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Feminist Writings$

Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret A. Simons, and Marybeth Timmermann

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039003

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039003.001.0001

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Foreword to Deception Chronicles: From the Women’s Liberation Movement to a Commercial Trademark

Foreword to Deception Chronicles: From the Women’s Liberation Movement to a Commercial Trademark

Chapter:
(p.270) Foreword to Deception Chronicles: From the Women’s Liberation Movement to a Commercial Trademark
Source:
Feminist Writings
Author(s):
Marybeth Timmermann
Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252039003.003.0041

Abstract and Keywords

In 1971, when I first made contact with the MLF [Mouvement de Libération des Femmes, or French Women’s Liberation Movement] about the manifesto that 343 women signed saying that they had had abortions, I only met a few isolated representatives. Later I learned that they belonged to different groups with diverse tendencies that all coexisted without trying to get organized. The movement questioned any centralized, bureaucratic, or hierarchical militant movements, and therefore had no leader. In order to belong, it was enough to be a woman, aware of the oppression endured by women and eager to combat it. This resulted in a certain disorder, sometimes annoying, but overall enriching. Unity was realized through actions accomplished in common....

In 1971, when I first made contact with the MLF [Mouvement de Libération des Femmes, or French Women’s Liberation Movement] about the manifesto that 343 women signed saying that they had had abortions, I only met a few isolated representatives. Later I learned that they belonged to different groups with diverse tendencies that all coexisted without trying to get organized. The movement questioned any centralized, bureaucratic, or hierarchical militant movements, and therefore had no leader. In order to belong, it was enough to be a woman, aware of the oppression endured by women and eager to combat it. This resulted in a certain disorder, sometimes annoying, but overall enriching. Unity was realized through actions accomplished in common.

I had heard of one group that was more cohesive than the others, whose leader was a woman named Antoinette [Fouque]. This group was characterized by “a strange mixture of leftism revised by a feminism that didn’t declare itself, all of which was expressed in erudite language that was absolutely incomprehensible for anyone who had not read Marx or spent time (p.271) with Lacan.”*1 It was called “Psych et Po”** and, at the time, hardly ever appeared publicly. In 1972, when it saw that, after months of meetings, the public hearings at the Mutualité hall denouncing crimes against women were going well, it finally decided to get involved, but without providing us with any financial support, which would have been very useful and which “Psych et Po” could have done since the group had enormous resources due to the presence of an inherited wealth. The same thing happened with the “Women’s Fair” (Vincennes, 1973) and with the March for abortion (Paris, October 6, 1979): when it seemed clear that the undertakings were going to succeed, “Psych et Po” ended up following along, but without contributing in any way to their success.

This cenacle was very closed in upon itself and soon devoted itself almost exclusively to a publishing house called “Éditions des Femmes” [Women’s press]. Cultivating paradox, or more accurately, lies, this group was part of the MLF, yet called itself antifeminist; had considerable funds at its disposal, yet claimed to be anticapitalist; and even went so far as to say that, as a group, it was not participating in the Book Fair in Nice, even though it had a booth there.

When three women who had been published by them went public with accounts of the difficulties they had experienced when dealing with them, the leaders of the “Éditions des Femmes” turned the tables on the plaintiffs and sued them for defamation. Yet they were the ones defaming all the other feminists by constructing a ridiculous and obnoxious image of feminists and then using their fortune to mount an advertising campaign that flooded the press with this image.

Over the years, feminists from the other groups tried to fight back, but timidly. They thought that it was better to “wash their dirty linen in private” and avoid providing their adversaries—both male and female—with the spectacle of their dissensions.

This policy of silence did not pay off. On the contrary, it encouraged “Psych et Po” to unleash their ambitions. For a long time, this little sect asserted itself overseas as the only valid incarnation of the MLF. It went much further than that in October 1979 by registering itself as a nonprofit association legally known as “Mouvement de Libération des Femmes—MLF.” The initials MLF had thus become its property.

(p.272) All the other feminist groups in France signed protest manifestos. And in 1980, at the large meeting of women held in Copenhagen,2 eleven feminist publishing houses drafted a tract denouncing the appropriation of the initials MLF by the “Éditions des Femmes.” Ten of them were foreign; only Éditions Tierce is French, and the “Éditions des Femmes” limited liability company (created by “Psych et Po”) filed a commercial lawsuit against them for “unfair competition.” Tierce, whose means are very modest, and who was only trying to distribute feminist ideas without necessarily gaining a profit, is now threatened with destruction by a sect of antifeminist feminists, anticapitalist capitalists, and mercenary ideologists. In response to this threat, several authentic and disinterested feminists have decided to bring this affair to the public’s attention. I hope the public does not think that this is simply a matter of a frivolous local dispute. To reduce thousands of women to silence by claiming to speak in their stead is to exert a revolting tyranny; and in whatever form it takes, the refusal of this tyranny concerns us all. This abuse is all the more outrageous considering that Antoinette and her followers claim to be lovers of social justice and in rebellion against the world of the affluent. Yet their affluence is what has allowed them to accomplish this seizure of power which has been their sole goal for a long time. We must read this document,3 and against the triumph of money that once again has carried the day, and against the slander and lies that it has perpetuated, we must help women regain their voices and express themselves through their difficulties and even their contradictions within their multi-faceted truth.

Notes

“Foreword,” Chroniques d’une imposture: du mouvement de libération des femmes à une marque commerciale (Paris: l’Association Mouvement pour les Luttes Féministes, 1981); © Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.

(1.) Jacques Lacan (1901–81) was a leading French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

(2.) This was the second World Conference on Women, held five years after the first one in Mexico City, both organized by the UN as part of their Decade for Women initiative.

(3.) According to the editors’ preface to Chroniques d’une imposture, “The collection presented here is composed of published and unpublished texts treating different aspects of the ‘Psychépo’ phenomenon such as they appeared at various times during the Women’s Liberation Movement.”

Notes:

(*) Anne Tristan, Annie de Pisan, Histoires du MLF [Stories from the French Women’s Liberation Movement] (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1977).

(1.) Jacques Lacan (1901–81) was a leading French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

(**) “Psychoanalysis and Politics.”

(2.) This was the second World Conference on Women, held five years after the first one in Mexico City, both organized by the UN as part of their Decade for Women initiative.

(3.) According to the editors’ preface to Chroniques d’une imposture, “The collection presented here is composed of published and unpublished texts treating different aspects of the ‘Psychépo’ phenomenon such as they appeared at various times during the Women’s Liberation Movement.”