Saturday, 16 December, 2017.


I analyze the relationship between women and nationalism and argue that women's identity and relationship to the "Other" is different from that of men, hence even when women participate in nationalism it is in a less violent form. I argue, further, that the structures of nationalism are fundamentally homosocial, and antagonism toward women of one's own nation is one of the first forms of attack on the "Other", "and is constitutive of "extreme nationalism."

The British suffragist movement came abruptly to an end when the contra, diction of women as members of the human race and women as signifiers of difference and the particular, became historically significant. This happened with World War I when suffragists became war factory workers and were released from prison in exchange for a "patriotic" attitude and for refraining from feminist-suffragist activities. Which were they first - "women" or members of the "nation"? As Jane Marcus writes,

World War I practically destroyed the women's movement in England, an extraordinary mass movement of women who struggled for nearly fifty years to obtain political justice and equality with regard to education, the vote, and legislation concerning marriage, divorce, child custody, and labor practices. {Marcus 1989. 129)

Women were subsequently granted the right to vote largely as a reward for their attitude during the war. War and nationalism were used as arguments to give up feminism, saying that women had to choose between feminism and the war effort between their identity as women and as members of the nation state. It divided feminism between those who maintained their pacifist position and those who argued for support of their menfolk by working in the armaments industry or driving ambulances at the front. Pacifist feminists turned out to~ in a minority.

A similar situation happened with the downfall of socialism. The contemporary feminist movement in some of the former East European countries also lost its drive because of more "urgent" political goals. Some East European feminists were overpowered by a more primary anti-communist orientation, some became involved, for much the same reason, with overt nationalist movements. Some East European feminists remain tied to "socialist" ideals that can be aggressively nationalist, as in the Serbian case, and are not necessarily progressive. Only a smaller part of feminism remained, split and independent.

At the same time, a significant part of the organized feminist movement and the new feminism merged with or actually organized the new pacifist movements in those places where nationalist civil wars and wars of territorial conquest are threatening or are being fought. In both cases-Great Britain, then, and some former socialist countries now-the feminist movements were divided and in need of reorganization.

A great deal is at stake, not only for women but, through women, for democracy as such, especially in those East European countries where women are losing the formal human rights they acquired during socialism. The status of women in some East European "socialist" countries such as the GDR or Yugoslavia was formally in many ways better than in the West, especially as regards women's reproductive rights, collective rights, and social services supportive of women's work in the family. The real position of women was not better than in the West-there is no comparison-but there was a general egalitarian commitment, not particularly feminist in its intention, from which women benefited.

Yet it was women in these countries, along with men, who willed and urged the downfall of the very socialism that granted them these rights. Women wanted both the end of socialism and the maintenance of the rights granted by socialism. The problem was particularly visible in East Germany where women fought fiercely to keep those rights threatened by the return to capitalism.

In addition, in the present war in the former Yugoslavia it is mainly women who organize the pacifist movements and local humanitarian help. Women seem to be more pacific and it is overwhelmingly women who run pacifist movements in countries at war. This is only partly because men are deserters from the army and thus unable to appear in public as activists, where they would be caught and sent back to the front.

Yet in spite of the fact that women resort to arms in fewer numbers than men, they are also, without being aware of it, complicit in war because the system as such, and its symbolic order, supports the war policy and favors the dominant group, which historically has been men. It is the dominant gender, too, that defines the "interests" of war, although those interests are considered to be gender-neutral and universal ("human"). What the socially weaker do may well be used by the state to their disadvantage. In what follows it will be shown how the war in the former Yugoslavia is in significant ways an affair of "brotherhood" and not of "sisterhood."

To understand this situation it is necessary to analyze what is symbolically at stake for women and men within the war machine, because gender is one of its main organizing principles. It is characteristic of the symbolic order and of social relationships, that every power-complex uses as its model other pre-existing power complexes, projecting itself onto those models where possible. Binary models-and in particular the binary model of gender-are those symbolic power-systems through which the symbolic system works and onto which it project itself. This projection "legitimizes" practices and domination. In particular, the extreme cases of war and nationalism take over and adopt the models of gender difference, using them as justifying references. They exploit and manipulate gender difference to their advantage, and organize themselves along its lines.

