As a white woman, Cixous draws upon the oppression placed upon her black “sisters” (to steal a term from popular culture), expressing the double negative placed upon black women because they are both black and women. On page 887 of “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Cixous speaks of women “from afar, from always,” returning to reclaim and write their selves. She describes the condemnation of these women by men (interpreted as the patriarchy in general) as well as “the sex cops [who] bar their threatening return” as follows:

You can incarcerate them, slow them down, get away with the old Apartheid routine, but for a time only. [Sidenote: I was reminded of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” while reading this sentence.] As soon as they begin to speak, at the same time as they’re taught their name, they can be taught that their territory is black: because you are Africa, you are black.

This essentializing viewpoint describes the process of colonization, segregation (and the “old Apartheid routine”) as well as other ways in which “whiteness” has powered over – in fact has written over – “blackness” and other racial and ethnic differences. She continues to give the reasoning behind the atrocities:

[These women are taught] Your continent is dark. Dark is dangerous. You can’t see anything in the dark, you’re afraid. Don’t move, you might fall. Most of all, don’t go into the forest. And so we have internalized this horror of the dark.

After pointing out the stereotypes surrounding this racialized other (and this is my favorite part), Cixous decides to vocally reject these notions of fear, repression, and ignorance. She does not avoid the dark forest, unafraid of the difference constructed by our cultures. She speaks up against other-ization by attempting to embody the voice of the oppressed, which, as a(n angry) woman, she can do with some ease:

We the precocious, we the repressed of culture, our lovely mouths gagged with pollen, our wind knocked out of us, we the labyrinths, the ladders, the trampled spaces, the bevies – we are black and we are beautiful.

We’re stormy, and that which is ours breaks loose from us without our fearing any deliberation. Our glances, our smiles, are spent; laughs exude from our mouths; our blood flows and we extend ourselves without ever reaching an end; we never hold back our thoughts, our signs, our writing; and we’re not afraid of lacking.

…From now on, who, if we say so, can say no to us? We’ve come back from always.

As I read this, I think about bell hooks and her notions of talking back and speaking out, of spreading black female voices and infiltrating a world of writing which is still male- and white-centered. There is also an obvious Freudian allusion in the passage where she states, “we’re not afraid of lacking,” of being seen as inferior, of being ostracized for who “we” are. The intersection of race and gender (as well as sexuality because each is inseparable, especially when looking at Cixous’s texts) is present here and is being deconstructed to produce a new and transgressing viewpoint of blackness as beautiful and as something to be embraced rather than avoided. Cixous is stating that there is not a lack in oppression; there is no inherent fault or flaw in the individuals or in the race itself, but rather in the institution causing the fear of darkness.

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