Singularity, Solidarity, and Gender France 1945-1997

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This paper examines how French Philosopher Mona Ozouf’s theory of French Singularity answers for the state of French feminism at the end of the 20th century. It also examines the historical and moral gaps in this theory and offers social solidarity as an alternative lens through which to understand the theory. Chapter One provides a historical explanation of Ozouf’s response to American feminists’ critique of the French women’s movement. Ozouf attributes the French women’s movement’s relative quiescence after 1945 to the fact that French women benefited from a legacy of female power that existed during the Ancien Régime as well as France’s legacy of social (sexual) mixing. After the French Revolution, Ozouf points to educational privileges (thanks to Rousseau) advanced in service of Republican motherhood that French women enjoyed, making French women’s experience of womanhood superior to that of women in the rest of Europe or the United States. Chapters Two and Three survey Claire Duchen’s historical challenge to Ozouf’s singular representation of the women’s movement in postwar France. This includes longstanding campaigns for legislative removal of laws limiting women’s marital and reproductive rights that laid the groundwork for reforms in the late 1960s and 1970s. Chapter Two also examines internal conflicts between Lacanian Psychanalyse et Politique and the rest of the French second wave women’s movement. Chapter Four proposes an interpretation of French Singularity through Sally Scholz’s theoretical framework of solidarity and demonstrates how French Singularity, once detached from its problematic underpinnings and understood through the lens of social solidarity, stands as a useful historical explanation of French gender relations in the 1990s.





Wharton, Elisabeth (2022). Singularity, Solidarity, and Gender France 1945-1997. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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