In this process the enemy, the other nation, is made to be the Other, as is the Female. The symbolic system of nationalism in fact needs the construction of "the Other" as an indirect means for its domination; "the Other" is thus its constituent part.

The appropriation of gender in nationalism does not mean that there is a one-to-one correspondence between gender roles and roles in war. Not every man, perhaps not even the majority of men, identify with war, but the whole framework which permits or calls for war is organized in such a way that it favors the stronger, whether socially, politically, historically or militarily stronger. The political and symbolic systems are "male" because the historically dominant gender is male, not in the sense that it is the responsibility of every individual man or of maleness as such. In fact, even when they are willing to give up their domination and make visible efforts in this direction, past history continues to provide support for the politically and gender dominant group. The will to give up historically acquired privileges alone is not enough to radically exorcise them. These privileges remain attached to the dominant group like "karma" because the past also constitutes the present.

At the level of the symbolic order, cultural or social stereotypes used in the militarist ideology, in the dominant propaganda of the war-machine, and in the new mythology are all "sexed.." Every term, utterance, and concept is given a sexual "value" with a distinct preference going to the male-identified form. Thus it is ~en who are the "brave soldiers defending their womenfolk", the national hero is a man and women are only the mothers of sons and soldiers. It is men who "sacrifice themselves for the nation," represent the ideal national type and have the duty and privilege of resorting to arms. If it were not for the courage (as a "male" characteristic) of "our boys," the nation would meet with disaster.


As Klaus Theweleit (1987) has argued, fighters or warriors are "brothers," sharing all sorts of rites, based on strong feelings of a group identity founded on being of the same generation of "sons" of the Nation (symbolic as well as real). They are "equals" among themselves, but no other is regarded as their equal. The brotherhood is articulated, group identity constructed by excluding the "other"-the enemy (the "Outside Other")-and women (the "Inside Other"). The "brothers" only get a sense of identity through belonging to the group and by developing an image of exclusion and domination of the Other. The "brothers" have better chances for identity formation the greater is their cruelty. The image of the woman is a split one: "our" women are the "white" ("good" ones), the enemy's are the "red" ("bad" ones). "Brotherhood" in this sense is formed by a group identity; "sisterhood" is not. Brotherhood also has a longer history through religious orders, which are also called brotherhoods even when they include or consist of women.

These "brotherhoods" operate in nationalist conflicts. There are different types of nationalisms including anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist ones and those directed against exploitation or political domination. In the anti-colonial and anti-imperial strife and resistance of twenty years ago, in the period of the first post-colonialism, nationalism definitely had a positive connotation, at least for "us" in the Third World. But it is a basic assumption of the present paper that the "radical nationalisms" at the end of the twentieth century operative in the republics of the former Yugoslavia are both mechanisms of binary, dual oppositions and that they invariably lead to war in the long run. By "radical nationalism" I mean either a very belligerent nationalism and/or an advanced phase of a previous form of nationalism.

"Radical nationalism" conquers territories, chases other nationalities away, introduces "ethnic cleansing," etc. From a politically positive and affirmative movement a nationalism can develop, depending on historical circumstances, into something very dangerous, as in National Socialism (Nazism). No simple definition can be given of nationalism or even of radical nationalism because these are not fixed concepts and cover changing contents, realities and processes.


Civil war, guerre fratricide, Bruderkrieg, bratoubilatki rat, are wars that evoke in their very name in some languages a gender division and even a family structure. It is brothers who are supposed to be waging war while the sisters, according to the stereotype, are supposed to knit socks for the beloved soldier or nurse the wounded. Within revolutionary battles fought to displace some dominating group from power, women stand some chance to get a piece of the pie. Margaret R. Higonnet states:

For women, the struggle to shift from subordination to equality is necessarily an act of insubordination and must therefore be assimilated to regicide, the murder of the pater populi, rather than fratricide. (Higonet 1989, 81 )

There seems to be no "space" for women within fratricidal wars. Indeed several authors, Higonnet included, interpret these wars as wars against the feminine.

