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Feminism One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one ~Simone de Beauvoir.

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Presentation on theme: "Feminism One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one ~Simone de Beauvoir."— Presentation transcript:

1 Feminism One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one ~Simone de Beauvoir

2 Patriarchy defined A term used by feminist critics to describe the structuring of society on the basis of father-rule, or paternal authority, and the concomitant marginalization or subordination of women. Feminist critics critique patriarchal society as dominated by men promoting masculine values that, in turn, maintain men in positions of powerin short, as a system that perpetuates male dominance, whether in the family or in government, in the arts or in religion, and relegates women to the domestic sphere ~ The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, 3 rd. Edition. Ross Murfin and Supryia Ray.

3 Phallocentricism Belief that the phallus is the source of power; implies that the masculine gender is privileged in Western thought and language.

4 Masculinity is the only point of view that does not know it is one. ~Ellyn Kaschak, Engendered Lives Myth Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was the Sphinx. Oedipus said, I want to ask one question. Why didn't I recognize my mother? You gave the wrong answer, said the Sphinx. But that was what made everything possible, said Oedipus. No, she said. When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered, Man. You didnt say anything about woman. When you say Man, said Oedipus, you include women too. Everyone knows that. She said, Thats what you think. ~Muriel RukeyserMuriel Rukeyser

5 Patriarchy and Binarism Historically, built into patriarchal systems is dichotomous thinking, the predilection to construct the world in terms of oppositions: good/evil, us/them, knowledge/ignorance, etc. This either-or way of thinking is a closed system of classification in which one concept is understood as antithetical to the other. In a binary opposition, the concept listed first is considered normative in some way, while the second concept is its deviation or negation.

6 Cont.- One critique of binarism is that it almost always builds in a system of dominance or privilege (overtly or covertly). Simone de Beauvoir, theorist and feminist, stated in The Second Sex, Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought… No group ever sets itself up as the One without setting up the Other over against itself. In other words, whenever there are polar oppositions, there is dominanceand, of course, lurking behind all these pairs is usually gender (male/female), and in Cisneross case, race.

7 For example, consider the following list of traditional masculine and feminine attributes: Masculine Feminine Strong (esp. physically)Weak (esp. physically) Emotionless (an absence)Emotional (defined negatively / weakness) Practical Imaginative Business / Politics / Social Domestic / Religious / Family / Children Rational Irrational / Emotional Sexual: Sexual: Aggressive Passive Rite of Passage Madonna (Virgin Mary / Whore) Sexually Active (healthy) A-sexual or sexually corrupt To receive pleasure To give pleasure

8 Sex and Gender Does being female constitute a natural fact or a cultural performance? (Judith Butler x) Feminist would argue that these qualities are not necessarily inherent in either men or women; rather they are learned behaviors that keep us from living fuller and more meaningful lives. Consequently, patriarchy harms both men and women. Feminism seeks to liberate and free both genders from such oppression. Based on these distinctions above, feminists seek to distinguish between the following notions of identity: Biological Sex (Female/Male)Ones biological identity as a woman or man Emphasizes in positive ways the biological differences between men and women and how these differences are useful and important. Social Constructions of Gender (Feminine/Masculine)-- A set of socially defined or constructed characteristics. The representation of women in literature is one of the most important forms of this acculturation since it provides the role models which indicate to women and men what are socially acceptable versions of the feminine as well as legitimate feminine goals and aspirations.

9 Classical Western views of Sexual Anatomy As historian Thomas Laqueur has shown in Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, in the one-sex model (16-17 th century), woman is an imperfect version of man, and her anatomy and physiology are construed accordingly: the vagina is seen as an interior penis, the womb as a scrotum, the ovaries as testicles. The ancients regarded anatomy, then, as a representation of social gender. Given such a historical record, Laqueur concludes that we cannot understand sexual anatomy apart from cultural ideas about gender. Sex is explicable only within the context of battles over gender and power (11).11

10 The ideology of gender ( Critical Terms ) Myra Jehlen, in her essay Gender, gets to one of the core tenets of feminist practice: Gender is a kind of persistent impersonation that passes as the real ( Critical Terms 273) To this extent, gendermany feminists argueis a cultural construction, the product of regimes of power that become engrained into our discourse, transparent, natural, taken to be a given.

11 Aspects of Feminist Literary Criticism To de-naturalize the mechanisms of patriarchy, the cultural mind-set in men and women that perpetuates sexual inequality. To construct a new canon of womens writing by rewriting the history of literary studies (for example, how we evaluate the aesthetic qualities of novels or poetry) so that neglected women writers are given new prominence. More highly theoretical and eclectic in nature, feminism draws upon the findings and approaches in other kinds of criticism (Marxism, poststructuralism, linguistics, psychoanalytical criticism) to explore the nature of the female experience.

12 Basic questions of feminism: Judith Butler, Gender Trouble a) Is gender something which persons are said to have or it is an essential attribute that a person is said to be ? (Butler 7) b) When feminist theorists claim that gender is the cultural interpretation of sex or that gender is culturally constructed, what is the manner or mechanism of this construction? (7) c) If gender is constructed, could it be constructed differently, or does its constructedness imply some form of social determinism, foreclosing the possibility of agency or transformation? (7) – biology-as-destiny versus culture- as-destiny formulation d) How and where does the construction of gender take place? (7-8)

13 Other questions: How are the feminine and the masculine figured in language and normative signifying practices? To what extent is the cultural construction of gender the product of regimes of power, of hegemonic structure of patriarchy and discourse? To what extent do representations of gender legitimize normative hegemonic practices?

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