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Feminisms and
Gender Studies
Week 11
Feminist Movement
and Feminisms
Feminism is a political and power
movement as well as a literary
The different phrases of the
feminist movement and the
feminist literary development
are not identical but they are
First-wave of
feminist movement
(1890’s to 1960)
Mary Wollstonecraft’s A
Vindication of the Rights
of Woman is regarded
as the earliest and the
foundation work of
feminist movement
First-wave of
feminist movement
The focus of the first
phrase of the
movement is on
acquisition of rights that
was reserved for men,
such as the right to
work and most
importantly, the right to
1932 Soviet poster
for International
Women’s Day
First phrase of literary Development
Woman: Created or Constructed?
Elaine Showalter has
identified three phases of
modern women’s literary
development: the feminine
phase (1840-80), during which
women writers imitated the
dominant male traditions;
Elaine Showalter
Second-wave Feminist
The second-wave feminism saw
cultural and political inequalities as
inextricably linked.
Second-wave feminism was largely
concerned with other issues of
equality, such as the end to
Feminist Movement
Carol Hanisch’s essay “The Personal is
Political” is the representation of
second-wave feminism.
“Women’s Liberation” is the slogan of the
second-wave movement
Second phrase of literary Development
The second one is the
feminist phase (18801920), when women
advocated for their
rights; and the female
emphasizes on the
rediscovery of women’s
texts and women
Third-wave feminist
(1990s onwards )
Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge
or avoid what it deems the secondwave's "essentialist" definitions of
femininity, which (according to them)
over-emphasized the experiences of
upper middle class white women.
Third-wave feminist
(1990s onwards )
A post-structuralist interpretation of
gender and sexuality is central to much of
the third-wave's ideology.
Third-wave feminists often focus on
"micropolitics," and challenged the
second-wave's paradigm as to what is, or
is not, good for females.
Showalter’s four models of difference:
biological, linguistic, psychoanalytic, and
Today it seems that two
general tendencies, one
emphasizing Showalter’s
biological, linguistic, and
psychoanalytic models, and the
other emphasizing cultural
model, account for most
feminist theories.
Certain theories may be
said to have an
essentialist argument for
inherent feminine traits
that have been
misunderstood, or
exploited by a patriarchal
culture because the
genders are quite
These theories focus
on sexual difference
and sexual politics
and are often aimed
at defining or
establishing a
feminist literature
(and culture, history
and so forth) from a
less patriarchal slant.
Opposed to this
notion is constructivist
feminism, which asks
women (and men) to
consider what it
means to be a
woman, to consider
that inherently female
traits are in fact
culturally and socially
Feminism and Psychoanalysis
The famous type of monstermadwoman figure is the madwoman
in the attic in Charlotte Bronte’s novel
Jane Eyre.
Many essentialist feminists make the
argument that female writers often identify
themselves with the literary characters
they detest through such types as the
monster-madwoman figure counterposed
against and angel/heroine figure.
Jacques Lacan comes
to the notion of the
Imaginary, a pre-Oedipal
stage in which the child
has not yet differentiated
her- or himself from the
mother and as a
consequence has not
learned language, which
is the Symbolic Order to
be taught to be the
Like Freud, Jacques Lacan
describes the unconscious
as structured like a
language; like language its
power often arises from the
sense of openness and play
of meaning.
Hélène Cixous proposes an utopia place,
a primeval female space free of symbolic
order, sex roles, otherness, and the Law
of Father.
The feminine “language” of the unconscious
destabilizes sexual categories in the
Symbolic Order of the Father, disrupting the
unities of discourse and indicating its
silencings. French feminists speak of
“exploding” rather than interpreting a sign.
Luce Irigaray
etymologically links
the word “matter”
to “maternity” and
“matrix,” the latter
being the space for
philosophizing and
Luce Irigaray No matter how
theoretical and abstract French
feminists’ prose becomes, French
feminist do not stay far from the
Julia Kristeva, in her
Desire in Language,
presents a mothercentered realm of the
semiotic as oppose to
the symbolic. She
argues that the
semiotic realm of the
mother is present in
symbolic discourse
as absence or
Julia Kristeva’s latter work moves toward
a more direct embrace of motherhood as
the model for psychic female health.
Multicultural Feminisms
Among the most prominent of
feminist minorities are women of
color and lesbians. These feminists
practice what is sometimes called
identity politics.
Alice Walker disputes the term
feminists as applied to black
women; she writes that she has
replaced feminist with womanist,
remarking that a womanist does
not turn her back upon the men of
her community.
Black feminists
have often turned
to the slave
narrative and the
captivity narrative,
both old American
forms of discourse,
as of especial
importance to black
women writers.
Bell Hooks is a
famous critic
challenges the
Related to the rise of
feminisms among
women of color is the
area of postcolonial
studies. Chakravorty
Gayatri Spivak
examines the effects
of political
independence upon
subaltern , or
hakravorty Gayatri Spivak
World countries.
Although the feminist movement
is already over 100 years old,
there are still a lot to be done.
The status of women is still
very low in some countries in
the world
Even in the West, gender equality
is still only apparent
Women in Saudi Arabia who walk
unaccompanied, or are in the company of a
man who is neither their husband nor a close
relative, are at risk of arrest on suspicion of
prostitution or other "moral" offences.
And they are disallowed to some
modern activities as basic as driving a
Orange Broadband Prize is a
prominent literary prize in England
It is established as a protest to the
male-dominant literary world.
70% of the fiction writers are women,
yet female writers are often ignored
by literary reviews and other
“serious” literature venues.
How about Taiwan?
Can you think of
some feminist
issues in this
Gender Studies
As a constructivist
endeavor, gender
studies examines how
gender is less
determined by nature
than it is by culture, and
such a cultural analysis
is at the center of the
Many theorists point
out that what is
most complex and vital
critical enterprises at the “normal” sexually
depends upon when
present time.
Judith Butler is one
of the representing
figures of gender
Her work Gender Trouble
is one of the “canons” of
gender studies
Its central argument is the gender is
cultural and artificial as well as
Lesbian critics
Lesbian critics counter
their marginalization by
considering lesbianism
a privileged stance
testifying to the primacy
of women.
Lesbian critics reject the notion of a
unified text, finding corroboration in
poststructuralist and post-modernist
criticism and among the French
Related works and links
de Beauvior, Simone. The Second Sex. 1949.
Reprint. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1972.
Butler, Judith. The Judith Butler Reader. Ed,
Judith Butler and Sarah Salih. London: Blackwell,
Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Sign
1, no. 4 (1976): 875-93.
hooks, bell. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and
Feminism. Boston: South End P, 1981.
Humm, Maggie. Feminist Criticism: Women as
Contemporary Critics. Brighton, England:
Harvester, 1986.
Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman.
Trans. Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP,
Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language. New York: