In 1991, the American feminist movement was revived by the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas case. In the same year, Clarence Thomas, a Supreme Court nominee was accused a few days before his appointment of sexual harassment by one of his former co-workers, the Law Professor Anita Hill.
This case is interesting for many reasons; for instance, the fact that Clarence Thomas was the first Black to be about to become a Supreme Court Judge was considered crucial in the multicultural American society. However, it also highlighted the activity of a new generation of feminists in the USA, who stood in favor of Anita Hill and used her personal experience to denounce the male domination; for them, the Hill-Thomas case was only an example of this established fact.
This case caused so much fuss that it became the center of a global controversy, and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in France, it was much debated too. But there, the comments were totally different among the women who claimed themselves to be feminist: unlikely to the American, they strongly rejected Anita Hill's complaint, arguing that what she had had endure was not sexual harassment that Clarence Thomas had only expressed his desire towards her and then was not guilty. This case provided them an opportunity to denounce the position of their American sisters; in their opinion, they were going too far, and in an anti-American posture, the French accused them of being very excessive and unable to entertain normal relations with men.
[...] Feminism is a complex movement, and is not united in the USA or in France. A particular attention has to be granted to the term “French feminism”, which can easily lead to nonsense. Indeed, “French feminism” in academic studies is an American intellectual construction which does not match reality, and is actually very different from that reality. As the American feminist Claire Moses explains, the recent history of the French feminist movement is very little known in the USA. In fact, what the American feminists think is French feminism is a very particular tendency. [...]
[...] In France, there is not such a phenomenon: the French, Universalist society ignores racism and consequently there is a fundamental contradiction with the existence of movements fighting inequalities. That is why we can estimate that French and American feminism followed parallel ways during the second-wave feminism period. American feminism and French feminism today : multiculturalism and identities How important is feminism today? According to many people, and many women, all battles have been won, and now feminism is only the fact of a minority of activists. [...]
[...] Antiracist feminism is an actual movement in the USA; these feminists tend to consider that women are a minority among the others, and that the fights of all minorities can be led in the same way. They have built a theory where the oppression of minorities is the same that the oppression of which women suffers. Therefore, there have always been alliances between feminist and antiracist movements, because most of the Americans consider that they are parallel fights. In France, the situation is very different. [...]
[...] Consequently to this major achievement, the intensity of feminist activity seemed to decrease for a while, but from the 1960s, new fights appeared and feminism revived, but still in different ways in France and in the USA. The come-back of feminism : new women for new battles In the USA, the re-emergence on feminism was strongly related to the political context: indeed, American feminist found a decisive inspiration in the Civil Rights movement. In a multicultural society, being a woman became, as the fact of being black, a secondary nature which therefore deserved to be recognized and protected. [...]
[...] Once again, it is easily explained by the importance that the two societies give to multiculturalism: in the American society, where multiculturalism is encouraged and communities almost sacred, feminism is a perfectly coherent movement. In France, a country which admits its multiculturalism but balks at taking measures to deal with it, feminism was necessary at the time of the fight for abortion or vote, but now, it seems old-fashioned and meaningless. Sources DUCHEN Claire. Feminism in France : from May 68 to Mitterrand. [...]
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