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Feminist Theory

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Brittany Hall

on 26 February 2013

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Transcript of Feminist Theory

Feminist Theory Words You Should Know American Feminism Today Just to Clarify... How to Apply the
Theory How it All Began... The Other (149,320): A term used in feminist criticism (the "not-male" and thus unimportant) and postcolonialism to mean "different from" and unimportant, that which is dominated

Gynocriticism (153, 312): from Showalter; synonymous with the study of women as writers. Provides critics with four models about the nature of women's writing that help answer some of the chief concerns of feminist criticism

Chora (156, 305): continuous flow of fluidity or rhythm that characterizes the imaginary order of psychic development

l'écriture féminine (157,308): refers specifically to "women's writing"; the idea that the way women write is fundamentally different than that of men.

Senior Seminar
Literary Criticism Emphasized repression

Major Concern: The restoration and inclusion of the writings of female writers to the literary canon

1998: Women still "outsiders" at American universities and on college campuses

Free women from stereotypes like "the angel in the house" and "the madwoman in the attic" (155) Some Scholars divide feminism into four groups:
Anglo-American feminisms
Poststructuralist feminisms
Materialist feminisms
Postmodern feminisms

Other critics use subcategories (from 9-30)

Amazon feminism: female images that symbolize the physiques of female athletes and physical equality of both male and female

Cultural feminism - personality and biological differences exist between men and women

Eco-feminism - assumes patriarchal societies are relatively new and society's original condition was matriarchal

Separatist feminism - advocates partial or total separation from men

Third-world feminism / Postcolonial feminism - rejects the phallocentric, patriarchal system established by white males and recognizes that it is engaged in a political and social struggle against male dominance Advocate for many different voices to be heard and respected

The core belief of feminist theory and criticism asserts that all people--women and men--are politically, socially, and economically equal

Value the person: validating and giving significance to the individual as opposed to the group Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler say:
Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. Valentine de Saint-Point says:
Feminism is a political mistake. Feminism is a mistake made by women's intellect, a mistake which her instinct will recognize. Feminist Theory Key Theorists who gave root to
The Feminist Theory I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.
Rebecca West Napolean Bonaparte says: Nature intended women to be our slaves...They are our property. bell hooks, Ain't I a Woman, says:
Feminism is commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels--sex, race, and class, to name a few--and a commitment to reorganizing US society, so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires. Gender discrimination originated from ancient Greeks
belief that women lure men away from seeking truth and prevent them from attaining full potential

Males continue to determine social, cultural, and personal roles of women for many centuries

First challenged most likely in the 14th century by Christine de Pizan, who says, "God created both man and woman as equal beings."

Virginia Woolf's work to advance feminist ideas was delayed due to world issues (Great Depression, World War II)

Simone de Beauvoir and "The Second Sex"

Kate Millett and "Sexual Politics" Christine de Pizan
Aphra Behn (17th C.): 1st English professional female writer; dramatist, poet, and novelist during the Restoration
Virginia Woolf (1919)
"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."
Simone de Beauvoir (1949)
"The Second Sex," known as the foundational work of twentieth century feminism, voices feminine concerns after World War II
Kate Millett (1960s)
"Sexual Politics" (1970) begins a new wave of feminism
Challenges the ideological characteristics of both the male and the female
Elaine Showalter
Feminine, Feminist, and Female Phase More about Virginia Woolf and Feminism Theory:
further developed the ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft
Laid foundation for feminist criticism in "A Room of One's Own," which discusses how men treat women as inferiors and define/control females, as well as acknowledging the theory of Shakespeare's equally gifted sister More about "The Second Sex"
Says French society is patriarchal
Beauvoir believes that the male defines what it means to be human (male and female)
Concept of "the Other": an object whose existence is defined and interpreted by the dominant male
Beauvoir believes that women must break the bonds of their patriarchal society and define themselves if they wish to become a significant human being in their own right, and they must defy male classification as the Other
Labeling as "mankind" is rejected because it assumes humanity defines woman not as herself, but in relation to man
Overall, REJECT being labeled as "the Other" What is woman?
Incorrect Answer: "mankind"
Why?: it allows males to define women More about Kate Millett's Contribution:
A female is born, but a woman is created
Sexual Politics: conforming to the prescribed sex roles dictated by society. Also known as the operations of power relations in society.
Women must disenfranchise the power center of their culture--male dominance--in order to establish female social conventions as defined by females, not males. Brittany Hall Feminism in the 1960s
1963: two important works
"American Women" details inequality between men and women in the workplace, education, and society as a whole
"The Feminine Mystique" articulates two central questions of feminist criticism:
"A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, 'Who am I, and What do I want out of life?' She mustn't feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own" Feminism in the 1970s and 1980s
feminist theories and critics begin to examine the traditional literary canon, discovering examples of male dominance/prejudice that supported Beauvoir's and Millett's research
Stereotypes of women in the canon:
sex maniacs
goddesses of beauty
mindless entities
old spinsters
discovered few women were in the canon--if so, their minority was emphasized in some way
Books that defined women's writing in feminine terms flourished
Works that helped define the feminine imagination, to categorize and explain female literary history, and to articulate a female aesthetic became the focus of feminist critics Showalter as a leading feminist critic:
"A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing" shows three historical phases of female writing:
the feminine phase - 1840 - 1880
writers accepted the prevailing constructs that define women
the feminist phase - 1880 - 1920
dramatize "slighted" woman plot and depict harsh treatments of women at the hand of their more powerful male creations
the female phase - 1920 - Present
reject feminine social constructs and secondary/minor position of female characters (reject phase 1 and 2) Patriarchy (144):
a societal or social organization in which men hold a disproportionate amount of power. In such a society, men define what it means to be human, including what it means to be female.

Phallocentrism (144):
The belief that the phallus is the source of power in culture and literature; usually accompanied by male-centered, male dominant patriarchal assumptions French British Emphasized oppression

Marxist Theory
art, literature, and life as inseparable

How a female is depicted in literature directly affects how women will be treated in real life

Challenges economic and social status of women in society and arts, especially texts

Goal: change society rather than
critique it Stressed female oppression in both life and art

Closely associated with theories of Sigmund Freud
(phallocentric view)
Jacques Lacan
(language ultimately shapes our conscious and unconscuous minds, therefore shaping our self-identity, not the phallus) Debunk male superiority by exposing stereotypes of women in all periods

Reinforce the idea that women cannot be characterized by stereotypes

Scrutinize canons and rediscover works written by women
Reread canonical works of male authors from a female point of view

Use methodologies of philosophy and psychoanalysis to overturn patriarchy with accompanying phallocentrism; expose how patriarchal discourses empower males and disenfranchise women

lesbianization of language: eliminating pronouns and nouns that reflect gender
Sexual Politics (150, 327): Kate Millett synonymous with the second wave of feminism, which asserts that economic inequality and ideological indoctrination have been chief causes of women's oppression and places patriarchy at the center of the feminist
movement. Also denotes
distinctions between sex and
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