nikki moore

Posts Tagged ‘Sexual Difference’

what women want.

In Friendship on November 7, 2008 at 9:48 pm

i realized today, just a minute ago, in fact, that i have been waiting for derrida to speak to me.  to speak of me.  to tell me what women want.from friendship.

i have followed him through 266 pages this week. moving through schmitt, aristotle, montaigne and finally heidegger, questioning the boys club they’ve created, pushing on the pacts, the penchants, the particularities of fraternity and friendship.  admirable, yes.  yet, my most obvious idiocy, (looking to the man Jacques Derrida to tell me about women’s friendship,) is and is not what interests me most.  what i’m interested in here, and now, is what this blight may or may not say about the sexual difference Derrida hints to and around throughout The Politics of Friendship.  Here, for example, you can see where my steps locked pace with his:

“Let us return to Schmitt, and expand our perspective.  That which a macroscopic view is able to align, from afar and form high above, is a certain desert.  Not a woman in sight.  An inhabited desert, to be sure, an absolutely full absolute desert, some might even say a desert teeming with people.  Yes, but men, men and more men, over centuries of war, and costumes, hats, uniforms, soutanes, warriors, colonels, generals, partisans, strategists, politicians, professors, political theoreticians, theologians.  In vain would you look for a figure of a woman, a feminine silhouette, and the slightest allusion to sexual difference… At any rate, this seems to be the case in the texts that deal with  the political, with the political as such (The Concept of the Political and the Theory of the Partisan).”  Derrida, Jacques.  The Politics of Friendship, p. 156

And yet at “…the slightest allusion to sexual difference…” I jumped ship.  Or perhaps he found another partner. One can’t help hearing Luce Irigaray’s thought in Derrida’s words… even and/or particularly if not her very own name.

Who does Derrida name outside of his brothers? Just following the above ‘deserted’ quote Derrida mentions one of the only women to appear in his text: a nun. And, a nun who was, in fact, addressed by Saint Francis of Assisi as “Dear Brother Jacqueline”.  Now his point is well taken.  Which he of the ‘his’?  Both.  Dear Saint Francis of Assisi.  We could say he lived so long ago that he may not have known better.  Or we could say, with Derrida, that perhaps fraternity has a silent sisterhood somewhere within.  But what we won’t say with Derrida is a history of friendship sans the history of women while pointing out the absence of women.

So, let’s just get all of that out of the way upfront.  Women write on friendship and here is the proof:

Hannah Arendt, in the Human Condition, carefully details degrees of difference between loves and friendships.

Helene Cixous has written on friendship, politics and women in each arena.

Just two names to start.  Can I quit here in good conscience?  Can I, in such an unfriendly gesture, omit the scores of other women whose names should be here?  Or would it be more in line with friendship to let this list fall silent.  It seems trivializing, incidental.  Or, more accurately, instrumental.

The question is not who is writing.  Women are writing.  Women Are writing.

But the question heres is something other, something like: Where do we want to go, where are we (women) going that is not lead by Derrida, nor Nancy, Blanchot and Bataille (his friends) and neither Aristotle, Cicero, Montaigne or Schmitt?  Isn’t this the question?

Or have I now entered the terrain of enemies?  Clearly, in the Politics of Friendship, Derrida is addressing Carl Schmitt.  Taking his work to task, to trial in fact, and seeking out the other enemy that Schmitt himself refuses: that of the dissolution of politics, of the friend/enemy distinction, of the ability of men to kill with assurance.  Or is clarity so much of the problem here?  Derrida is not, in fact addressing Carl Schmitt the man.  He addresses Schmitt only incidentally, quite as a public enemy: someone to be respected even when knifed (especially when knifed) from behind.  Does Derrida not, in fact fall right through the lines he writes against Schmitt?  And was he perhaps aware of this danger all along?

“Without an enemy, I go mad, I can no longer think, I become powerless to think myself, to pronounce ‘cogito, ergo sum’.  For that I must have an evil genius, a spiritus malignus, a deceitful spirit.  Did not Schmitt allude to this in his cell?  Without this absolute hostility, the ‘I’ loses reason, and the possibility of being posed, of posing or of opposing the object in front of it; ‘I’ loses objectivity, reference, the ultimate stability of that which resists… Philosophy is at stake here, and this is what the cry of the living fool gives up to be heard.”   Derrida, Jacques.  The Politics of Friendship, p. 176.

With philosophy at stake, Derrida is knowingly among the accused.  But weren’t the best heretics also always women?  And now to the difference I’ve danced ’round long enough.

When I lent my ear to Derrida, I was listening for something, a word: desire.  What do women want?  What do they want of friendship, what do they make of friendship, what do they when they ‘they’?  

I cannot answer these questions.  I, a woman, do not know what ‘women’ want because I have yet to know, meet or read ‘women’.  Perhaps Derrida hasn’t either.  Perhaps that is why ‘women’ stay silent, despite the insistent references to sexual difference.  Perhaps.