Ytspänningar - Feminister, feminismer, femmefigurationer

Ulrika Dahl


Departing from contemporary femme movements, this essay discusses some ”surface tensions” within feminist and queer theory concerning the subject of femininity and in particular its relationship to superficiality and surfaces. Invoking the term ”surface tension”, drawn from chemistry, it suggests that it is the tension between inside/depth and outside/impression that produces the image of a surface and that this metaphor can be used to understand tensions around the very topic of the seemingly fleeting and superficial. By exploring femme as simultaneously a body of flesh and of knowledge, the article presents femme as a feminist figuration that might shed new light on understandings of both femininity and feminist history. Through re-reading some feminist classics on the topic of femininity, the essay discusses some of the ways that it has become tied to superficiality and also proposes that in fact, femininity is no superficial matter. Drawing on multi-sited examples of how contemporary femmes understand, incorporate and embody feminist histories the essay then proposes some ways that we might reconsider such assumptions both politically and theoretically. As a contribution to critical femininity studies and to écriture femme-inine, the essay thus creatively strives to simultaneously refigure femme within a larger register of the genre of femininity, reconsider the place of feminist archives and embodied memories, and reconceptualize the alleged surface/superficiality of femininity through the concept of somatechnical femmebodiment.

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