I found out about Helene Cixous in my feminist theory class during the fall semester of 2007. Diana Tigerlily introduced us to Cixous during a section on – appropriately enough – French feminism. Cixous resonated with me rather intensely and I remember finishing “The Laugh of the Medusa” feeling immensely satisfied with what I’d absorbed. I went to class the next week ready to discuss and was more talkative in that class than I had been in any other, which was a personal accomplishment in itself.

The phrase “Write your self. Your body must be heard” has echoed in my brain since the very beginning, and it has become one of my mantras in both my writing and general navigating of the world. She continues:

To write. An act which will not only “realize” the decensored relation of woman to her sexuality, to her womanly being, giving  her access to her native strength; it will give her back her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her immense bodily territories which have been kept under seal (880).

Although Cixous does not discourage men from writing and expressing their selves, her focus on women’s writing is obvious from a feminist perspective; as many of our foremothers have pointed out, the very language (both written and spoken) in which we participate is birthed from patriarchal and racist mindsets or  “governed by the phallus” (881). This reclamation of linguistics and text is as important – if not more so – than the reclamation of our bodies, and Cixous argues that the two are inseparable. Aside from the literal bodily connection between the mind and the pen (the keyboard, the typewriter), writing provides a distinct voice to each person, a voice that had not been – and, indeed is still not always – given to women of any color or creed.

I have used “write your self” as a tagline inside notebooks that I have designed and either given to friends or listed for sale because I also find the act of writing to be tied so closely to the body. In my own writing, whether poetry or blog entries (which I feel are becoming an essential form of expression) I try to let my voice be heard through specific words (chosen of fabricated), punctuation, use of asides, etc. because it gives me a sense of purpose and selfhood.

Indeed, Cixous talks about the individuality of each woman that can be found through her body and through the expression of her essential self (emphasis original):

What strikes me is the infinite richness of [women’s] individual constitutions: you can’t talk about a female sexuality, uniform, homogeneous, classifiable into codes – any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another. Women’s imaginary is inexhaustible, like music, painting, writing: their stream of phantasms is incredible (876).

Cixous tells of imaginary worlds within each woman, a place where she has had ultimate rule all of her life but often chooses not to express. She urges us to hone in on this world and exclaim “I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs” (876). These lines fill me with so much hope and encouragement that I tear up each time I read them. To think that it is possible to completely let go of societal pressures, guilt complexes placed upon our sex (referred to by Cixous on page 878 as an “antinarcissism” or “the infamous logic of antilove”) is just awe-inspiring.