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Feminist Theory

Introduction to feminism and how this influences literary criticism.
by

Stephanie Fillion

on 24 September 2015

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Transcript of Feminist Theory

What exactly is "feminism" and how do we use it as a "lens" through which to analyze literature?
Feminist Theory
Simply the belief that both genders are equal (though not necessarily the same) and deserve equal treatment, equal rights, and equal opportunity.
So, what exactly is feminism?
First Wave--Late 19th Century-Early 20th Century
History of the Women's Movement
Gaining the right to vote
Right to be educated
Better working conditions
Fight against "double standard" of sexuality
Second Wave--Early 1960s-Late 1980s
History of the Women's Movement (cont.)
Championed the abolition of slavery--slaves were emancipated in 1865
Fought for women's right to vote--19th Amendment passed in 1919 in USA (and Canada)
What did they accomplish?
fight against sexism, inequality, and discrimination based on gender
Women's Liberation
Literary Theory--Putting on a Feminist Lens
So, what does this have to do with
English Class???
When reading from a feminist perspective, ask yourself these things:
How are males and females portrayed in the text?
What gender is the author and how might this be relevant to how their work is written or received?
Does the text embrace or confront the prevailing ideologies of the day related to gender?
How does your gender as the reader impact your view and understanding of a text?
Patriarchy:
a social system in which the father or eldest male is head of the household, has authority over women and children. Patriarchy also refers to a system of government by males, and to the dominance of men in social or cultural systems. It may also include title being traced through the male line”
Some definitions to help you out:
Societal Norms
refer to “patterns of behaviour in a particular group, community, or culture, accepted as normal and to which an individual is expected to conform”. In other words, societal norms are accepted behaviours that reflect the values and beliefs of the dominant group in a given society. In order to appear “normal” one must adhere to these norms.
refers to the ways different types of power interact in a given scenario or situation. From a feminist perspective, women are often dominated by power structures outside of their control (societal, religious, etc.). However, this does not mean that women do not possess other kinds of power within these more dominant power structures (consider sexual power).
Power Dynamics
Think about Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet...
Theory in Action
How are the female characters portrayed vs. the male characters?
How does patriarchy play a role in the events that transpire?
Who has the power in the relationship? Romeo or Juliet? In what ways do each of them gain or lose power?
How do the societal norms of the day impact how the events play out?
If this play were written today, how would Juliet be written differently?
How are male and female characters portrayed?
What assumptions are made about the characters based on their gender (either by the author or the characters in the story)?
Does the story challenge or promote male or female stereotypes?
When was the story written, and how did the era in which it was written influence its portrayal of gender roles?
Are authentic female perspectives explored in the story, or is it dominated by male points of view?
Who holds the power? How do they assert their power?
Questions the Feminist Literary Critic
Asks when Reading a Text:
Consider the following advertisements through a feminist lens...
Text reads: Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn't have to fire a shot to floor her. After one look at his Mr. Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her...
Now that we've applied feminist criticism
to some advertisements, let's shift our focus to literature...
Read Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour". Remember to put on the feminist lens while reading this story.
Is Feminism still
relevant today?


You be the judge...
Even though "feminist" theory
seems to imply that we are focusing
only on women, that is not necessarily
the case. Feminist theory focuses on
gender
and its impact on the literature.
Full transcript