chapter  9
13 Pages

Gender, subjectivity and language

ByPatrizia Violi

The binary opposition ‘equality and difference’ has recently been widely discussed, and its character as an absolute dichotomy called into question in a number of ways. Among the challenges to its over-arching status is the view that there are many kinds of difference; gender difference is only one of many components that structure subjectivity, others being race, sexuality and class. The shift of emphasis implicit in this claim, from difference to differences, is of central importance within the Anglo-American feminist tradition. Italian radical feminism, however, has approached the issue from quite another angle, which needs to be understood in its own historical context. Inspired by Carla Lonzi’s first seminal work in the 1970s, Italian feminists have perceived ‘difference’ as a fundamental value opposed to, and to be defended against, ‘equality’. ‘Equality’, as Lonzi writes,

is a juridical principle… Difference is an existential principle which concerns the modes of being human, the peculiarity of one’s sense of existence in a given situation and in potential situations. The difference between women and men is the basic difference of humankind.1