About “One is not born a woman” by Monique Witting

Monique Wittig was born in July three, 1935 within the Haut Rhin department in Alsace. She moved to Paris in the Fifties, the place she studied at the Sorbonne. Her first novel, L’Opoponax, revealed by Minuit in 1964, immediately drew consideration to her when it was awarded the Prix Médicis by a jury that included Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, and Alain Robbe-Grillet. Praised by such influential writers, the novel was quickly translated into English, the place it also received crucial acclaim.

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Wittig grew to become very concerned within the events surrounding the revolt of scholars and staff in May of 1968.

Like many others, she realized that the novel males leading the revolt weren’t inclined to share management. Wittig was one of many first theoreticians and activists of the model new feminist movement.

It was on this environment of radical political motion that she completed what is commonly thought-about her most influential work — Les Guérillères – revealed in 1969. Revolutionary each in kind and content material, this novel has been extensively translated, debated, and used as a source of concepts by many major feminist and lesbian thinkers and writers around the world.


In May 1970, Wittig co-published what can be described because the manifesto of the French feminist motion. Ever since, Wittig’s works have included both fiction and non-fiction essays evolving an ongoing dialogue between concept and literary apply. Throughout the early ’70s, Wittig was a central figure within the radical lesbian and feminist actions in France. She was a founding member of such groups as the Petites Marguérites, the Gouines rouges, and the Féministes révolutionnaires.

In 1973 she published Le Corps lesbien (translated into English in 1975 as The Lesbian Body), and in 1976 Brouillon pour un dictionnaire des amantes (translated into English in 1979 as Lesbian Peoples: Material For A Dictionary), co-authored by her companion Sande Zeig. In 1976 Wittig and Zeig moved to the United States.

From that time on, Wittig turned her consideration more and more towards theoretical works, and a variety of her most well-known essays date from the late ’70s and early 80s. In quite lots of genres starting from the philosophical essay (“The Straight Mind”) to the parable (“Les Tchiches et les Tchouches”) she explored the intersections of lesbianism, feminism, and literary kind.

Most of these essays were revealed in two journals. She grew to become a half of the editorial collective of France’s main theoretical journal, Questions féministes, and she or he was advisory editor to an American journal, Feminist Issues, founded partially to make available in English the necessary works being printed in France, notably in Questions Féministes. Her work turned really bi-lingual, as she translated her personal work from English into French, and vice-versa.

She additionally translated Djuna Barnes’s Spillway as La Passion. Earlier translations embrace Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man and the Portugese The Three Marias’ Nouvelles lettres portugaises. She was a professor in women’s studies and French at theUniversity of Arizona in Tucson, the place she died of a coronary heart assault on January three, 2003. Monique Wittig referred to as herself a “Radical lesbian.”[5] This sensibility could be discovered all through her books, where she depicted solely ladies.

To keep away from any confusion, she stated: “There is not any such factor as ladies literature for me, that does not exist. In literature, I do not separate ladies and men. One is a author, or one isn’t. This is a psychological house the place sex isn’t figuring out. One has to have some space for freedom. Language allows this. This is about constructing an idea of the impartial which could escape sexuality”.

A theorist of fabric feminism, she stigmatised the myth of “the woman”, called heterosexuality a political regime, and outlined the basis for a social contract which lesbians refuse: “…and it will be incorrect to say that lesbians affiliate, make love, live with girls, for ‘woman’ has which means solely in heterosexual systems of thought and heterosexual economic systems. Lesbians aren’t girls.” (1978)

For Wittig, the category “woman” exists only through its relation to the category “man”, and “woman” without relation to “man” would cease to exist. Wittig also developed a critical view of Marxism which obstructed the feminist battle, but also of feminism itself which doesn’t question the heterosexual dogma. Through these critiques, Wittig advocated a powerful universalist place, saying that the rise of the individual and the liberation of need require the abolition of gender categories.

Main Idea

Simone de Beauvoir said: “One is not born, but turns into a woman”. Wittig states that there is not any “natural woman” and that the concept of being feminine is created by society. She also notes that since a lesbian society does exist, this defeats the thought of “natural woman.” However, Wittig recognizes that many people nonetheless believe the oppression of girls is “biological as properly as historical”. Wittig explains further that this might never be a lesbian approach to women’s oppression as a end result of it is primarily based on the concept the start of society is heterosexuality.

Also, biology or the capability of getting youngsters just isn’t sufficient to define Woman. Wittig also discusses the concept sex is like race in the sense that it’s visible and therefore appears to belong to some sort of natural order. This results in the lesbian perspective that this notion of Woman may be very “unnatural” because it was created and based mostly before the women’s liberation movement. Wittig states: “To refuse to be a girl, however, does not mean that one has to turn out to be a man” .

