L’Ecriture Féminine is a French feminist theorist movement that literally translated means Feminist writing. This term was originally coined by Hélène Cixous, who wished to create a sort of language or new type of writing that allowed women to express themselves. As Leslie W. Rabine states in her article “Ecriture Féminine as Metaphor”, “Cixous and other practitioners of écriture féminine, the very structures of Western language exclude women and can function only through the silencing of women and the repression of feminine sexual drives” (21). Feminist writing is women writing about women but in doing so creating a female based language versus a male based language which is what most people write in. Writing has been such a patriarchal field for so long and because of this it is hard to write as a woman about woman issues in a world of men.
There are three big players in the Ecriture Feminine world and they are Hélène Cixous, Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray. They all have differing opinions about what Ecriture Feminine should be defined as, but they all mostly agree that is feminist writing-writing done from a female point of view.
Cixous predominantly links female oppression, specifically the denial of female sexual pleasure, with the lack of female writing. The wish to be able to freely express female sexuality and to “overturn masculine discourse” (21) are closely and somewhat inseparable in Ecriture Féminine theory. Cixous and another feminist writer Irigaray both argue that if women can express their sexuality for themselves then they can create a new viewpoint, which according to Ann Rosalind Jones’ article “Writing the body: Toward an understanding of L’Ecriture Féminine” “from which phallogocentric concepts and controls can be seen through and taken apart, not only in theory, but also in practice” (248). This new type of writing would focus entirely on women and have a completely new viewpoint of a woman and a woman only.
I recently encountered this term in another class of mine where we read a memoir of a Chinese American woman (Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior: memoir of a girlhood among ghosts). Every chapter was written from a different perspective but every perspective was that of a woman and how that woman would have viewed the world. Kingston was related to every one of these women but the stories she told were stories her mother told her. I read an article for that class that said something to the affect that Kingston was participating in a new type of writing where daughters wrote from the perspective of their mothers and explored their childhood through the eyes of their mothers.
Kingston’s whole novel focused on the oppression of women, in Chinese culture and it came across strongly through her writing. Kingston also wrote a book called China Men, where she focused on the men. I watched an interview with her and she said she wanted to separate the two and have one book that focused on men and one on women (it was in response to a question about where were the men in her memoir). It was not an easy read because of the formatting, but my professor mentioned that Kingston was applying Ecriture Feminine theory to her (Kingston) writing and I hadn’t really thought about that before my professor said anything.
I really wanted to find examples of Ecriture Feminine writing and I found a lot on the theory, which is interesting because to understand the writing you have to understand the theory but I what I really wanted was to read examples of how women writers are applying Ecriture Feminine.
Jones, Ann Rosalind. “Writing the Body: Toward an Understanding of L’écriture Féminine.” Feminisms 7.2 (1981): 370-83. JSTOR. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Rabine, Leslie W. “Ecriture Feminine as Metaphor.” Cultural Critique 8 (1987): 19-44. JSTOR. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.