|Luce Irigaray [LANTERN daily]|
In Plato, there are two mimeses. To simplify: there is mimesis as production, which would lie more in the realm of music, and there is the mimesis that would be already caught up in a process of imitation, specularization, adequation, and reproduction. It is the second form that is privileged throughout the history of philosophy and whose effects/symptoms, such as latency, suffering, paralysis of desire, are encountered in hysteria. The first form seems always to have been repressed, if only because it was constituted as an enclave within a “dominant” discourse. Yet it is doubtless in the direction of, and on the basis of, that first mimesis that the possibility of a woman’s writing may come about. . . .
Psychoanalysts say that masquerading corresponds to woman’s desire. That seems wrong to me. I think the masquerade has to be understood as what women do in order to recuperate some element of desire, to participate in man’s desire, but at the price of renouncing their own. In the masquerade, they submit to the dominant economy of desire in an attempt to remain “on the market” in spite of everything. But they are there as objects for sexual enjoyment, not as those who enjoy.
What do I mean by masquerade? In particular, what Freud calls “femininity.” The belief, for example, that it is necessary to become a woman, a “normal” one at that, whereas a man is a man from the outset. He has only to effect his being-a-man, whereas a woman has to become a normal woman, that is, has to enter into the masquerade of femininity. In the last analysis, the female Oedipus complex is woman’s entry into a system of values that is not hers, and in which she can “appear” and circulate only when enveloped in the needs/desires/fantasies of others, namely, men. . . .
Does the hysteric speak? Isn’t hysteria a privileged place for preserving — but “in latency,” “in sufferance” — that which does not speak? And, in particular (even according to Freud . . .), that which is not expressed in woman’s relation to her mother, to herself, to other women? Those aspects of women’s earliest desires that find themselves reduced to silence in terms of a culture that does not allow them to be expressed. A powerlessness to “say,” upon which the Oedipus complex than superimposes the requirement of silence.
Hysteria: it speaks in the mode of a paralyzed gestural faculty, of an impossible and also a forbidden speech . . . It speaks as symptoms of an “it can’t speak to or about itself” . . . And the drama of hysteria is that it is inserted schizotically between that gestural system, that desire paralyzed and enclosed within its body, and a language that it has learned in the family, in school, in society, which is in no way continuous with — nor, certainly, a metaphor for — the “movements” of its deisre. Both mutism and mimicry are then left to hysteria. Hysteria is silent and at the same time it mimes. And — how could it be otherwise — miming/reproducing a language that is not its own, masculine language, it caricatures and deforms that language: it “lies,” it “deceives,” as women have always been reputed to do.
The problem of “speaking (as) woman” is precisely that of finding a possible continuity between that gestural expression or that speech of desire — which at present can only be identified in the form of symptoms and pathology — and a language, including a verbal language. There again, one may raise the question whether psychoanalysis has not superimposed on the hysterical symptom a code, a system of interpretation(s) which fails to correspond to the desire fixed in somatizations and in silence. In other words, does psychoanalysis offer any “cure” to hysterics beyond a surfeit of suggestions intended to adapt them, if only a little better, to masculine society? . . .
I think men would have a lot to gain by being somewhat less repressive about hysteria. For in fact by repressing and censuring hysteria they have secured increased force, or, more precisely, increased power, but they have lost a great deal of their relation to their own bodies.