In adopting this interpretation, I do not mean they are necessarily wars against women, although there are such wars in which atrocities against women are particularly brutal and conspicuous, as in the present war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is rather that in civil wars it is the incorporation of the other and the constant interaction with the other that is attacked. But it is the feminine that is regarded as representing the principle of interrelation. Women are lees anguished than men about inner boundaries and bodily limits, not particularly obsessed by boundaries unless under attack; this bears on women's gentler attitude to outer, political borders. They are the place of all places (Irigaray). These issues have to do, in part, with identity and the way a subject is constructed.

Women are traditionally accustomed and expected, both corporeally and through their socialization, to incorporate the other. Women are more accustomed to accept the "other" within themselves as evidenced in intercourse and childbearing. Socially women are more expected and accustomed to accept the "other." While women's primary love object, the mother, is the same for women, they are socially strongly encouraged to accept the other. Traditionally, women also adapt to different cultures more easily, giving up their origins more often than men when marrying into another community. They are made to give up their family names or have no family names. In some traditions, such as the Hindu, women also give up their first names as a symbolic change of identity. Even in women's self-identity, women are socially more related to the other (a positive way of understanding it) in their strong identification with the family. Boundaries for women are relational rather than obstacles to relations. The division of inner and outer space is less radical for women and they move more easily in both dimensions or switch from the one to the other.

Women's genealogies are also different from men's in that in being born of woman, a man is born of the other sex while a woman is born of the same sex. Much of psychoanalysis derives from the social interpretation of the consequences of this simple fact. It is also the first and best evidence of both biological as well as social asymmetry.

At the same time, in "man's fantasies" there is a whole imaginary of how dangerous it may be for the male individual and for maleness as such to cross boundaries towards the Other, as well as myths of origination within the male power principle ( e.g., the myth of the vagina dentata; the myth of Athena being born from Zeus directly without a mother).

These differences just discussed partially explain the fact that in the current Balkan war(s), as in many others, women are incomparably less violent and show on the whole more compassion and willingness to help and understand the other side. In practice, women organize whatever resistance is possible to the state led violence and whatever humanitarian help they can.

But none of what is said here should be understood as an essentialist or biological determinism regarding the "nature" or "destiny" of women "doomed" to stay in their present social position. On the contrary, there is a permanent interaction of the "biological" and the "social" for all human beings which makes it impossible and pointless to say whether something is "natural" or "social." I reject the very distinction itself, and without this distinction the problem of "essentialism" or biologism cannot arise. It is the characteristic of humankind that human nature should be socialized as much as society is naturalized.1 In this sense, woman as "the place of all places" should be understood not in the biological sense, but in the symbolic sense of a reformed symbolic order where women would have a say and were represented as well as representable.

Women represent symbolically, more then men, a space of mixture and meeting, metissage, brassage. It is this metissage, which women accept, create, and represent, rather than necessarily women themselves that is actually being attacked by those who want to purify their origins, "liberating" them from the Other and denying the Other. Mixture is something which is not merely destroyed by the aggressor but it is also appropriated by him as a power of creation. Creation both in the cultural as welt as in the biological sense occurs in mixture and hence emerges the wish to appropriate it and the necessity to control women as its symbol and embodiment. It is for this reason, as a matter of logic and not by chance, that the aggressor in the Yugoslav wars destroys cities. Cities are the birthplaces of culture and culture is necessarily mixture in that culture always presupposes culture and can never originate from a tabula rasa. Yet the radical nationalist, paradoxically and suicidally, claims culture as a tabula rasa.

The Yugoslav aggressor in this senseless and eventually self-destructive war constructs a national "we" with emphatic male sexist and racist characteristics-male to the exclusion of anything\ anyone else. Hence emerges the figure of the Rambo-like warrior in a ruthless, sexually powerful, and racist brotherhood and the racist war songs sung not only against the enemy-nation but also against the non-European members (called "monkeys") of the UN peace-keeping forces. The city is not the birthplace of this new "hero" who, at best, comes from the grim socialist suburbs whereby he shall never be integrated in the city's sophisticated, feminized life. Symbolically, life in a city is seen by the rural person as that of an emasculated individual because it is supposed to be an easy and comfortable life compared to the rough life in the countryside. The new hero hates it because he envies it. 'He has been brought up with the traditional epic saying, "Don't be a woman," meaning "Don't be a coward." He wants to destroy this place he doesn't understand and which never accepted him by confirming his own origin in himself in his autistic dream.

