vol 10 - 1984

The second wave of feminism has always been deeply and deliberately engaged in personal and emotional questions, which have been central to its political development. The insistence that "the personal is political" is so firmly established within our movement that it no longer attracts much attention from feminist theorists. However, in this issue of Feminist Studies, two provocative essays by Berenice Fisher and Elizabeth Wilson challenge us to reexamine some long-standing presumptions embedded in contemporary feminism and to probe the complexities of the implicit moral code they have generated. In "Guilt and Shame in the Women's Movement," Fisher points out that "guilt" is a basic theme in feminist discourse, but that the term is most often used to refer to psychological judgments of the self rather than judgments of actual wrongdoing. By thus conflating "guilt" and "shame"—defined as a judgment that one has failed to live up to an ideal—feminists have been unable to gain insight from these emotions into the political problems to which these moral judgments implicitly refer. Fisher's essay explores the judgment of shame in relation to the feminist ideal of political action, as it emerged out of the civil rights movement. She suggests that the contradictions inherent in the gap between this ideal and the realities of social existence generate shame, and she explores the implications of this dynamic for feminist intellectuals in particular.

Elizabeth Wilson's essay, "Forbidden Love," also ventures onto the difficult terrain of feminist moral judgments, but in relation to a very different object: lesbianism. Wilson chronicles the historical shift from nineteenth-century cultural constructions of lesbianism as a form of rebellion, and as totally antithetical to femininity, to contemporary feminist conceptions of lesbianism as "the transcendent moment of sisterhood." Reflecting on her own personal history as a pre-women's movement lesbian, who felt (and yet suppressed) intense hostility to the idea of lesbianism as a form of identification with other women, Wilson argues that feminists were far too quick to dismiss both the nineteenthcentury notion of the lesbian as rebel and the associated imagery of romanticism itself. Romanticism, she suggests, with its evocations of danger and tormented passion, is a critical aspect of eroticism, both for lesbian and heterosexual women. Wilson calls for a reevaluation of romanticism in its full complexity within the ongoing feminist debates about sexuality.



Berenice Fisher
Guilt and Shame in the Women's Movement:
The Radical Ideal of Action and
Its Meaning for Feminist Intellectuals

Elizabeth Wilson
Forbidden Love

Kathleen Fraser

Karen Halttunen
The Domestic Drama of Louisa May Alcott

Dodie Bellamy
The Debbies I Have Known

Eliana Moya-Raggio
Arpilleras: Chilean Culture of Resistance

Lin Nelson
Promise Her Everything: The Nuclear
Power Industry's Agenda for Women

Elsa Dialer
Women and Socialist Movements:
A Review Essay

Bonnie A. Nardi
The Height of Her Powers: Margaret
Mead's Samoa

Nancy Hartsock
Comment and Debate: Feminists, Black Candidates,
and Local Politics: A Report from Baltimore

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