By Morny Joy
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Additional resources for Divine Love: Luce Irigaray, Women, Gender, and Religion
In this second phase of her work, Irigaray becomes fascinated with a purported gynocratic community that predated patriarchy. She begins to develop these insights in ‘Body against Body: In Relation to the Mother’ (1993b: 9–21). Here Irigaray harkens back to the Freud of Totem and Taboo and his own mythic rendering of an original patricide. She faults Freud for the ‘forgetting of an even more ancient murder, that of the woman-mother’ (11). In support of the fact that our imaginary is still held in thrall by this matricidal schema, Irigaray cites Clytemnestra’s murder in the Oresteia (1993b: 11).
Earlier in this chapter, I discussed how Braidotti, together with Grosz, supported Irigaray’s use of the motif of ‘two lips’ not as essentialist but as a deconstructive device. In this context, however, the ground has shifted, and Braidotti now supports use of the word ‘essentialism’, as it is linked with sexual difference. This is a remarkable change, and in need of a detailed assessment, for I believe that it can provide insights into both the mixed reception of Irigaray and a discrepancy at the heart of her enterprise.
37 Neither woman discusses in any detail Sexes and Genealogies (1993b), the work where Irigaray speculates about a primal gynocracy and reveals her advocacy of particular ‘feminine’ traits as constitutive of women’s identity. Cavarero identifies the main task for contemporary women as a determination by each woman to realise her own situatedness, and her need for self-representation, both in her commonality with, and her difference from other women. This is an essentialist undertaking for Cavarero, in that she accepts an originary empirical sexual difference, but allows for differentiated expressions, and does not endorse stipulated behavioural or attitudinal characteristics.