rejected for being theoretically passé. Beauvoir was criticised for
‘re-heating’ Sartre by reflecting his male-centred and misogynistic views
and for privileging male values and male sexuality; this became known as
a phallocentric viewpoint, and Beauvoir’s feminism as ‘phallic feminism’.
The most strident critique of Beauvoir in this vein came from a group called
Psychanalyse et Politique, or ‘Psych et Po’, with whom the psychoanalytic
feminist Hélène Cixous was associated. The group’s journal, des femmes
hebdo, published a satirical piece on Beauvoir and the feminism
intellectuals who attempted to theorise and conceptualise not only
Otherness but the question of the human psyche and its very relationship with society in the twentieth century (see Cixous, 1975; Kristeva,
1982, 1991; Lacan, 1977).
Lacan explored the complexities inherent in any attempt to map the
self, the Other and their relationship with reality as produced in any
linguistic text. For Derrida, the complexities of the self meant that
attempts to define meaning based on the difference between opposites were fraught with the dangers of over-simplification and
and fear of each other (Cixous, 1993). The problems of responding to suffering bring us up against the limits as well as the strengths of the available mechanisms and presumptions regarding rights and ethics – whether liberal or other models. And the closer we come to the ‘face of the victim’ the more obdurate the problems can be. A change of government, or of particular laws, or a significant increase of resources can sometimes remove certain kinds of harm. The legal system, or a process of reconciliation, can be a public recognition of abuse, and may offer some