For all these reasons, these wars are symbolically anti- feminine. But none of this should induce us to believe women are the only victims; the whole population is the victim, regardless of sex, regardless of nation.

Of course, war and nationalism is also practically anti- feminine in many respects. As real and not only symbolic victims (and they are most often real victims), women are "entitled," once again, to specific types of suffering, atrocities, rape, etc. Rape is a reappropriation by the rapist of mixture-as-power from the woman.


Let us consider more closely the role of binary models in nationalism and war. As has been frequently stated, binary models of thinking hide asymmetrical structures behind an "official" symmetry. In binary thinking one of the terms of a pair is regularly thought of as feminine and the other as masculine, where the feminine has been thought of as negative ever since the Pythagoreans, as reported in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Other examples of such pairs of concepts are not completely parallel but they are essentially sexed and they have been so appropriated by the whole history of Western thought. The models are "sexed" even when they do not mention the sexual difference explicitly, i.e., good \ bad, right \ left, square \ rectangle, etc.

In reality there is no true parallelism between the two terms of each pair; one of the terms of the duality is subordinated to the other. The subordinate term is automatically thought of as feminine and imperfect compared to the dominant term which is seen as masculine and perfect. This configuration precedes reflection, it is given within and with Western thought itself and we accept it unawares unless we specifically question the unconscious. This binary model of thinking has been entertained, nurtured, and further developed by our tradition of thought so as to become part of it. Such dual patterns also materialize in opposed nationalisms and wars.

Thus, in a remarkable essay, Barbara Freeman (Freeman 1989) quotes Elaine Scarry:

War is a contest where the participants arrange themselves into two sides and engage in an activity that will eventually make it possible to designate one side the winner and one side the loser. ...In consenting to enter into war, the participants enter into a structure that is a self-cancelling duality ...a formal duality, that, by the very force of its relentless insistence on doubleness, provides the means for eliminating and replacing itself by the condition of singularity. A first major attribute here is the transition, at the moment of entry into war, from the condition of multiplicity to the condition of the binary; a second attribute is the transition, at the moment of ending the war, from the condition of the binary to the condition of the unitary. (Scarry 1985, 87,88)

In nationalism and nationalist wars there is also identification with the father figure (the Father of the Nation). In psychological terms this is a regression (identification with the parent, the origin). This regressive identification with a "higher" or "older" office (and the consequent splitting of the father-figure into a positive and a negative figure) means, for men, taking refuge in the same sex, and for women, taking refuge in the other. In both cases, as both men and women can become nationalists, it is through this identification that a "community," not a "society," is formed. Community is created by contrast with the other community, that of the neighbor, but for women it is a double-bind relation.

It is a double-bind relation because women owe allegiance to the nation but at the same time national interests may conflict with their interests as women. Second, in identifying with the father, they identify with that which is different and they will be equally true and untrue to both the Father-symbol and to their own self-Representation.

The splitting of the father-figure means that "their" leader ( the leader of the other ethnic group) will be the "bad father" and "ours" will be the "good one." These groups give themselves a "higher" authority much the way religion does and the identification with that authority legitimizes the violence of those who accept that office. Every individual sacrifices his or her personal identity to it as if governed by a powerful superego. The groups so constituted soon call themselves nationalities and lean towards a nation-state to give themselves, externally, the skeleton they lack internally. In fact, they rely on violence toward others for their identity.

