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Beautiful Theology

Signifying truth in more than words alone

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sexes and Genealogies, “Divine Women”


We’re dipping into twop essays from Irigaray, and I’ll address them pretty cursorily online; I’ve already heard some cries of vexation from the seminar about these, so I’ll concentrate my energies on talking through specific problems that arise in our discussion.

That being said, “Divine Women” raises issues that pertain very directly to the questions of representation, self-representation, imagination, expression, and beauty that we’ve been considering all along. Irigaray poses the question of how our self-understandings, shaped by agencies over which we do not exercise control, have limited our growth into the fullness of the possibilities open to us. Specifically, she asks why women cannot become divine (in the way that the Incarnation has united divinity with masculinity).
If we resist hierarchies (the man/woman hierarchy, or state/woman, or a certain kind of God/woman, or machine/woman), only to fall back into the power (pouvoir) of nature/woman, animal/woman, even matriarchs/women, women/women, we have not made much progress.
Irigaray takes her point of departure from the Feuerbachian that God’s identity amounts to the heavenward projection of human identity and aspiration — though she calls attention to the masculinity of the picture Feuerbach sketches. Man can exist, can envision his identity as a history and a project, without reference to women; men and their God define reality and their prospect. Women — without a God to call their own — derive their identity (under current circumstances) through men and men’s God, and women have no access to divinity that has not been mediated by masculinity.

Irigaray plays with God, to elicit clues to how women might have unmediated access to divinity. Adopting Feuerbach’s characterization of God as magnifying mirror for Man, Irigaray imagines the mirror as a clue to women’s emergence/fulfillment as an ideal ( non-male-mediated ideal); hence, in this essay, the mirror signifies the double-sided danger/possibility of reduction to an object of the other’pleasure (on one hand) or emergence as a self-projecting beauty (on the other, an ideal divine woman). A transcendent abstraction does not suffice for women to become; women as much as men need an Incarnation (“what he did not assume, he did not redeem” cast in gender-theological terms). . . .

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