Outline for “Feminisms” Lecture




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)




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




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