Lacanian Review Online: The Feminine Body

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)

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LRO 196
4th December 2019




The Dark Side of the Moon
Gustavo Dessal
 

It will undoubtedly be a titanic task, but one day we will have to rewrite the entire history of Humanity from the gynaecocentric perspective. The role of women in civilization, which has always remained in the shadows, has little by little been emerging in recent decades. It cannot yet emerge in all its force because it will probably oblige us to reconsider most of our categories, that is, thought as a whole (if that means anything).

It will be a cataclysm, no less incommensurable than that entailed by the encounter with an extraterrestrial civilization. But we must face up to it, because if life on Earth still has any chance of enduring, it will depend to a large extent on the complete reversal of the fabulous historical process by which the civilizing symbol was associated with patriarchy. All of Western civilization, which had its origin in ancient Greece, reflects the confrontation in the plane of myth between the original matriarchy and the final ascent of the Father.

That the feminine body was, among many other things, a decisive factor in politics (and in war, which is nothing other than its prolongation, dixit Clausewitz) has ceased to be a novelty in order to become a truth that can no longer be disguised. An extraordinary history now begins to come to light, that of the role of women in the race for the conquest of space. For many years the results of the studies by W. Randolph Lovelace, a medical doctor from Harvard University, considered one of the founders of aerospace medicine, have been hidden. Lovelace was contracted by NASA to initiate studies aimed at considering whether men or women were better suited to being sent on the first space mission. The results demonstrating the physical and psychological superiority of women were so overwhelming that NASA and the American Congress had to implement all kinds of maneuvers to hide them. The Russians had meanwhile reached the same conclusion.

To reinforce his conclusions, Lovelace subjected female candidates to more demanding tests than those that the men had to go through: sensory deprivation, gyroscopic tests, cardiac resistance and other experiments so extreme that the examiners themselves interrupted them, although the female candidates endured all this much better than their male colleagues. An anecdote says that Alan Shepard, one of the first astronauts, pressed the relief button in almost every exercise. The results were so conclusive that NASA began boycotting Lovelace's studies and depriving him of research laboratories.

And what was the argument that NASA, the United States Congress and the organs of power in general (backed by John Glenn, who declared before the Senate that “the prevailing social order could not accept women in this role”) used to put an end to the Woman in Space Program project? Menstruation. They advised that women be separated from the program on account of the risks that the menstrual cycle and its psychological concomitants could affect the perfect synchronization between astronauts and complex aerospace machinery.

When Sally Ride became the first woman to carry out a one-week space mission in 1983, the engineers in charge of preparing her team asked her if she considered one hundred tampons sufficient. In her memoirs, Ride evokes with irony "the profound wisdom of the engineers about the female body." One hundred tampons for one week! Faced with the astronaut's response that this amount was ridiculously exaggerated, the experts said that they "didn't want to take any risks."

Men could put men on the moon. But still, no matter how ingenious they are, they have no idea what a woman is. Even menstruation seems something risky to them. They unquestionably know more about black holes than about the dark feminine continent, which they have probed with every imaginable instrument in order to reach the most idiotic conclusions.
 

Translated by Roger Litten

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