Organs without Bodies

In The Sex Which Is Not One, Irigaray writes:

But isn’t a multiplicity that does not entail a rearticulation of the difference between the sexes bound to block or take away something of woman’s pleasure? In other words, is the feminine capable, at present, of attaining this desire, which is neutral precisely from the viewpoint of sexual difference? Except by miming masculine desire once again. And doesn’t the “desiring machine” still partly take the place of woman or the feminine? (141)

In an incredibly succinct description of Irigaray’s theory of sexual difference, Jami Weinstein writes, “What sexual difference theory has brought to the fore is that human ontology is, rather than the masculine One and the feminine lack, an ontology of (at least) Two— where woman and man are irreducible others.” With an entire career based on sexual difference, it makes sense that Irigaray balks at the idea of neutrality and is wary of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s concepts of a body without organs and “becoming woman” that argue for “a thousand tiny sexes.” Irigaray warns that a philosophy that is seemingly inclusive of women is in fact, obliterating the female subject by engulfing her in a “desiring machine.” Rosi Braidotti writes that sexual difference allows women to define themselves in an “Euro-phallocentric” empire. Women can no longer be defined as complementary to Man, but “Women as other-than Man’s Other.”

Deleuze and Guattari write that, “It is a problem not of the One and the Multiple but of a fusional multiplicity that effectively goes beyond any opposition between the one and the multiple” (154). However, Irigaray refuses to see it as a going “beyond,” for her it is the obliteration of woman as a gender and the female as a subject.

In Conversations Irigaray writes:

As far as I am concerned, ‘becoming woman’ or ‘becoming a woman’ correspond to cultivating my own identity, the identity which is mine by birth. For Deleuze, it amounts to becoming what he is not by birth. If I appeal to a return to nature, to the body – that is, to values that our Western culture has scorned – Deleuze acts in the opposite way: according to him it would be possible and suitable to become someone or something which is without relation to my original and material belonging. How could this be possible above all from the part of a man with respect to becoming woman? Putting on the stereotypes concerning femininity? Deleuze would want to become the woman who Simone de Beauvoir did not want to become? (79)

However, contemporary feminists are beginning to question Irigaray’s logic. In the introduction to Deleuze and Gender, Claire Colebrook says that it is “embarrassing and disastrous” to endlessly debate whether Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “becoming woman” is either good or bad for feminism. Colebrook says, “The concept is embarrassing when it closes down thinking: when it is left to feminist philosophers to disentangle this monstrous thread, while the real Deleuze philosophy and Deleuze studies gets on with the nuts and bolts of materialism.” More importantly, it is the ontological ideas that they are proposing that should be studied, not whether Deleuze wants to become the woman that Simone de Beauvoir did not. Weinstein says, “Sexual difference as a concept has been fantastically successful in helping us realize that we are living under an oppressive ontology of the One…But what it helps us think through via its prescient claim to move toward an (at least) dual ontology is the possibility of an ontology based on a fluid multiplicity” (21).

In “Feminist Futures: A Time of Thought,” Elizabeth Grosz writes that Irigaray and Deleuze are “agitating crystals” aligned with one another to open up new modes of thought that were previously inaccessible. Grosz argues for “a politics of imperceptibility, leaving its traces and effects everywhere but never being able to be identified with a person, group, or organization. It is not a politics of visibility, of recognition and of self-validation, but a process of self-marking that constitutes oneself in the very model of that which oppresses and opposes the subject. The imperceptible is that which the inhuman musters” (194). It’s not about a body without organs, or organs without bodies, it is to go beyond, to continue to create lines of flight towards a politics of imperceptibility.

In “Nomadism With a Difference: Deleuze’s Legacy in a Feminist Perspective,” Rosi Braidotti muses on the definition of the future feminist:

We may choose to call these new subjects: “subject-in-process situated in a genealogy politically motivated by feminist struggles”. Alternatively, we may call it: “vehicle of permanent deterritorialization of the phallocentric empire, motivated by the passion for non-oedipalized sexual difference”. Let us call this new subjectivity: “line of evasion from the morbid mutual dependence of feminine and masculine”; or else: “software carrying virus that may prove lethal to the oedipal-military-industrial complex”. Personally, I call her “nomadic subject of collectively negotiated trajectories”, and insist on taking Deleuze along as a travel companion.”

~ christine zenyi lu


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