Feminist Arguments

  • Elizabeth Cowie
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


The issue of representation has been fundamental for the modern feminist movement. While equality, especially in relation to equal pay and equal opportunity, continued to be a fundamental objective of women activists, what marked the re-emergence of feminism as a political and social movement from the late 1960s was a new articulation of the contradictions of ‘femininity’, of motherhood and gender for women in the industrial West, together with a new analysis of the conditions — social as well as economic — producing these contradictions. The conditions which made possible this new articulation were the series of conjunctural changes in the decade 1960–1970. The ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s refers to the tumultuous personal experience of a generation for whom sex and sexual pleasure came out of the bedroom and the closet, off the back seat of cars and cinemas, and into the public sphere. Sexuality and its pleasures were asserted as an affirmation of identity and as a human right. But the ‘sexual revolution’ also refers to the gradual development of a broad acceptance in western societies of new norms of sexual activity involving non-marital sexuality both heterosexual and, with its decriminalisation, of homosexuality (in Britain, for those over 21 years of age).1


Kinship Structure Sexual Relation Feminist Theory Sexual Revolution Feminist Argument 
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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (1915), trans. Wade Baskin (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Jacques Derrick, Positions (1972), trans. Alan Bass (London: Athlone Press, 1981), p. 23.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (1967), trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p. 13, my emphasis.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    This point is made by Mark Cousins in ‘The Logic of Deconstruction’, The Oxford Literary Review, vol. 3, no. 2, 1978, p. 74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 9.
    Roland Barthes, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, in Image-Music-Text (1964), trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977).Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Lévi-Strauss had attended Jakobson’s lectures in exile in New York in 1942/3 and his introduction to the publication of these lectures in 1976 acknowledges his debt, in Roman Jakobson, Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning, trans. John Mepham (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (1958), trans. C. Jacobson and B. G. Schoepf (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p. 61.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    ‘Now, there is an intermediary between images and concepts, namely signs. For signs can always be defined in the way introduced by Saussure in the case of the particular category of linguistic signs, that is, as a link between images and concepts’: Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (1962) (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966), p. 18.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    Lévi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949), trans. James Harle Bell and John Richard von Sturmer (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), p. 482.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    In the matrilineal and matrilocal Hopi Native American society the men were the hunters and conducted the religious ceremonies, while the women undertook agriculture, and though helped by the men it was the women who owned the land as well as the produce. See Robin Fox, Kinship and Marriage (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 89.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Jacques Lacan, Écrits, A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (London: Tavistock, 1977), p. 66. Ibid, p. 67. Ibid, p. 319.Google Scholar
  12. 34.
    Molly Haskell, ‘Howard Hawks: Masculine Feminine’, Film Comment, vol. 10, no. 2, 1974, p. 39.Google Scholar
  13. 35.
    Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Visconti (London: Secker & Warburg, 1967), pp. 9–12.Google Scholar
  14. 36.
    Peter Wollen, Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, revised third edition (London: Secker & Warburg, 1972), p. 93.Google Scholar
  15. 41.
    Claire Johnston, ‘Women’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema’ (1973), in Sexual Strategems, ed. Patricia Erens (New York: Horizon Press, 1979), p. 27. My argument here, however, is that the differentiation of sexual difference never involves positive terms or full signifieds as essential meanings outside the system of signification.Google Scholar
  16. 42.
    Robin Wood, Howard Hawks (London: Seeker & Warburg, 1968, 1981), p. 182.Google Scholar
  17. 45.
    Jacques Rivette, ‘The Genius of Howard Hawks’ (1953), in Cahiers du Cinéma — the 1950’s ed. Jim Hillier (London: Routledge, 1985), p. 131.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elizabeth Cowie 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Cowie
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

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