A remarkable difference lies in men's and women's identification with the father figure. Identifying with it means exclusion of the Other{s) for men, who thereby identify with the Same. It implies a paradox for women who identify with that which is different. Nationalism, for women, doesn't mean one's symbolic origin in the same or the exclusion of the other {sex), but coexistence with it, since identification with the Father-figure itself means mixture and inclusion and is represented in the ideal case as a willing and permitted "incest."2 Men's faithfulness, on the contrary, to the father-figure {soldiers in the ideal case) is maintained in principle through the realization of "purity." It is symbolically represented as accepted and acceptable male homosexuality, although it doesn't prevent men from having sexual intercourse with women. But women are despised and the relationship to them is seen as being of secondary value, much as in the Socratic-Platonic tradition as read by feminists or by Foucault. It means for them a symbolic origin with{in) the Other.

Because of this different symbolic investment of women and men in nationalism, as well as for the reasons discussed above, female nationalism is thus less fierce and murderous and women will be less prone to violence in defense of the nation. Women are also socialized to be less violent as well. None of this, however, means that women are less cooperative with nationalism and, there~ fore, with that violence which we take to be essential to the main currents of radical {male) nationalism.

Nationalists also need foundation myths and these myths make claims about the "birth of the nation" and of "our" culture being the oldest and the best, "manly" and "heroic." The reappropriation of the origin for the male nationalist is necessarily a claim both at the "national" as well as at the "sexual" symbolic levels. "Origin" means birth, and it is through a claim of a "pure" origin or "birth of the nation " that the nationalist ideal is given shape. Women and an origin in women cannot guarantee a "pure" origin for the male nationalists since women symbolically represent mixture. Women as representing evil and women as representing mixture is in no way a contradiction since mixture is considered to be evil. This myth of origins then accounts for the resulting exclusion of the Other in culture and tradition.

In opting for nationalism, violence, and war with its exclusion of that which is different men have to unlearn their love for their first object, the mother, as a love of that which is different. It is here that the role of the "brotherhood" becomes apparent. Its first function is thus to eliminate the "sisters," starting with the sisters within the same nationality. Brotherhood's first enemy is thus the one within the group, the internal other, including the symbolic woman within themselves and the feminine Principle {Theweleit 1987).


The basic principle of {male) nationalism as the exclusion of the other thus means the negation of the origin in and with the other{s). It is a claim for purity and monism, both national and sexual. The national "reason" is regularly articulated as a sexual one; "our" nation is "heroic," "straight," "moral" and "manly," the other nation is "emasculated," "cowardly, "feminine" and "dishonest." It is the sexual element that permits and structures representation, that very important figure of thinking and of political domination and one of the mechanisms in the symbolic realm whereby the dominant group exercises its power. God-the-Father, the Father-of-the-Nation or the political Leader, is represented by the Son, by Man who is his true envoy and image. The figure of political representation in parliament and in public life is appropriated by that group which is in accord with, and the basis for, this norm-the man, white and powerful. All those who differ from it are misrepresented, badly represented, or nonrepresentable and they appear, if at all, as exceptions confirming the rule. At the same time this misrepresentation is not openly recognized. It is men { the norm) who in the representational system stand for both men {the "Same") and women {the "Other"). Obviously, they will not be able to represent the specificities of that which is different. There is the same basic asymmetry between the male and the female as there is between the representant and the represented. The first term is "stronger" {also, grammatically) because it appears on both sides of an equation and also at a higher, all encompassing level, as in languages such as English and French. Thus one can say that man = man and woman.

Women relate to representation as the object, as that which is represented {signified) by the representant {signifier). They are reduced to a mute position since someone speaks in their name. Politically, their situation is confusing. It is certainly better to be represented by the Other than not to be represented at all { which is the real alternative) but it would be still better to present oneself One must hope that such an asymmetric symbolic order will one day be escaped and such escape should be attempted and pursued on all fronts, obliquely and subversively, and in and through language as well, which is part of that symbolic order.

Although the sexual element may appear as instrumental to the national one, it is also basic and structures the idea of national purity which ultimately is sexual. Sexuality and gender difference is older than the conception of the nation, which can only be traced back to the 19th century. The sexual\gender difference is inscribed in language itself, whereas the national difference comes much after language and uses the examples ready at hand.

