1. Problem and Question
In the May issue of the Cicero magazine Eva Herman puts up a provocative question: “Die Emanzipation- ein Irrtum?” Her answer is yes. She finds that feminism has deconstructed typical roles and clichés of women and men. Women have been forced into emancipation, into adapting atypical (male) behaviours, while their natural duty of motherhood is neglected. Torn apart between atypical and typical demands women inevitably fail. Herman’s conclusion is that emancipation is a failure which needs to be reversed. She might deliver sound arguments but the premises she draws upon are stunning. As she declares emancipation a failure she must conceive of it as a completed yet not accomplished endeavour. She degrades female emancipation and equality of genders a hopeless and dysfunctional idea which has proved to be a utopia of feminists. Contemporary feminists, on the other hand, would argue that emancipation is still in progress. As it has not ended yet Herman would be rash and biased in her judgement. Ironically, Herman shares her conviction of a concluded emancipation with others not opposed to it. It is true, however, that feminism as a political position is taking a rest while suspension of equal rights continues. Sexism in all its facets continues. The questions interconnected with this problem are: What hinders women from a discernment of disadvantage towards men? Why does feminism loose political and social agency? Why does the supremacy of the male sex continue? Why do women like Eva Herman encourage persons of the same sex to discard self realization?
2. Thesis and Theory
A thesis, an answer, could be: The endeavour of achieving equality is stuck because women find themselves in a system-conditioned double concurrence. On the one side women have to challenge male hegemony, on the other side they continuously challenge each other. Intra-sexual feminine rivalry perpetuates asymmetry of sexes and genders. Women do not “sororize” (like men fraternize) while, at the same time, acting in concert would be quite necessary.
Double concurrence is maintained through discourses of the system (Gesamtgesellschaft) and its integrated functional systems like politics, society, education, religion, and economy. In all these systems/discourses women are subject to mechanism of not only male dominance but also of intra-sexual rivalry ; language and social practices divide them. Discourse provokes and maintains cleavages among women putting them into a permanent, exhausting situation of double concurrence. Discursive double concurrence is mainstream and dominant in public life. Intra-sexual and inter-sexual solidarity solely occurs in subcultures.
An introductory review on Herman´s critic was chosen as it exemplifies one grave, female cleavage in past and contemporary discourse: that between feminists and of those strongly opposed to it. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Magarete Atwood is a piece of literature which makes double concurrence a topic. While the plot is fictional its problematic content is quite real. An analysis of the novel can hence show how system conditioned double concurrence works.
3. Analysis of the Novel
A discourse analysis is considered an appropriate approach as it aims to find out how social identities are constructed, how different logics of public and private choice work, and how hegemonies and powers are formatted. Discourse theory assumes that all objects are meaningful, and that their meaning is conferred by historically (dimension of time and space) specific systems of rules. Meaning is inherent in objects but “deferred” according to the context it appears in. The object itself exists and is stable, but its meaning is unstable as speaker’s attribute different values/functions to it. The objects treated in discourse theory are the objects that constitute the discursive, or that occur in the theoretical horizon of discourse theory.
Discourse is understood as a complex web of social relations and practices that are intrinsically political and which are established around a nodal point. Nodal points are signifiers or points of reference that bind together a particular system of meaning relations. The discourse which maintains double concurrence is established around the nodal point of sexuality/fertility. Several elements of this discourse will be scrutinized, namely: body, status, sexual orientation, rituals, and supervision/punishment. Indeed, these elements function as techniques of inter-sexual and intra-sexual concurrence while intra-sexual rivalry is eclipsed by men-dominated inter-sexual rivalry. The forthcoming analysis is to show how these elements establish an unjust, a discriminating, dystopian, and double concurrence society. It borrows some ideas from Michel Foucault for theoretical back up.
 Eva Herman: Die Emanzipation: Ein Irrtum? Online-Version: http://www.cicero.de/839.php?ausgabe= 05/2006 (Download 05.24.2006
 Term borrowed from Magarete Atwood (1998): The Handmaid´s Tale, New York, p. 11
 Forthcoming the term intra-sexual rivalry denotes rivalry among women.
 David Horwath and Yannis Stavrakakis (2000): Introducing Discourse Theory and Political Analysis, in: David Horwath, Aletta J. Norval and Yannis Stavrakakis: Discourse Theory and Political Analysis: Identities, Hegemonies and Social Change, New York, pp. 1-22
 op. cit.