Adelphe T. Adambadji — Language as a Means of Working Towards Women’s Liberation

The manner of behaving towards women is henceforth subjected to critics, and some authors show their disapproval regarding the way in which  women are treated: the reduction of women to their physical aspect; the way according to which the media sexualize the body of women; the passivity always associated with feminine subjectivity etc. All that makes women trapped in images and roles a priori unfavorable and imposes on them stereotypes, notably with regard to desire, which alienate and paralyze their development.

Whereas the man is generally defined as the one who decides and acts, the woman is described as a passive and wait-and-see figure. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The second sex, this does not correspond to a biological datum but amounts to a sociocultural destiny that men impose on women in order to assert their own power. In order to reach a citizenship respectful of differences, to free women from such subjection is needed. How to carry out this task?

Luce Irigaray resorts to the analysis of the sexuate character of discourse in order to carry out such undertaking. Language is presumed to be in the neuter and independent of the subject which uses it. Through her numerous investigations of sentences produced by boys and girls, men and women,, Irigaray has demonstrated that the masculine subject and the feminine subject do not use language in the same way. Why?

First, it is fair to note that language itself is sexuate and to underline that  it does not treat equally men and women. For example in French, my language, the plural must be put in the masculine even if it refers to masculine and feminine elements; the names of the professions and occupations are still generally in the masculine etc. This does not contribute to recognizing an equal status to men and women. Furthermore, and in part because of the sexuation of language itself, men speak more than women and, besides, resort generally to the masculine to designate the subject of their discourse. And if women appear in their discourses it is almost only as an object, with quite negative connotations. Irigaray has also observed that women themselves, given their culture and education, favour subjects in the masculine. There is thus an important work on language to be carried out to interpret the socioculturel subjection of women and help them to free themselves from their traditional status.

In the light of the numerous linguistic investigations  conducted by  Irigaray and of her analyses and interpretations regarding the sexuation of language and discourse, I will conduct investigations  to pursue her work and check her results in my country. Then I will try to discover the means of favouring dialogues between men and women in mutual respect. Regarding this last point, I can also find examples of acting in the way in which Irigaray organized meetings between boys and girls,men and wmen (see, for example, ‘Towards a Sharing of Speech’ in Luce Irigaray: Key Writings, pp.77-94). I already began this work in my master and will develop it in my PhD.