By being totally autistic, nationalism is also suicidal, because life necessarily involves having one's origin in and with the other. Since we are necessarily born of the Other-the other sex, the other person, and the other culture-the death of the Other sooner or later implies one's own death. It is mixture and not monistic solipsism that is culturally or naturally fruitful. Being "born of the Other" may also be understood in its symbolic meaning, thereby bringing into consideration social power and not only in the biological sense. While cleansing the world or our surroundings of the other, we are dangerously jeopardizing our own existence and security, as well as the very possibility of our renewal. In the present Balkan wars, as the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina rages, this is the position official Serbia has put itself in.

The suicidal drive in nationalism is not willed or overtly conscious; it is the result of the insane attempt to be born by oneself, from oneself, not to owe anything to the other. It is actually an attempt to control birth and take it over completely. Since it cannot be done physically, it will be done symbolically.3


The philosophical reasons for this identification of the nation with a male figure are deeper still and well known: in our symbolic order, only the masculine is universalizable, never the feminine. Universalization, like representation, is another figure of thinking that has a direct bearing on social power, since thinking is, among other things, a means of subduing the world. There is, therefore, no equivalent divine figure of a woman comparable to that of God the Father, none that would be both universal ( and supposedly sexually neutral) and at the same time solely based on the model of the feminine sex. The same applies to the would-be national leader-figure.

The fact that the Nation and the State are often identified with a female figure should not puzzle us. Feminine figures often embody and bear symbolically the ideal, hence "the Motherland," and in ancient religions, local goddesses. But the fact that women "embody" ideas, thereby serving to justify them, doesn't mean that what is embodied, the principle or mechanism, is a "feminine" one. One has to distinguish between the carrier of an ideal and the ideal that is carried. What is symbolically "embodied" in the female figure can still remain a male ideal, activity, or experience.

The feminine embodiment of such high ideals as "Liberty," the "Nation," "Wisdom," "Motherland," and "Purity" are often used as a pretext to eliminate concrete women, both in traditional mythologies and in contemporary politics. The supposedly female figures for such great male ideas have nothing whatsoever to do with a concrete feminine experience. In addition, it is clearly the same structure whether it is Thatcher or Major who is in office; in both cases it is a "male" lineage whereby name and power are transmitted, while the "other," the female lineage, guarantees the continuity of the masculine discontinuity.

Therefore, one should not yield too easily to the belief, sometimes main, rained by feminists as well, that the nationality (nation) being aggressed upon "is the woman," which has been said of Croatia. According to this belief, "Croatia is being raped and thus is a woman." Woman is the incarnation of the Nation or the Nation precisely because women do not have a proper position in it, but only obliquely. Secondly, Croatia can be so readily identified with a woman because of the all too ready identification of woman as victim. Victim/aggressor is another pair of opposites that is symbolically "sexed" like any other opposition. Thirdly, the above discussion shows that rather than nationalism giving women a central position, it tries to usurp the feminine and is oppressive of women, first within the national group itself. At the symbolic level both the feminine principle as well as the feminine element in men will be suppressed. For all these reasons, the image of the aggressed nation being a "woman" and being attacked by a neighboring {male) nation is erroneous, although rape is certainly a regular feature of war.

The masculine/feminine war is present as a war within a war, first within a nation{ality) and only secondly between two national groups, although the latter happens most visibly at the level of war atrocities. But it is complicated by the fact that women are accomplices at every level, both on the visible as well as the invisible side of the war, whether they collaborate or not. The whole system and the war-machine are all-encompassing frameworks. They are set in motion much before the belligerants resort to arms.


Yoshikazu Sakamoto has described the post-cold war situation as an "orderly disorder." A paradoxical combination of stabilization of the global framework but of disorder in the substance itself. ...Globally the world has become more homogeneous (military unipolarization, extension of the capitalist market economy to practically the whole of the globe, the universal diffusion of nationalisms and the globalization of democracy). Yet new conflicts have multiplied. (Sakamoto 1992.2)

At the time of the crash of socialism the world is unipolar, and Western~ Nordic at that, a unipolarity which the national-ethnic-religious fragmentation bitterly and unconsciously resists. At the same time, if what is slowly and with difficulty being shaped in Europe and through the United Nations succeeds, an international centralized higher government-like body will be organized. Nationalism at the end of the 20th century seems to be the most widespread of the fragmentary interests. The problem with this fragmentation is that it knows no limit. The principle of self-determination must urgently be reconsidered by the international community. But who is the subject who can do it? Where is the equilibrium between the Nation-state and the suicidal drive of the nationalisms. especially of smaller would-be nationalities who, in the assassination, murder, destruction, and killing of the Other or others, are thereby suicidal, given their interdependence on the Other?

