It is therefore…

It is therefore useless to trap women into giving an exact definition of what they mean, to make them repeat (themselves) so the meaning will be clear. They are already elsewhere than in this discursive machinery where you claim to take them by surprise. They have turned back within themselves, which does not mean the same thing as ‘within yourself’. They do not experience the same interiority that you do and which perhaps you mistakenly presume they share. ‘Within themselves’ means in the privacy of this silent, multiple, diffuse tact. If you ask them insistently what they are thinking about, they can only reply: nothing. Everything.

Luce Irigaray (1977/1981), ‘The Sex Which Is Not One’, trans. by Claudia Reeder, in New French Feminisms: An Anthology, ed. by Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron. Brighton: The Harvester Press Limited; p. 103.

I find this use of ‘tact’ really interesting, given the connection in French between ‘tact’ and ‘tactile’, touching, which is such a major part of Irigaray’s writing in ‘The Sex Which Is Not One’. To be tactful is to have a light touch. To be feminine, for Irigaray, is to be always self-touching. Touché.
I don’t know how this reads in the original French but I suspect this is a very clever and sensible moment of translation.


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