Further evidence that I am still stuck in the Second Wave. I have never seen this thought expressed this way before, and here Stryker is talking about events in the early 90s… I typed it out to save for posterity. (I added paragraph breaks to make it easier to read on screen… this is all one paragraph in the book.)
The new “queer” version of gender espoused by de Lauretis and other like-minded feminist scholars, which de Lauretis laid out most succinctly in her essay “Technologies of Gender,” discarded the older feminist idea that gender was merely repressive—that it was only a system for holding women down, turning them into second-class citizens, exploiting their labor, and controlling their reproductive capacities.
Without denying that gender systems indeed produced systematic inequalities for women, the new queer take on gender also talked about gender’s productive power—how “woman” was also a “site” or a “location” that its occupants identified with, understood themselves through, and acted from.
The new queer feminism drew heavily from French philosopher Michel Foucault’s concept of social power as decentralized and distributed rather than flowing from a single source—that is, that each of us has a power particular to our situation and that power is not just something vested “up there” somewhere in the law or the army or the “patriarchy.”
Queer feminism reimagined the status of “woman” not simple as a condition of victimization to be escaped from, and it reconceived gender as a network of “relations of power” that, like language, we don’t ever get outside of but always express ourselves though and work within—a situation that gives feminist women a “dual vision” and “split subjectivity.”
Sometimes womanhood is a binding-in-place that needs to be resisted and worked against, and sometimes, de Lauretis said, women want womanhood to stick to them “like a wet silk dress.”
Transgender History, by Susan Stryker (Seal Press, 2008) page 125 and 128
This is useful for me to articulate because of this weird assumption folks seem to have that my issues with my gender stem from my issues with patriarchy… I guess it has to do with the cultural idea that “feminists want to be like men.” I have never found this concept to be terribly accurate, or useful… It’s been a while since I got down with the idea that femininity can be strong and powerful, that it often is, and that the pursuit of masculinity is not the way forward for women, as a group.