Outline for “Feminisms” Lecture

 

Assumptions:

 

ü    Civilization is patriarchal

ü    Sex is determined by anatomy; gender is determined by culture

ü    Patriarchal ideology pervades literature

ü    Universally women have been denied access to political power

ü    Universally women have either chosen or been relegated to the domestic sphere

ü    Economically women’s function has been to produce goods for consumption (rather than exchange)

 

Knowledge:

 

ü    Only women get pregnant, menstruate, and breast feed children

 


 

Cultural Feminism

 

·       Celebration of intuition

 

·       Affirmation of “feminine” qualities as a source of personal strength, pride and public regeneration

 

ü    Pacifism – non-violent resolution of differences

ü    Cooperation – affirmation of women’s communities

ü    “Electric” nature of women

 

·                   Cultural androgyny versus feminization of culture

 

·                   Re-conceive and reconstruct sexuality

 

Criticisms of Cultural Feminism

 

ü    Biological determinism

ü    “Difference” inevitably leads to oppression

ü    Their objectives haven’t worked historically

 


Liberal Feminism

 

·       Celebration of rationality

 

·       Celebration of equality

 

ü    Education

ü    Business

ü    Law

ü    Sex

 

Criticisms of Liberal Feminism

 

·       Women can become like men if they simply set their mind to it

·       Most women want to become like men (faulty assumption)

·       Women should aspire to “masculine” values – the “norm” is defied as “male” or “masculine

·       Class privileges

 

Success of 19th Century Women’s Movement

 

ü    Vote

ü    Change in married woman’s legal status

ü    Divorce laws liberalized

ü    Higher education


 

French Feminism

 

ü    Focus is on language, analysis of how meanings are produced

ü    Jacques Lacan:  Law of the Father (Symbolic discourse)

ü    Emphasis upon binary logic, dualisms

ü    Julia Kristeva: Semiotic discourse—Women reject the Symbolic Order and valorize female difference

ü    Helene Cixous

ü    Luce Irigaray

 

Criticisms of French Feminism:

 

ü    Biological essentialism

ü    Dependence upon male scholars

ü    Valorizing “feminine” or “maternal” perpetuates patriarchal stereotypes of women

ü    Women are still defined as “other”

ü    Inverted Sexism?

ü    Why worry about psychoanalysis when there are political issues at stake?

 


 

American Feminism

 

 

ü    Emphasis is upon the text and culture rather than psychoanalysis

ü    Concern for a woman’s style of writing

ü    Objectives:  (1)  revisionist re-reading of literary tradition, (2) “gynocriticism”, (3) return to well-known women authors, (4) re-discovery of neglected women authors and women’s history, (5) definition of what is specifically feminine subject matter in women’s literature

ü    Women demand equal access to Symbolic Order

 

Criticisms:

 

ü    The American feminists merely appropriate theoretical assumptions, categories, and strategies developed by men

ü    Chaos of multiple feminisms:  radical, cultural, lesbian, liberal, Marxist, Black, Existentialist

 


 

British Feminists

 

ü    Emphasis upon an engagement with historical process in order to promote social change (Marxist feminism)

ü    Recognition of differences of race, class, and culture among women

ü    Critical of French and American Feminists as essentialists

ü    The dichotomy of masculine and feminine as metaphysical

ü    Mary Wollstonecraft

ü    Virginia Woolf