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Postmodern Feminism

An overview of postmodern Feminism and it's critiques.

Michelle Bloyd

on 26 November 2012

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Transcript of Postmodern Feminism

and it's critiques Postmodern Feminism A postmodern take on Feminist Theory "It is all relative" PMF refuse to develop one overarching explanation
They stress plurality, multiplicity, and difference
They want each women who reflect on their writings to become the kind of feminist she wants to be
There is no single formula for being a "good feminist" Postmodern Feminist Theory PMF Keynotes:
Enlightenment's main tenets
(what Postmodern thinkers reject) 5. Reason, freedom, and autonomy are interconnected in very complex ways. For example, if I am fully free, I will voluntarily obey the laws reason imposes on me. I will not rebel against the laws that bind me and all rational people.
6. Power does not trump reason. On the contrary. Claims to power (authority) are grounded in reason. Therefore, when truth conflicts with power, reason steps in and decides the controversy in favor of truth.
7. The exemplar for all true knowledge is science understood as the "right use of reason." Science is neutral and objective in its methodology, and because this is so, it can utilize the laws of nature for our benefit.
8. Language, the tool we use to communicate the knowledge science produces is an isomorphic correspondence between word and thing. For example, the word "dog" corresponds to the entity, dog. Objects are not constructed by means of words or social conventions. Once perceived by our rational minds, objects are simply acknowledged by us through words Enlightenment continued: PMF reject:
phallogocentric thought-ideas that are ordered around an absolute (logos)
feminist thought that aims to provide a single explanation for why women are oppressed
traditional feminist thought 1. There is a "stable, coherent self" that can know how and why it thinks the way it does.
2. Through its rational powers (reason), the self can gain "objective, reliable, and universal knowledge"
3. The knowledge that reason acquires is true; that is, it "represents something real and unchanging (universal) about our minds and the structure of the natural world."
4. Reason has "transcendental and universal qualities"; that is, somehow reason exists independently of us viewed as historical beings situated in specific times and places. PMF Enlightenment (modern) thought is the dominate operating pattern in most people's everyday lives
Postmodernists believe people are living in a state of denial
Postmodernists believe there is neither a stable self nor rational powers capable of yielding universal knowledge
Science is no more objective than politics or ethics.
Language does not represent reality, because there is no reality for it to signify. Jaques Derrida focused much of his work on the mechanisms of the Symbolic order
The Symbolic order regulates society through the regulation of individuals; as long as individuals speak the language of the Symbolic order--internalizing its gender, race, and class roles--society reproduces itself in fairly constant forms.
Used "deconstruction" in order to liberate thinking from the assumption of singularity
He disagreed with bipolar thought ("masculine is understood based on our understanding of "feminine")
"Words do not stand for things, for pieces of reality. Rather, reality eludes language, and language refuses to be pinned down or limited by reality." Helene Cixous influenced by Derrida's concept of diferance, she found his rejection of binary thought useful
A novelist, she applied Derrida's notion to writing:
She contrasted feminine writing (l'ecriture feminine) to masculine writin (litterature)
Man (white, European, and ruling class) has claimed, "I am the unified, self-controlled center of the universe. The rest of the world, which I define as the Other, has meaning only in relation to me, as a man/father, possessor of the phallus"
Cixous objected to masculine writing and thinking due to the dichotomy. She lists dichotomous pairs in her essay "Sorties" "Sorties" Dichotomous Pairs: Activity/Passivity
Thought has always worked through opposition
Through dual, hierarchical oppositions Helene Cixous Challenged women to :
write themselves out of the world men have constructed for women
put themselves---the unthinkable/unthought---into words
write the nonexistent into existence
write as a woman: "marking, scratching, scribbling, jotting down" This connotes movement as a river whereas the writing associated with men is too weighed down to ever move or change
Cixous believed this was more than just a style of writing, but "the very possibility of change" Helene Cixous Cixous distinguished male and female writing through their connections to male and female sexuality
Male sexuality centers around the "big dick"
boring in its pointedness and singularity
men write the same old things with their "little pocket signifier" (penis/phallus/pen)
sharply defined and rigidly imposed in structure
Female sexuality is anything but boring, but is open and multiple, varied and rhythmic, full of pleasures, and more important, full of possibilities. Female writing is the same.
Cixous wrote in white ink, letting her words flow freely
Her writing was full of optimism to overcome binary language Michel Foucault "Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; (rather) it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society" Foucault's understanding of power:
1. Power is coextensive with the social body;
2. relations of power are interwoven with other kinds of relations: production, kinship, family, sexuality;
3. power does not take the sole form of prohibition and punishment, but is multiple in form;
4. interconnections of power delineate general conditions of domination organized in a more or less coherent and unitary strategy;
5. power relations serve because they are capable of being utilized in a wide range of strategies;
6. there are no relations of power without possible resistance Foucault continued discourse about sexuality is a primary site of power in contemporary society
society "polices" sexuality through what it says about legitimate and taboo types of sexuality
we are the object of a set of interesting power relations and discourses that inscribe themselves on our bodies and cause us to see ourselves in certain ways
Foucault wanted to challenge our perception that our subjectivity is our own in order to help us "transform our realities"
Plastic surgery example
"primarily self-imposed surveillance of the body under patriarchal power..." Judith Butler Claims that there is no connection between a person's sex and a person's gender. In fact she states that"sex by definition, will be shown to have been gender all along."
Not only is gender constructed, but sex too.
She postulates that, "to choose a gender is to interpret recieved gender norms in a way that organizes them anew."
Gender and sex are more like verbs than nouns, identities that one chooses to perform.
These actions are limited--you can make certain changes, but you will remain on society's boy-girl grid
Her view is interpreted as pessimistic; highly unlikely that we will find liberation, at least in our lifetimes. Critiques of PMF "feminism for academicians"
deliberately opaque and casting clarity as part of the "phallogocentric order"
can be seen as withdrawing from the "true revolutionary struggle", making them irrelevant to the majority of women
It does not take others into consideration and can be narcissistic.
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