Was Luce Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Woman socially relevant?
Yes, and it has also had a tremendous influence on students and scholars of French feminist philosophy. In the context of the women’s health movement in the United States during the 1970s, it expressed part of the spirit of the gynecological aspect of women’s liberation. Women began to rebel about the fact that there were so few women doctors and that male doctors treated their reproductive and child birth issues in repressive ways. Women began to talk more openly about their feelings of shame about their own bodies.
Members of some women’s collectives began giving themselves and their friends gynecological examinations, and others, without prior medical training, taught themselves how to administer abortions. At the same time, the practices of natural childbirth (childbirth without medication) and nursing, which until then had been the only resort for many poor women, were advocated for privileged women, for the health of both mothers and babies. These examples of women taking responsibility for their health were motivated both by an ideology of rebellion against patriarchy and the goal of improving women’s health.