Presentation on theme: "A Feminist Reader. A Feminist Reader is -- A reader who approaches texts prepared to respond empathetically to both female authors and characters A reader."— Presentation transcript:
A Feminist Reader is -- A reader who approaches texts prepared to respond empathetically to both female authors and characters A reader who reads through lenses which are skeptical of patriarchal social, political and economic structures and of the expectations for women within those structures.
Feminism is... A belief that women and men are inherently of equal worth. Because most societies privilege men as a group, social movements are necessary to achieve equality between women and men, with the understanding that gender always intersects with other social hierarchies.
Feminism is... A way of analyzing the position of women in society. It critiques (not the same as criticizes) the ways in which representations of gender produce, transform, and transcend social stereotypes about women and men. It examines why certain cultural/social behaviors are gendered and how that labeling has been limiting or empowering to women and men in society.
Key Concepts Patriarchy Male hegemony or rule by the father. The basic view is that our civilization is pervasively male-centered and controlled, that it is organized and conducted in such a way as to subordinate women to me in all cultural domains: religious, familial, political, economic, social, legal, and artistic. Can you think of exceptions to this rule in U.S. culture? In western culture?
Key Concepts Ideology The misrepresentation that distorts social reality and seeks symbolically to resolve social contradictions that elude real solutions. (Marx and Engles) The combination of all forms of social consciousness, such as law, philosophy, ethics, art, etc. (Gramsci) The political ideas ascribed to a social or economic class – bourgeois ideology. (Lenin) The system of representations, or stories, that define the possibilities of existence for individuals. (Althusser, Jameson)
Key Concepts Self/Other Woman tends to be defined by negative reference to man as the human norm – as a kind of non-man or abject (lower) “Other.” Woman is seen as lacking the identifying male organ, male power, and male character traits that are presumed to have achieved the most important inventions and works of civilization. Can you make a list of the dichotomies often assigned to men/women?: hard/soft, thinking/feeling...
Key Concepts Gender It is widely held that while one’s sex is determined by anatomy, the concept of “gender” – traits that constitute masculinity and femininity – are largely, if not entirely cultural constructs, effected by the omnipresent patriarchal biases of our civilization. The masculine is CONSTRUCTED as active, dominating, adventurous, rational, creative. The feminine is CONSTRUCTED as passive, acquiescent, timid, emotional, conventional
Key Concepts Representations of Women Patriarchal ideology pervades those writings which, in our culture, have been considered great literature, and which, until recently, have been written almost entirely by and for men. Such works, lacking autonomous female role models, either leave the woman reader feeling like an alien or else solicit her to identify against herself by assuming male values and ways of perceiving, feeling, and acting.
Key Concepts Phallogocentrism Used to describe how patriarchal assumptions are so deeply embedded in existing languages that women (those denied access to the symbolic and real power of the PHALLUS – can refer to “penis,” but more often means the “universal signifier,” male sexuality, the authority and power in general, authority and power in general, individuality, any kind of unity, God, and life itself) have no independent existence that can be expressed in language. Phallogocentric language excludes women from the category of the universal, so that “man” is synonymous with “human.”
Key Concepts Phallogocentrism Cont. Distinguishing characteristics of phallogocentric discourse are usually said to be linearity and ego orientation They are sometimes contrasted with a “feminine” language, which is said to be community-oriented and less structured. This is commonly referred to as Ecriture Feminine – “Writing from/by the (female) body.” Like female sexuality it is multiple instead of single, diffuse instead of focused, oriented toward process instead of goal. It breaks apart the binaries that organize (masculine) writing
Questions a feminist might ask of a text: How is gender represented/constructed? What are the text’s assumptions regarding gender? What responsibilities, characteristics, freedoms, desires, etc., are attributed to each gender? What are the images of women/men in the text (especially the images of women in texts by men)?
Questions a feminist might ask of a text: How and why is woman identified as “other” (merely the negative object) to man, who is then seen as the defining and dominating “subject.” What are the covert ways in which power is manipulated in the text so as to establish and perpetuate the dominance of men and the subordination of woman? What are the female points of view, concerns, and values presented in the text? If these are absent, how are they excluded and why?