Ideas of Difference
If the distinction self/other is at the basis of any human thought, if dualism is thus unavoidable, it is the distinction man/woman that is the most fundamental of all dichotomies. The concept of race, Colette Guillaumin has suggested, did not exist in its modern meaning, before the reality of black slavery, but now is taken as belonging to the natural order. The ‘difference’ between races was only clearly seen to exist when it fulfilled a socioeconomic need (Wittig, 1981, pp. 48–9). While some feminists consider that the concept of sexual difference is similarly an imposition by the oppressor in order to dominate others, there is no identifiable era in human society in which this concept was not in existence, no human society in which divisions of roles, divisons of presumed capabilities between the sexes do not exist. Marcelle Marini quotes Georges Ballandier’s Anthropologiques: ‘The relationship man/woman is the deepest foundation of all unequal relationships’, and points out that contesting this relationship is thus more menacing to society than contesting class and race relations (Marini, 1984, p. 248). ‘Difference’ is always defined, moreover, as ‘difference from man’, which is the ‘norm’.
KeywordsDominant Culture Class Struggle Binary Opposition Feminist Thought Patriarchal Culture
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