marie-hélène le ny

  Infinités plurielles


"The differential valency of the sexes
is how I refer to a type of universal relationship where the genders are always placed in a system of values which puts positive values on the side of the man and negative values on the side of the woman. This term, taken from chemistry, seemed appropriate for what I wanted to say, with this particular equilibrium between value and balance. It appears that this gender relationship is probably at the root of a mental organisation which allows us to think and which forces us to use dualist terms, which organise the universe in both a concrete and abstract way. Some of these terms are very simple: hot and cold, dry and moist, healthy and unhealthy, etc.; others are more philosophical, such as the one and the multiple, the simple and the complex, transcendence and immanence. All societies use a binary language which consists in evaluating the place vested to each gender.


Our societies would not be what they are if there had not been male domination at the beginning. It is the princeps domination which provided the model for all other types of domination: master/slave, coloniser/colonised, boss/worker, healthy/disabled. All relationships of domination use the same parade of measures preventing the dominated party from being considered a person in their own right. It is the impossibility to access education, because education opens the critical mind and sets free – this is why girls are deprived more of education – and also the impossibility to access functions of power or responsibility. Everything is masked in a language of contempt which goes from one sex to the other, the language of subordination. We talk of stereotypes and prejudices, these preconceived ideas which establish the entire system; they are the very foundation of it and the way in which the language of domination is expressed.”

Françoise Héritier
Irène Joliot-Curie Prize-winner 2003 -
Anthropologist, Emeritus Professor at Collège de France