jeudi 12 janvier 2012

JE: 'Feminist' opposition to evolutionary theories/eugenics at the turn of the XXth century

January 13, 2012 (GRER/SAGEF)

In the wake of Darwinism, at the end of the XIXth century and beginning of the XXth Century, it would seem that the majority of women, whether they be feminist or anti-feminist, tended to embrace evolutionary theories in that they believed in deterministic biological differences between men and women. Some challenged the male bias inherent to these « scientific » theories and presented pseudo-scientific narratives that portrayed women as « superior » to men. (eg, In the United States, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, The Sexes Throughout Nature (1875) or Eliza Burt Gamble, The Evolution of Woman: An Inquiry Into The Dogma Of her Inferiority To Man (1894). In Britain, Frances Swiney, The Awakening of Women or Woman's Part in Evolution, 1899)
Other adhered to eugenic theories and argued (depending on their understanding of feminism) either in favour of « feminist » or « anti-feminist » measures to protect the « Mothers of the Race » (eg. Elizabeth Sloan Chesser, Woman, Marriage and Motherhood, 1913, Mary Scharlieb, Woman and Race-Regeneration, 1912 or, Arabella Kenealy, Feminism and Sex-Extinction, 1920.)
At the turn of the XXth Century, a minority, though, disputed these theories and insisted on culturally constructed differences rather than biologically inherent sex characteristics.

The aim of the research day is to study the opposition to the early evolutionary/eugenic theories.

Morning : 10am – 12.30pm
  • Shannon Delorme, Université Paris Diderot: « Arabella Buckley »
  • Fabienne Moine, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre-La Défense : « Darwinism Revisited by Victorian Women Poets: Natural or Cultural Selection »
Afternoon : 2pm – 4.30pm
  • Florence Binard, Université Paris Diderot : « Opposition to eugenics in The Freewoman, 1911-12 »
  • Round table : « Feminist opposition to darwinism: mission impossible? »
Participants : Florence Binard, Fabienne Moine, Janie Mortier, Marie Terrier, Michel Prum, Shannon Delorme.

UFR EILA, 5 rue Watt, 75013 Paris
2è étage, pièce 207.

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