather than (as in more traditional approaches) simply yielding the themes and representation of female opppression', in 'The Difference of View', The Feminist Reader, ed. by C. Belsey and J. Moore (London: Macmillan, 1997), pp. 66-76 (p. 68).

(28) See Nouvelles Questions Féministes, 15, 4 (1994) and 16, 2 (1995).

(29)Libération, 19 janvier 1999, p. 35.

(30) S. de Beauvoir, Tout compte fait (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), p. 497. 

(31) 'Le fait d'être une femme pose aujourd'hui à un être humain autonome des problèmes singuliers' (DS, II, p. 600); 'Elle refuse de se cantonner dans son rôle de femelle parce qu'elle ne veut pas se mutiler; mais ce serait aussi une mutilation de répudier son sexe' (DS, II, p. 601); 'La femme indépendante - et surtout l'intellectuelle qui pense sa situation - souffrira en tant que femelle d'un complexe d'infériorité [...] L'intellectuelle essaiera avec autant plus de zèle qu'elle a peur d'échouer: mais ce zèle conscient est encore une activité et il manque son but' (DS, II, p. 604); 'Ainsi, la femme indépendante est aujourd'hui divisée entre ses intérêts professionnels et les soucis de sa vocation sexuelle; elle a peine à trouver son équilibre; si elle l'assure c'est au prix de concessions, de sacrifices, d'acrobaties qui exigent d'elle une perpétuelle tension' (DS, II, pp. 618-19).

(32) 'Thinking for Ourselves: An Introduction to Feminist Theorising', in Contemporary Feminist Theories, ed. by S. Jackson and J. Jones (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), pp. 1-11 (p. 10).