Christine Delphy

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Christine Delphy (born 1941) is a French sociologist, feminist, writer and theorist. She was a co-founder of the review Nouvelles questions féministes (New Feminist Issues) with Simone de Beauvoir in 1977.[1][2][3]


Delphy studied sociology at the University of Paris and the University of California, Berkeley. She worked in 1965 for the Washington Urban League then began working for Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris in 1966. After May 1968 events, Christine Delphy took part in the women's liberation movement (Mouvement de Libération des Femmes called MLF) and was one of the few women who brought flowers to the "wife of the unknown soldier" in August 1970. It was the first action of the MLF that received attention in the medias.[4] Delphy is openly lesbian.[5] She was a member of the Gouines rouges ("Red Lesbian").[6]

Delphy is one of the feminists who opposed the law that forbids wearing the Muslim scarf (hijab) at schools in France, 2004.[2] She denounces the instrumentalisation of feminism for racist purposes.


Material Feminism

Delphy's works are mostly about feminism and class-struggle issues.[1] She created Material feminism, which is not just socialist feminism but applies a materialist approach to gender relations. For Karl Marx class is a position in the mode of production; for Delphy gender is also a position in the mode of production (domestic labour). So the main enemy of women is not capitalism but patriarchy.[7] The sex comes after the gender (hierarchy) and is used to legitimate the domination.[8]

Christine Delphy had a big influence on Monique Wittig, who had a big influence on Judith Butler. But Judith Butler de-emphasizes materialist analysis. For her, women are principally a cultural construction. Christine Delphy writes that this 'cultural turn' has dismissed the very real oppression of women.[9]

Against Essentialism and the so-called "French Feminism"

Delphy challenges the biological essentialist view of gender and fights against essentialism, even when it comes from the women's movement.[10] She also fights against what she called "the invention of 'french Feminism'": Most French feminists are against essentialism and very few support what was called "French Feminism" in the United States. For Delphy, the American invention of "French Feminism" had a political purpose: the acceptance of essentialism among Anglo-American feminists (it was expected they would think, If French women think this way, we have to respect/accept this.[11]

All these ideas are elaborated in many articles from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in "Questions féministes" and "Nouvelles questions féministes" and were published in the following books: L'Ennemi principal, tome 1 : L'Économie politique du patriarcat (1997) and L'Ennemi principal, tome 2 : Penser le genre (2001).


  • L’Ennemi principal (The Main Enemy, 1970)[1]
  • Close to Home (1984)[1]
  • L’Ennemi principal 1, Économie politique du patriarcat, Syllepse, "Nouvelles Questions féministes", 1998.
  • L’Ennemi principal 2, Penser le genre, Syllepse, "Nouvelles Questions féministes", 2001.
  • Avec Sylvie Chaperon (dir.), Le Cinquantenaire du Deuxième Sexe, Syllepse, 2002.
  • Classer, dominer, Qui sont les "autres" ?, La Fabrique, 2008, ISBN 2-913372-82-1.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ann Comire and Deborah Klezmer, ed. (2007). Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women through the Ages. Waterford CT: Yorkin. →Delphy, Christine.
  2. ^ a b Christine Delphy,
  3. ^ Christine Delphy,
  4. ^ Françoise Picq, Liberation des femmes, les années mouvement, 1990
  5. ^ Stevi Jackson, Christine Delphy, Sage Publications Ltd, 1996, p. 190 ISBN 0-8039-8869-9
  6. ^ Abigail Gregory, Ursula Tidd, Women in Contemporary France, Berg Publishers, 2000, p. 178 [1]
  7. ^ See "L'énemi principal (The Main Enemy)" in Christine Delphy, L'Ennemi principal, tome 1 : L'Économie politique du patriarcat (1997)
  8. ^ Christine Delphy, L'Ennemi principal, tome 2 : Penser le genre (2001)
  9. ^ Christine Delphy et Sylvie Chaperon, Cinquantenaire du deuxième sexe : Colloque international Simone de Beauvoir (2001)
  10. ^ See "Protofeminism and antifeminism" in Christine Delphy, L'Ennemi principal, tome 1 : L'Économie politique du patriarcat (1997)
  11. ^ See "L'invention du 'French Feminism': une démarche essentielle", in Christine Delphy, L'Ennemi principal, tome 2 : Penser le genre (2001)