Meaning, that refusing to “be a woman” is just simply refusing to just accept imposed concepts of femininity. She also clarifies: “Thus a lesbian must be something else, a not-woman, a not-man, a product of society, not a product of nature, for there isn’t any nature is society” It is not sufficient to easily promote ladies (“woman is wonderful” concept); it is the concept of being a person or a girl “which are political categories and not pure givens” that wants to be rejected.

A materialist feminist approach sees women and men as separate classes. Therefore, the goal is “to suppress men as a category, not through a genocidal, however a political struggle” . This signifies that if there was now not a class called “men,” there would no longer be a category known as “women.” The first step could be to dispel the parable of Woman. Wittig states that “‘woman’ is there to confuse us, to hide the fact ‘women’” . She believes that the new focus could be on private id.

Wittig also presents a Marxist perspective. She states that Marxism result in two results for women: the order of men and women was assumed to be pure and the conflict between women and men was hidden behind a “natural division of labor”. Also, if girls united it might threaten the energy of the folks in a Marxist society.

Wittig concludes by calling attention again to the rejection of the myth of Woman. She believes that the categories of intercourse should be destroyed and that each one sciences that use these definitions should also be rejected. She once more comes back to the mannequin of lesbianism; she states that this is the only category that goes past girl and man at present. So, in order to reject this fable of Woman we must destroy “heterosexuality as a social system which relies on the oppression of girls by males and which produces the doctrine of the distinction between the sexes to justify this oppression”

Literary Evidence

Her dialogue is predicated on Simone de Beauvoir’s quote: “One just isn’t born a lady, but becomes a lady. No organic, psychological, or financial fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it’s civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch (a man who has been castrated), which is described as feminine”. “Not solely is that this conception still imprisoned within the classes of sex (woman and man), however it holds onto the idea that the capability to offer birth is what defines a woman”

“Before the socioeconomic actuality of black slavery, the concept of race didn’t exist, at least not in this modern that means, since it was utilized to the lineage of families” “But what we believe to be a bodily and direct notion is only a classy and mythic development, an imaginary formation, which reinterprets bodily options (in themselves as neutral but marked by the social system) via the network of relationships in which they’re perceived.

They are seen as black, due to this fact they’re black; they are seen as girls, subsequently, they are women. But earlier than being seen that method, they first needed to be made that means.” ….stated to belong to a natural order.” “To refuse to be a girl, nevertheless, doesn’t mean that one has to turn out to be a man [referring to lesbians]……. Thus a lesbian needs to be something else, a not-woman, a not-man, a product of society, not a product of nature, for there isn’t a nature in society.”

“The refusal to become (or to remain) heterosexual at all times meant to refuse to turn into a man or a lady, consciously or not. For a lesbian, this goes further…. It is the refusal of the economic, ideological and political power of a man.” “… Simone de Beauvoir underlined significantly the false consciousness which consists of choosing among the many options of the myth (that women are different from men) those which look good and using them as a definition for women….. defining women the most effective options (best in accordance with whom?) which oppression has granted us, and it doesn’t radically question the classes “man” and “woman”, that are political categories and not pure givens.”

Feminist- “Someone who fights for women as a class and for the disappearance of this class… Someone who fights for lady and her defense-for the myth, then, its reinforcement.” Early feminism – “…for them these options the place pure and biological quite than social. They adopted the Darwinist principle of evolution.

They didn’t imagine like Darwin nevertheless that girls have been much less evolved than males, however they did consider that female and male natures had diverged in the course of evolutionary development…” “Our battle aims to suppress males as a class, not via a genocidal, however a political wrestle. Once the class “men” disappears, “women” as a category will disappear as properly, for there are not any slaves with out masters”. “But to turn out to be a class we don’t have to suppress our particular person selves, and since no individual can be lowered to her/his oppression we’re also confronted with the historic necessity of constituting ourselves as the individual topics of our historical past as nicely.”

“There is no possible struggle for somebody disadvantaged of an identity…” Speaking of Marxism – “For ladies, Marxism had two results. It prevented them from being conscious that they are a category and due to this fact from constituting themselves as a class for a really very lengthy time, by leaving the relation, “women/men” exterior of the social order, by turning into a natural relation… Marxist theory does not allow ladies any greater than different lessons of oppressed folks to represent themselves as historical subjects, as a outcome of Marxism does not bear in mind the reality that a category also consists of individuals one by one.”

“The opposite can be true; without class and sophistication consciousness there are no actual subjects, solely alienated individuals….. The advent of individual subjects calls for first destroying the classes of intercourse.” “We are escapees from our own class in the same means as the American runaway slaves have been then escaping slavery and becoming free” “This can be accomplished only by the destruction of heterosexuality as a social system which relies on the oppression of girls by males and which produces the doctrine of the distinction between sexes to justify this oppression.”

Reference to previous readings

  1. Women’s Time – Julia Kristeva (giving birth as a realization of womanhood) The Laugh of the Medusa – Cixous (beauty myth)