Philosophy as a feminist conquest

Under the Third Republic, citizenship and philosophy were combined in the masculine. However, pioneers managed to obtain university degrees and access positions of responsibility that were forbidden to them.

When in 1969 I chaired the boycott committee of the philosophy association (at the time I was proud of it, I am less so today), I was unaware, I admit, of what obstinacy, audacity and struggles it took for women to access this competition as well as teaching. of philosophy.

Annabelle Bonnet retraces these decades of fighting in a fascinating, very documented work, easy to read, which pleasantly combines individual stories, collective demands and relevant analyzes of what the researcher calls the pre-Simone de Beauvoir era in the Republic (p. 9). A reading to advise everyone, but in particular those who identify the Republic with the emancipation of women, as if there was an automaticity of cause and effect between the two.

Knowledge, power and gender difference

Two dates frame the story: 1880 and 1949. 1949, year of the publication of Simone de Beauvoir's book, The Second Sex, which enjoyed immediate editorial success. 1880, an interesting year for a double reason: it was on December 21, 1880 that, after two years of discussions, the law known as Camille Se was passed, which opened public secondary education to girls.; but 1880 was also the time when philosophy was instituted as the crowning achievement of secondary studies.

Crowning yes, but not for girls, because for them, there is no teaching of philosophy, this being instituted as knowledge to form an enlightened citizen, but women cannot be recognized as full citizens (p. 11). Citizenship and philosophy are therefore combined with the masculine, like suffrage improperly qualified asuniversal. Let us add that philosophy is also a means of accessing positions of high responsibility and that there is no question of leaving them to women.

A triple issue is thus combined: that of knowledge, that of power, that of the difference between the sexes. The Republic is not developing secondary education for girls with a view to emancipation, but so that they can better fulfill their role and destiny: to be good wives and good mothers. At most, we grant them, with this objective, an education in moral.

However, over the years and by overcoming a multitude of obstacles, a few women will succeed in conquering a small place in the field of philosophy by going about it in multiple ways: by teaching philosophy in fraud (p. 61), by showing, during an aptitude test carried out in 1888, that girls are capable of thinking and reasoning, or even by taking exams, because no text took care to state the prohibition, as it seemed so obvious that no woman would dare to apply for a license, a doctorate or an aggregation of philosophy. Well, there were!

Although it would take too long to cite all the names that Annabelle Bonnet's work brings out of oblivion or invisibility, names she had the good idea of ​​including in a table at the end of the work.

However, let us name here Julie Hasdeu, who is preparing a doctorate, but dies before supporting it; Jeanne Crouzet-Benaben, who obtained a degree in philosophy in 1895; Clemence Royer, self-taught recognized in Switzerland, who requests a room to teach at the Sorbonne without obtaining it; Camille Bos, first French doctor of philosophy, but in Switzerland; Jeanne Baudry, who in 1905 will be the first woman to become a professor of philosophy; Alice Sriad, first woman doctor of philosophy at a French university; Hlne Metzger, doctor of philosophy who was the first to experience a solid insertion in the French philosophical field (p. 215). Insertion note, because very often, even obtaining a diploma by a woman does not allow recognition, career, or teaching.

THE bergsonettes

Women and philosophy do not in any way mean common thinking and identical ideological (or political) positioning. Thus, Lontine Zanta, initially more of a feminist, rallied first to Maurras then to fascism, while Hlne Metzger remained familiar with republican feminist circles. Arrested because she was Jewish in 1944, she was murdered in Auschwitz at the age of 45.

It is interesting to note that those who manage to score a few points owe it not to Republican public education, but, in most of the trajectories recounted, their family, generally bourgeois and cultured, and particularly fathers favorable to the intellectual education of their daughters, as well as private institutions that are born the end of XIXe century with the aim of welcoming young girls wishing to go beyond what the public female high school program offers them (p. 97).

Let us cite the Mutualit de Maintenon, the private Svign college, directed by Mathilde Salomon, where Victor Delbos and Alain give lessons. Far from being feminist, the latter naturalizes and essentializes women as the emotional sexbut judges them capable of female knowledge (p. 103) thanks to the teaching he gives them!

It must be emphasized that some men, for sometimes divergent reasons, provide more or less significant support to those who demand access to philosophy for girls. To the fathers already mentioned, it is appropriate to add a few philosophers, Delbos and Alain previously cited, as well as Dominique Parodi, Lucien Lvy-Bruhl, Andr Lalande, Lon Brunschvicg, without forgetting Henri Bergson but in a very particular way, as shown in the interesting chapter titled The promise of bergsonettes (after the precious of XVIIe and the blue stockings of XIXe century). Because this is how the women who jostle each other are called as Bergson, first French media philosopher of the XXe century (p. 135), given to the Collge de France in 1912.

Bergsonettesas a sign of disqualification and delegitimization (and how not to think of the skirtsterm used almost a century later to designate women members of Alain Jupp's government?). The women who attend Bergson's lectures can only be socialites who come to show themselves in the entourage of a fashionable philosopher. Bergson, for his part, does not complain about this feminine presence, which he considers as legitimate as that of men.

We also read with interest this chapter which analyzes Bergsonian philosophy from the angle of gender, the author of Two sources of morality and religion developing a conception of the masculine and feminine going against the grain of dominant stereotypes: the emotion traditionally devalued as feminine, he substitutes a valorization, placing it at the center of the creative process, but considering it as an almost exclusively masculine capacity!

No philosophy under police protection

In this area of ​​philosophy as in many others, the First World War favored the entry of women philosophers into teaching, with many men being absent.

But it was not until 1924 that all male competitive examinations and certificates were accessible to women and that secondary education offered girls and boys the same programs, after more than forty years of individual battles and collective struggles for this equality to take root in the Republic (p. 249). And it was only in 1953 that a woman Genevive Rodis-Lewis obtained a chair of philosophy at the university!

In the pilogue, the work devotes a few pages relating to Simone de Beauvoir and Dina Dreyfus. The first is known and I will not return to it here. Dina Dreyfus, alas, seen more as the first wife of Claude Lvi-Strauss than as a philosopher, nevertheless had an important institutional role, particularly in the teaching of philosophy. She was the first female inspector (I am feminizing, but she preferred inspector) general philosophy.

It was she who chaired the philosophy jury in the spring of 1969. The test took place at the Sainte-Genevive library in Paris. Dina Dreyfus was against the boycott, but she was unable to prevent herself from speaking out. A majority of candidates declared themselves in favor of boycotting the competition. The police, present in the street since the morning, then entered the room where we were gathered to separate it in two: on one side, those who wanted to take the exam and, on the other, those who refused and were invited. leave.

But there was no competition that day. Because, for the republican philosopher that Dina Dreyfus was, an aggregation of philosophy under the protection of the police could not be imagined.