Islamism and Gender Issues in the Muslim World

This article develops new empirical perspectives on the growing gender policy and gender role clash of civilizations now looming ahead in Western countries. The very same European governments that welcomed hundreds of thousands of migrants from countries with what the Muslim feminist Ziba Mir-Hosseini called “compulsory dress codes, gender segregation, and the revival of cruel punishments and outdated patriarchal and tribal models of social relations,” are untiringly promoting gender mainstreaming, which is now a top priority for European Union policymakers. Western feminism is at a turning point. Will it share with large sections of the green and left political currents in the West the cowardly silence about the threat of Islamist totalitarianism and terrorism, or will it develop solidarity with Muslim feminism?

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Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and Erogeneity

Renata Schlesier’s “On the Alleged Demise of Vaginal Sexuality: A Mournful Account of the Relationship between Psychoanalysis and Feminism,” from Telos 59 (Spring 1984), explores the common repressions that underscore the interconnected intellectual traditions of psychoanalysis and feminism. Schlesier delineates the limitations of both Freudian theories of sexuality and their feminist responses by emphasizing the problematic sociopolitical entanglement of female morphology and sexual possibility. Focusing specifically on debates regarding on the locus of the female orgasm, Schlesier argues that the Freudian “myth” of the vaginal orgasm and the dialectically opposed clitoral orgasm of feminist theory reflect a common ideological self-mutilation of female sexuality. Through close readings and critiques of Freud and feminist inquiry, Schlesier advocates a redefinition of female erogeneity, aiming to mobilize a reorganization of gender relations and their embodied conditions of pleasure and politics.

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Feminist Performance Art and Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Carlos Kong looks at Julia Rothenberg’s “Form, Utopia, and Feminist Performance Art: Toward a Rehabilitation of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory” from Telos 137 (Winter 2006).

In “Form, Utopia, and Feminist Performance Art: Toward a Rehabilitation of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory,” Julia Rothenberg attempts a recovery of Adorno’s aesthetic theory through an unconventional application of its utopian hermeneutic gestures to feminist performance art of the 1970s. Reading beyond popularized characterizations of Adorno’s pessimism, his apoliticism, his privileging of high modernism, and his negativistic theorizations of culture under late capitalism, Rothenberg suggests that overlooked, utopian elements of Adorno’s critiques of Enlightenment and commodified exchange practices both prefigure and are revived by feminist performance art. Rothenberg’s focus on Adorno’s disavowal of instrumental reason and his turn to art as counter-dialectic to the dominating potential of knowledge accrues a new politicized relevance when reread in relation to feminist performance practices. Thus, a rehabilitation of Adorno’s critical utopianism, as Rothenberg ultimately maintains, further invokes the possibility of political praxis and social transformation when expressively performed in the body of the subjected.

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The Motley Sponsorship of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Maja Sidzinska looks at Guenther Roth’s “Durkheim and the Principles of 1789: The Issue of Gender Equality,” from Telos 82 (Winter 1989).

Guenther Roth positively establishes that the principles of 1789—liberté, egalité, fraternité—have been overridden by Émile Durkheim’s essentializing gender prescriptions in the service of social stability. He shows that mutually exclusive and unequal gender roles were central to Durkheim’s theory of organic solidarity. But Roth’s examination does more than just explain theoretical contradictions present in Durkheim’s work. His inquiry invites new investigations into Durkheim’s gender politics, the most intriguing one provoked by his comparative treatment of Durkheim’s and Marianne Weber’s perspectives on marriage and divorce. These contemporaries shared a political outlook yet diverged greatly in their ultimate directives for society.

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An Unhappy Marriage

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Maja Sidzinska looks at Joan Landes’s “Feminism and the Internationals” from Telos 49 (Fall 1981).

Although 2012 is being hailed as the new Year of the Woman and women’s votes were solicited and cited as pivotal to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, Joan Landes’s 1981 article “Feminism and the Internationals” provides a timely reminder about the strategic ways that women’s and feminist movements have been deployed in service of political agendas in body politics past. Landes illustrates the historical subordination of women’s and feminist concerns in socialist paradigms and states, shows that the personal was treated as apolitical, and alludes to male epistemic authority as begetting these developments. From the vantage point of Marxist socialism, the problem with feminism is that it undermines the unified class struggle by introducing a competing concern—gender—that threatens the cohesion of the socialist movement.

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