Wednesday, March 05, 2008


My friend, in his usual magnanimity, has fed me with dogfood this week. It's been several months since I'd actually asked for it; he obliged this week. An assortment of chow of the following variety.

(1980) Irigaray - When Our Lips Speak Together

(1985) Irigaray - Is the Subject of Science Sexed? (Bilingual)

(1989) Irigaray - The Language of Man

(1995) Irigaray - The Question of the Other

(2004) Irigaray - What Other Are We Talking About?

It spans 24 years in the career of an illustrious (as far as academic presence and visibility are concerned) feminist or female-oriented writer (writress? writer-uss? wry-truss?). I don't really know a mad thing about feminism, but I am still calling her a feminist because she's so very obsessive about categorically pitting herself against Freud (the representative of male macho) and Simone de Beauvoir (who is accorded a place next to him due to similar reasons[i]).

She draws the line conclusively (well, in this small collection) in 'The Question of the Other.' But before we discuss it at some length, let us first look at the blue-eyed lover in 'When Our Lips Speak Together ©1980'.

You may note that two among the five essays are punctuated by '?'. Naturally, a '?' is the best condition we can hope for while reading such asinine topics. (But she does make some wonderful admissions, such as the ignorance of western man to the concept of the other, etc, albeit with the ulterior motive of denouncing Freud and de Beauvoir.)

The essay is trash and not worth a critique. It is not worth reading. It has a historical interest to some; Luce herself may shrink in terror/recoil in horror if you show it/this/what/when to her now. But a written word is like an arrow. It has consequences or it breaks against an obstacle. But this arrow is like mud. It doesn't break, it sullies the place it falls.

I write this because it's the most hilarious and tragically comic essay I've read in years. I usually don't read sh*t like this, but it just happened. No, I never completed it. How did this comprehensive idiot ever sit for a French philosophy exam and pass it - with writing skills like this - is beyond me. With the assurance of a calm pig (OiNK!) I can assure you that in 1980, Luce Irigaray was a branded fool. (And now, she must be a monumental block of you-know-what. No, it happens.: failed poets become journalists, idiots with the attention span of a gnat become philosophers and standard bearers

When Our Lips Speak Together

Luce Irigaray, 1980

'If we continue to speak the same language [...] we will reproduce the same story.'

In this paragraph composed to catch us midair, to catch our attention, Luce generalizes 30 generations of womanhood in a crisp idea which is put forth unequivocally: women have been invented by men, and they live a (social) life that has been given them. She goes on: to close the parallel, plug the holes, and discover new parables.

The essence of it as I see it is: a Frenchwoman must speak a different language, a different French. She cannot use normal French (or normal English, for that matter), oh no, because that language has been the gift of men (ugh! the thought itself!). A language which is 'not yours, not mine'. (Whose, then? Nobody's. How true! Language is language and nothing else.)

As if in a daze, Luce goes on ranting, sleepwalking: 'get out of their attentive to yourself, to ME.' (Emphasis added.)

Luce's great invention is the many meanings of the utterance, 'I love you.' (I love you as uttered by a straight couple who may or may not have ulterior motives of the straight kind.) Some singular observations.

1. 'I love you' is said to an enigma: an 'other'.

Then she dwells at length at what all speakers of this utterance have known all the time: the 'I love you' disappears, and even before the 'you' has been intoned, the meaning is lost. She devotes 140 words to this singluar earth-shattering discovery.

2. 'When you say I love you ... you also say I love myself.'

Aha! The plot thickens. In the space of three sentences, Luce transcends the materialistic veil, the ghost of Derrida, straight into transcendental mysticism, straight into the realm of (watered down) Vedanta:

You don't "give" me anything when you touch yourself, when you touch me: you touch yourself through me.

3. [Invocation of physical unity through transcendental props.]

'I love you: body shared, undivided. ... no need for blood spilt between us.'

Now why should a very smart (let me assume) girl say that? She raises the siege, immediately after the blockade. She's offering peace when there was no war in the first place. This practice has become commonplace - as a technique - with female writers of the sort Irigaray represents (oh no, there is such a sort: though Luce might insist she's very much different from other woman writers, etc). It is the commonly known tactic of hit and run. Or run and play dead, Or whatever. In general it is a transition in the state of motion or suspended animation. It is a disappearing act. It is a Houdini shrink-wrapped in a bikini.

4. [The invention of colour : or, 16 million colours from just (255,255,255) and (255,0,0)]

Luce then discovers that from white and red come all the other shades such as brown, pink, blond(?!), green, and so on. Well, frankly, I think not.

5. [The self-effulgence of a couple in love.]

Luce finds it hilarious that the others find them (Luce and her lover, who for all practical things is another woman, or Luce herself) as 'two.' How sad, and how funny! Dear little Luce and Luce, two! Dear little Luce and iffy little Ines, two! TWO! Can you imagine...! Those two, two! Oh, they are in love!

6. [Second thoughts.]

But how can it be different? How can I say it differently? No, really, how can it be any different?

(Serious question: Does Luce often talk to herself, or does she talk to someone else? Is Luce writing all this to the undivided other? How wonderful? And this other undivided Luce must be reading this thousands of times in thousands of places at thousands of awkward situations... isn't that really funny? Or serious? Or what?)

(Another question: What is the basic requirement of speaking? Okay, we need a language, we need the mouth, the ears, etc. But if we speak to us, if I speak to me, then do I need language, mouth or ear? How sensible is it to talk about speaking to an undivided me? Does an undivided me have any need to talk? Does an undivided me have thoughts? Are they necessary?)

…From the fire to the frying pan.

The answer: Luce :: emetic for a stale chicken curry.

7. [Trying to birth the Titan, delivering a tadpole, and then wheezing at the effort.]

I love you: our two lips cannot part to let one word pass. One single word that would say "you" or "me." Or, "equals":

Luce immediately recognises the trap she's laying for her: she's calling language itself into question. All the common words she has to use have been gifted, all these divide people. Luce discovers, much like the dunce in the parable (What parable? Don't pull my leg!), that words divide things, divide people. (In much the same manner, ideas divide the world. Luce's solution would be to do away with ideas, of course.)

8. [Universal sister/mother/other hood with those who are neither mother nor sister nor daughter nor son.]

To cement her play upon the word 'crack' (faille, fault), Luce obsessively taunts the male reader (so she thinks) with repeated references to the female orifices. ("Which are both open and closed at the same time" - how madly interesting!)

Luce can't even force herself to call her mother mother. She entangles herself in the web which she must choose anyway: she choose language, something which she hardly knows how to use (of course the blame is on Diderot and Voltaire: them, men). She trips on the strings repeatedly. She falls flat on her face, she makes less sense all the time. She finally realises that at least an instant of separation is required to intone that enigmatic three words (or is it one word).


I finished at this point. I glance at the ending:

You? I? That's still saying too much. It cuts too sharply between us: "all."

And then I realise the game: the feminist's manifesto which failed[ii].

LoL, Luce.

[i] whose wholesale acceptance by P.I.G.s such as myself might be the reason why she's seen as playing to a predominantly male gallery

[ii] I've been reading a piece of her-story. Poor, sightless Luce.

::To Raphæl::

Hoped for better, turned out far worse. Among the four, this one's the pits. And this is not a laugh, I don't feel like laughing at all.

No comments: