Julia Kristeva: The 'James Bond' of Feminism

December 3, 2012
By Shi JianfengEditor: Amanda

Julia Kristeva, a philosopher and feminist, works as a linguistics professor at the University Paris Diderot. [Dongfang Daily]

Julia Kristeva, a philosopher and feminist, works as a linguistics professor at the University Paris Diderot. [Dongfang Daily]

"I'm a traditional feminist, but I know how to take advantage of modern means, such as the media. That's why I like to say that I'm the 'James Bond' of feminism." — Julia Kristeva, a Bulgarian-French feminist.

Julia Kristeva, 71, is a Bulgarian-French psychoanalyst, philosopher and feminist who is now a linguistics professor at the University Paris Diderot in Paris.

"I'm Kristeva. Most of my body has female qualities but I also have some masculine qualities. All make up the identity of Kristeva," said Kristeva.

In November this year, Kristeva visited China to give lectures at Fudan University in east China's Shanghai.

This was not Kristeva's first time in China, as she had previously visited in 1974 with a group of left-wing students who were championing social equality. Afterwards, she wrote about her experience in a book titled About Chinese Women.

In 2011, Kristeva also took part in the launch of the book's Chinese version, held at the Shanghai-based Tongji University.

As a philosopher and a feminist, Kristeva sat down with Shanghai-based newspaper Dongfang Daily, to talk to reporters about her opinions on contemporary feminism.

Emphasis on Individuality and Specificity

"The efforts of the contemporary feminist movement have put women on the path of self-liberation. However, it has also de-emphasized women's individuality," said Kristeva. "They treat women as one single homogeneous entity. I highlight women's talents to emphasize their individuality."

Kristeva also talked about the three stages of feminism. The first stage was the fight for the vote, which started in the late 19th century. Here, she mentioned that the Chinese feminist movement started during the May 4th Movement in 1919, an anti-imperialist, anti-feudal, political and cultural movement growing out of student demonstrations in Beijing on May 4, 1919.

The second stage was the struggle towards gender equality, embodied by the iconic French writer and feminist Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986). Kristeva also noted that the Communist Party of China (CPC) enacted many laws on gender equality at this stage.

The third stage began during the May 1968 workers' and students' protests in France. Since then, people began to focus on the specificity of women, such as their bodies, sexual experiences, artistic publications and political thoughts.

"Nowadays, women are quite sensitive to their individuality and specificity, so I hope the present feminist movement can find a way to highlight these two aspects of womanhood," said Kristeva.

"Women are different from men. An emphasis on their specificity accords with Western traditional humanism which is built on respect for everyone's individuality," added Kristeva.

 

The covers of the Chinese translations of Julia's books About Chinese Women and Hannah Arendt: Life Is a Narrative  [Dongfang Daily]

The covers of the Chinese translations of Julia's books About Chinese Women and Hannah Arendt: Life Is a Narrative  [Dongfang Daily]

One's Gender Is a Combination

Public discourse on feminism has long revolved around whether women should differentiate themselves from men or argue that there are essentially no differences between the genders.

"From the perspective of a psychoanalyst, the two genders exist in everyone, but personally speaking, I tend to differentiate between women and men," said Kristeva.

"In any case, it is undeniable that the human race is made up of men and women. If gender differences were minimized, we would become non-sexual, like cloned men created using modern biotechnology. It would be a tragedy to human culture," added Kristeva.

"Everyone has the right to choose his or her gender. In fact, everyone's gender is a kind of combination of different qualities, including one's creativity," Kristeva explained further.

"We can't completely separate men and women or see them as two exact opposites," said Kristeva.

"The ability to have children is what sets women apart. Some women treat it as an extra burden, but I see a lot of value in the maternal experience. Modern feminism should take motherhood into account, since motherhood is the most basic social contact and places an important role in social development," Kristeva said.

More Involvement in Public Affairs

Nowadays feminism mainly exists as an ideological trend on university campuses rather than in public life.

Kristeva admitted that there are now fewer discussions about feminism in the public sphere, but she pointed out that feminism exists in other ways. Kristeva cites as an example the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, which she set up to reward outstanding individuals or organizations that fight for gender equality and stand against human rights abuses.

Feminists should not confine themselves to taking to the streets to campaign for women's rights but should be actively involved in social public affairs, suggested the Dongfang Daily.

Kristeva agrees with this view. In her book The Future of Revolt, she states that revolt is an individual behavior to end the past and make a new start and that if it is necessary, people can take to the streets to protest, but that present feminists should get more involved in public affairs.

Before she came to Shanghai, one of Kristeva's friends advised her to see the latest James Bond film, as most of the scenes were shot in Shanghai. Her friend said that she thought Kristeva's feminist work was just like that of secret agents in the Bond films.

Kristeva agreed, saying, "Modern feminists are secret agents fighting for women's freedom, as our identity is relatively secret but we do real work."

"At the end of the film, James Bond kills the bad guy with a dagger," said Kristeva. "It's a return to tradition."

"I'm a traditional feminist, but I know how to take advantage of modern means, such as the media. That's why I like to say that I'm the 'James Bond' of feminism," Kristeva concludes.

(Source: Dongfang Daily/Translated by womenofchina.cn)

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