This essay revisits the work of Christine Delphy, a leading activist in the women's liberation movement in France and a leading materialist feminist theorist whom many US feminist scholars have written off as a “seventies feminist”: she not only published one of her most-read pieces in the 1970s but is also judged to typify that period by virtue of her (in)famous conceptualization of women as a class. This essay undertakes a close reading of Delphy's writings on gender together with her earlier work on women as social class to elaborate what I term her constructivist materialism: a materialist analysis of gender hierarchy premised on the conviction that sex difference is not the foundation of gender but is, rather, its effect. I aim not only to give Delphy's work the benefit of a sympathetic reading but also to demonstrate how such a reading participates in contesting two of the narratives that Clare Hemmings has identified as reducing the “feminist seventies” to “seventies feminism.” Delphy's constructivist materialist conceptualization of gender belies efforts to contrast the (essentialist) seventies with the (constructivist) nineties—efforts that mark the latter as theoretically and politically superior.
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Lisa Disch; Christine Delphy's Constructivist Materialism: An Overlooked “French Feminism”. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2015; 114 (4): 827–849. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3157155
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