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Feminist Theory

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Anahita Panahi

on 17 September 2012

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Transcript of Feminist Theory

Feminist Theory History Feminism is the advocacy of womens rights on a social, politcal, and economical equality to men. The history of feminist theory is best explained in the 'three waves.' The first wave started in the late-nineteenth century in England and America because of legal inequalities. For example, women were not allowed to vote or own property. The second wave came to light in the late 1960's along with many other movements. This wave also wanted change in gender inequalities but also gender stereotypes. The third wave appeared in the 1980's and brought debate over oppression, race, class, and sexuality. In 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. Their primary goal was to gain voting rights into the Constitution. In 1919 the HoR & Senate pass the law.
In 1935, Mary McLeod Bethune organizes the National Council of Negro Women to support themselves against job discrimination, racism, and sexism.
In 1963, Betty Friedan publishes "The Feminine Mystique" describing the dissatisfaction of middle-class housewives. This is the backbone for modern women's rights movements. Feminist Theory Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical or philosophical discourse. It aims to understand the nature of gender inequality. It examines women's social roles, experience, and feminist politics in a variety of fields, such as anthropology and sociology, communication, psychoanalysis, economics, literary, education, and philosophy. While generally providing a critique of social relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women's rights, interests, and issues. Some examples of Feminist Theory being implemented into Literature: Mary Wollstonecraft: an 18th -century British writer and philosopher who advocated women's rights. She wrote novels, treatises, a history of the French Revolution and several other children’s books. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason. Simone de Beauvoir: a 20th-century French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist. She did not consider herself a philosopher but had a significant influence on feminist existentialism, and feminist theory. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, as well about political and social issues. She is best known for her novels, including The Second Sex (1949), a thorough analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism. She was in a lifelong relationship (they chose never to get married) to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who is one of the key figures of the Existentialist movement. Elaine Showalter: an 20th –century American literary critic, feminist, and writer on cultural and social issues. She is one of the founders of feminist literary criticism in United States academia, developing the concept and practice of gynocritics (the historical study of women writers as a distinct literary tradition). Showalter has written and edited numerous books and articles focused on a variety of subjects, from feminist literary criticism to fashion. Her essay "Toward a Feminist Poetics" refers to a criticism that constructs a female framework for the analysis of women's literature, developing new models based on the study of female experience, rather than to adopt male models and theories. Deborah E. McDowell: an African-American 20th Century author who wrote "The Changing Same," which examines defining moments in African American women's fiction and its reception: the Women's Era of the 1890s, the Harlem Renaissance, and the New Black Renaissance of the 1970s and 1980s. McDowell maps this history in the readings of several African American women. She examines representations of slavery, sexuality, and homoeroticism; the reception of African American women's fiction in the 1980s; and African American feminist writing in the "Age of Theory." Why is Feminism imporant? Most people understand why feminism was needed in the past although there is continuing controversy about its validity in the present. Few people would argue that society should take away women's suffrage or prevent women from being educated, yet in the not-too-distant past these issues were extremely controversial. We now look back on these days with great indulgence toward their blindness; however, today we remain just as blind to many modern-day iniquities. Despite affirmative action, women are still systematically excluded from powerful and influential positions. On the average, women who work full time still only earn 59 cents for every dollar a man makes; in fact, female college graduates statistically earn less than males with only an eighth-grade education. Outside of the economic sphere, our society is still plagued by the mistreatment of women such as wife abuse, incest, and rape. The odds are frightening; one in four women can expect to be raped and virtually all women will be subjected to sexual harassment. These are but a few of the battles which have yet to be won. Feminist literary criticism is literary informed by the feminist theory. Its history starts with classic works of nineteenth-century women authors such as George Eliot and Margaret Fuller to cutting-edge theoretical work in women's studies and gender studies by "third-wave" authors.

Margaret Fuller's book "Women of the nineteenth century" originally written in July 1943 in Dial Magazine as "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women" One of the main ideas is the cultivation of the individual, which included women as well as men. The essay implies the idea of the individual to the enlightenment of all mankind: allowing women as individuals to have greater spiritual and intellectual freedom will advance the enlightenment of both men and women. Feminist Literary Criticism A feminist would look for how women are being portrayed, also looking at the language itself, and how it shapes categories like men and women, masculinity and femininity. What would a feminist theorist look at in a text? What questions might she ask? How is the director trying to portray the female characters?
Are women being stereotyped in the literary representation?
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