Being Cliched: Women’s Talk and Feminine Subjectivities

  • Niamh Stephenson


In this chapter, I discuss ways of theorising the relationship between women’s subjectivities and social practices of talk. I draw on sexual difference feminism (e.g. Irigaray, 1977; Irigaray 1985a; Irigaray 1985b; Irigaray, 1993) to argue for the need to move beyond phallocentric accounts of women’s subjectivities, and to theorise power relations as intrinsic to social practices of talk (rather than describing the operation of power as disruptive of ordinary conversation). This approach to power offers a critique of many claims to equality between the sexes, on the basis that such claims perpetuate phallocentric versions of subjectivity. But here, I draw on a notion of “fictional equality” (Sennett, 1976), arguing that particular conventions which involve acting as if equality existed can be thought to result in the subversion of phallocentric subjectivities. This is because conventions of talk in which the subject is constituted as self-distanced might undermine the unitary, self-knowing attributes of phallocentric subjectivity. My argument begins with, and progresses through a discussion of one particular account of a young woman talking to a man on a bus.


Social Practice Social Convention Public Realm Symbolic Order False Consciousness 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Niamh Stephenson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Western SydneyNepeanAustralia

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