Dennis A. Gilbert, Diana L. Burgin | Sartre Studies International
This article examines the ways in which 1970s French feminists who participated in the Women’s Liberation Movement (Mouvement de libération des femmes – MLF) wielded the spectre of lesbianism as an American idiosyncrasy to counteract the politicisation of lesbianism in France. It argues that the erasure of lesbian difference from the domain of French feminism was a necessary condition for making ‘woman’ an amenable subject for incorporation into the abstract unity of the French nation, wherein heterosexuality is conceived as a democratic crucible where men and women harmoniously come together and differences are deemed divisive. Looking at the history of feminism from the standpoint of a lesbian perspective reveals unforeseen continuities between French ‘feminist’ and ‘anti-feminist’ genealogies insofar as they rest on common heterosexual and racial foundations. Finally, the article demonstrates that the alleged un-Frenchness ascribed to the word ‘lesbian’ in the 1970s feminist movement spectrally returned in the 1990s when the word ‘gender’ was, in its turn, deemed radically foreign to the French culture by feminist researchers. Fiercely reactionary constituencies against the legalisation of same-sex marriage have more recently taken up this rhetorical weapon against sexual and racial minorities.