This essay concerns the contingent and pluralized history of feminist institutions in academia, arguing against two commonly misconstrued oppositions: first, that between the feminist movement and feminist academic institutions; and second, that between the feminist focus on gender (and women) and on sexuality (and minorities). Feminist institutions, the essay contends, are inseparably both academic and activist. Referring to Jean-François Lyotard’s notion of the différend, the essay posits that these institutions primarily intervene by finding expressions for wrongs that are hard to express in dominant language. Gender equality and sexuality/gender minority issues belong together institutionally because they are strongly implicated in one another: gender hierarchies are ultimately achieved by asserting and enforcing the necessity of gender and through what is here called “the terror of gendering”: when the threat to life replaces the plurality of compulsions of various gendered norms.

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