Sylvie Tissot: “D” for Delphy


Miri Davidson over at the Verso blog:

I met Christine Delphy in 2003. Curiously, back then her name was not very familiar to me. Curiously – or maybe not. After all, though I was already a feminist and a sociologist, in my studies I had never heard any discussion of gender (except in the United States). My feminist sensibilities were fed by a strong feeling of injustice, but like any French woman who grew up during the backlash of the 1980s, I was long reticent to the idea that there is a structural sexism, something more than a question of men and women’s individual good will.

The late 1990s and 2000s were formative years, and reading Christine’s texts played a decisively important role in this. I could say that this meeting was, for me, part of that mass of little miracles that make engagement possible, desirable, and even necessary; and most importantly, joyous rather than sad. One among the many motivations at the origin of this film is the hope of remaking this miracle of political emancipation for other people, when everything, a priori, incites us to inaction.

Among Christine’s writings, I would firstly cite her ‘Our friends and ourselves’, which appeared in her book The Main Enemy. After a number of years hanging around the far Left [gauche de la gauche] and then being active in a mixed feminist group, this text was a long breath of fresh air, an ointment for the open wounds that had been inflicted by other activists’ unyielding sexism and the – slightly more euphemised – sexism of the intellectual world. Reading and rereading this text, I no longer had to deal with these little humiliations alone. I could talk about them in the non-mixed feminist groups that I now came to be active in, and together with these women friends mock the virilism of the activists determined to change the world with their testosterone.

Christine Delphy taught me to be a feminist with laughter. Her humour does not only consist of bon mots. It has privileged targets: the ‘masculine grotesque’ that Simone de Beauvoir talked about (‘this way of taking oneself seriously, this vanity, considering oneself important’) but also naïve and gauchely optimistic postures.

More here.