Irène Théry

Distinguishing Gender Publication date : October 18, 2007

Now that women are finally gaining access to top positions of leadership, that a woman is at the head of the French employers' union, and that the principle of parity has been inscribed in French law, has feminism become outmoded? If feminism has no new battles to fight should it limit itself to consolidating what has been achieved — or could there be a new lease of life for feminism?

In this book, Irène Théry argues in favour of a new form of feminism, one that is no longer defined in opposition to men, or in relation to them, but that, instead, insists on the common humanity of men and women.

Male and female should no longer be characterised in terms of natural attributes but of social functions. Théry's goal in this book is to make us understand the new forms of alliance and filiation: informal cohabitation, registered partnership, reconstituted families, homosexual couples and same-sex parents. She argues that if we regard maternity as a social relation rather than as a natural attribute, the issue of same-sex parenting becomes much clearer.

She re-examines feminism, taking into account its political, social, cultural and economic achievements, and goes on to imagine the next step that should be taken. Refusing to victimise women, or to blame men, she seeks to go beyond gender divisions. In the process, she presents the sociology of new types of couples and new forms of filiation, and shows why homosexual parenting and gay marriage have become possible.

This book opens new perspectives on how we regard gender relations.

Irène Théry is a director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and the author of Le Démariage (1993) and Couple, filiation et parenté aujourd'hui (1998).