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New Left Review I/226, November-December 1997


Joan W. Scott

‘La Querelle des Femmes’in the Late Twentieth Century

Although this essay is about feminist challenges to certain ideas of universal citizenship, it was provoked by anger: the intense anger being expressed by some Parisian intellectuals and journalists from across the political spectrum about American politics in general and American feminism in particular. [1] This paper was originally given as a talk at the annual meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies, University of Kentucky, Lexington, ky, 22 March 1997. I am grateful to Jeremy Popkin for the invitation to speak. I am also grateful to my friends in France, both paritaires and anti-paritaires, who supplied me with opinions, articles, and information. And also my own anger at the outrageous, patently ahistorical caricatures of national character—French and American—that are being produced in the course of the latest version of ‘la querelle des femmes’. (The ‘querelle’ was, in the sixteenth century, a literary and philosophical debate—largely among men—about the intellectual and amorous capabilities of women. Now the ‘querelle’ is about feminism and, although men have joined the conversation, most of the participants are women.)

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