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New Left Review 4, July-August 2000

Christine Delphy on Lynne Segal, Why Feminism? A critical look at the relations between psychoanalytic culture and women’s freedom, gender and nature—what is the fit?



Lynne Segal seeks to ‘make sense of the mélange of contemporary feminism’, wondering whether ‘we can still look to it for a confrontational and broadly transformative politics’. But Why Feminism? does not offer a historical view of second-wave feminism, or a systematic discussion of contemporary feminist debates. Rather it brings together a number of—more or less interesting—individual topics on the author’s mind. The opening chapter promises a reflection on why the women’s movement—or least, part of it—has turned inwards. But the question is more or less dropped thereafter. Instead, Segal moves to a sharp analysis of the impasses of queer theory and ‘gender as (individual) performance’. But this critique is not pursued, leaving little trace in her own theorization of gender. This is a recurrent pattern. Segal is a diligent reader and a capable critic—her next chapter, on the return to Darwin, should be mandatory reading for students in sociology, history, psychology and women’s studies. If her critique of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology is not in itself original, it sets out the convincing rebukes of serious scientists like Rose and Gould in a highly compact and readable form.

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Christine Delphy, ‘Feminism at a Standstill’, NLR 4: £3

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