The of themselves and each other. Women

The Themes of Ecriture
Feminine in “The Laugh of the Medusa”

Helene Cixous,
in her rhetorical essay “The Laugh of the Medusa”, introduces the concept of ecriture
feminine. As she directly speaks to her female
audience, she urges to persuade the reader to write with desire from within
one’s body, and break the boundaries that were created by the phallocentric
society. Through the context of male and female corporeality, she challenges
and critiques psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. The main themes of phallocentrism, bisexuality, oral speech,
motherhood, and desire are inscribed through her usage of metaphors and
mythological references like the story of the Medusa.

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In her essay,
Cixous asserts for women to express themselves through writing and to break
apart from the dark phallocentric views of the patriarchal society. She uses the metaphor “dark” to show the obscure ideology that the
male-controlled world has created for women to think of themselves. This dark ideology causes them to degrade themselves, to be
ashamed of their bodies, and to belittle their capacities as women. Cixous also uses the metaphor of the South African Apartheid, she
says “Your continent is dark. Dark is dangerous. You can’t see
anything in the dark, you’re afraid. Don’t move, you might fall. Most of all don’t go into the forest. And so we have internalized this
horror of dark” (p.878).  Just like the British
limited the South Africans, men have shaped how women think of themselves. They
have bordered their mindsets with limitations for them not to explore, not to
make moves and decisions, and caused women to be afraid of themselves and each
other. Women are silenced and their opinion hold no value according to
the dark man’s world.

However, Cixous
gives examples of her breakthrough as she explains how she was ashamed to be
silent. She was afraid to speak against the phallocentric barrier, but the
desire to bring out something new into the world gave her strength to release
her mind. In reasoning to why women are afraid to write, she explains
“because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the
great-that is, for ‘great men’; and it’s ‘silly'” (p.876). Furthermore, if only the great are capable of writing, Cixous
reinforces that women are more than capable to express their great ideas.

Cixous also challenges
the phallocentric ideology when speaking about bisexuality. She clears the misconception of bisexuality that is created by
“phallocentric representationalism” with a definition:

that is, each one’s location in self of the presence-variously manifest and
insistent according to each person, male or female– of both sexes,
nonexclusion either of the difference or of one sex, and from this
“self-permission,” multiplication of the efforts of the effects of the
inscription of desire, over all parts of my body and the other body” (p.884).

She goes on to explain that women are capable of being bisexual but
men aren’t because they glorify their “phallus monosexuality”. It is as if man is too proud of their genitals to become bisexual. She challenges Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis theories as it
relates to castration. She
deconstructs his theory of man being at a higher ranking than woman, just
because of his biological phallus feature. She also
criticizes Jacques Lacan’s theory of Lack, which follows the Freudian theory. Joel Dor clarifies his theory in his book, Introduction to the
Reading of Lacan, in which he goes on to say the women’s desire for the male
body is only because they don’t have a penis (Dor 236). Furthermore, these phallic glorified views are deconstructed by
Cixous as she gives a metaphor of a bank. She says, “But
we are too obliged to deposit our lives in their banks of lack” (p.884). Women are encouraged by Cixous to not listen to these theories as
they have made their desires into a reality. These “sirens”
have created generations of oppression for the woman in which they degrade her
because of what organs she was born with. Man has enforced fear and
shamefulness in a woman because of her “lack”.  

Throughout the
text, the way Cixous describes the concept of other sexuality is very similar
to the concept of ecriture feminine. She says “To
admit that writing is precisely working in the in-between, inspecting the
process of the same and of the other without which nothing can live, undoing
the work of death-to admit this is to want the two, as well as both, the
ensemble of one and the other” (p.883). In this quote,
she explains feminine writing cannot be defined or theorized, as it is the combination
and multiplication of ideas that are construed from other subjects.