In a recent paper Pierre Achard talks about the linguistic use of the "expanded 'we' " when a speaker non-explicitly comprehends his/her addressee in the "we" used. In a local utterance, the speaker holds a position of power. This is the usual situation with the statist "we." Achard relates this to nationalism. He writes:

So the notion of nation appears when there is some problem between practical politics and its citizenry. For example, when an expanded "we" considers that it deserves its own state, different from the one it is in. (Archard 1992)

Not every "we" need be a national "we." We all belong to different groups and confusions concerning subject identity are not peculiar to women. Universal values and interests are usurped by particular dominant interests. Yet at these times of crisis a national identity emerges, felt as a "we."

Although women are in general and abstractly addressed by the statist and nationally expanded "we," the whole grammar, linguistic structure, and syntax make it clear that women do not belong to the model of the dominant subject-speaker. They can, at best, confirm men in that position. In the case of an expanding "we" used by a speaker in power to include not only men but also women, the two will not be included in the same manner. Women will be included rather formally, in a paradoxical way, which never fits their specificity; they will be considered the exception. But men will be included de facto since they are, of course, the model.4 Women always imperfectly belong and belong with specific, not general, characteristics-as mothers of ( unknown) soldiers, as nurses-and if they "belong" to the enemy, as whores good only to be raped (and wanting it). Given that men, under the guise of neutrality and universality, are the main agents of nationalism, women's incorporation in it is always subordinate.

This is also why "we, women" cannot be a credible political project from the standpoint of traditional politics and thinking, in which the male model has won globally, being taken as that which is universal and neutral. Within that model, women do not stand a chance. That whole system has to be changed. Within the general framework of humankind there are other options and some of them have never been attempted. The gender difference is a historic one. One can then imagine that it too is subject to change and one can hope and act to change it.


I wish to thank Nanette Funk for her comments on an earlier draft and for her help in editing this article.

  1. The biological argument as well as the social one should never by used against someone just as past injustice or a difference should never justify a present or future injustice.
  2. Mussolini or Hider represented the ideal and unattainable lover for women and also the "Father" without any apparent difficulty, coming from the fact of the incestual and conceptual contradiction, much like God.
  3. For a philosophical elaboration of this topic, see Sloterdijk (1989).
  4. In the example I have given, women and men obviously cannot identify with God the Father or the Father of the Nation in auite the same wav.


Archard, Pierre. N.d. Discourse and social praxis as building up nation and state. T ypescript.

Cooper, Helen M., Adrienne Munich, and Susan Merrill Squier, eds. 1989. ATmS arId the woman: War, gender, and literary representation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Freeman, Barbara. 1989. Epitaphs and epigraphs: "The end(s) of man." See Cooper et al. Higonnet, Margaret R. 1989. Civil wars and sexual territories. See Cooper et al.

Marcus, Jane. 1989. Corpus/corps/corpse: Writing the body in/at war. See Cooper et al. Sakamoto, Yoshikazu. 1992. Un entretien avec Yoshikazu Sakamoto. Le Monde. (December 2): 2.

Scarry, Elaine. 1985. The body in pain. The making and unmaking of the world. New York: Oxford.

Sloterdijk, Peter. 1989. Eurotaoismus. Zur kritik der politischen Kinetik. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.

Theweleit, Klaus. 1987. Male Fantasies, trans. Stephan Conway et al. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hypatia vol. 8. no.4 (Fall 1993) @ by Rada lveković

Women's Studies Journal

Selected Papers
Anniversary Issue 1992/2002

Designed By
Powered By
© 2017 Women’s Studies Center, Belgrade