Women’s writing and feminism have always been closely related because women’s writing’ is a critical category – a product of discourse about the texts women have written – and not the intention of the writers themselves. Women’s writing is a critical, not an authorial, category. There are some exceptions (an increasing number) in the late twentieth century, but it is safe to say that not all female writers are feminist and this is especially true of pre-nineteenth century writers.
These sensitive issues triggered “self-declared progressive movements” (Nag 001: 177), such as the labor movement, the homosexual pride movement, the feminist movement, et al. , which were united by the sole wish to struggle against oppression and discrimination. 1 The feminist movement, which was definitely one of the largest and most influential social movements of the time, took place in late ass and ass and encouraged women all around the world to finally stand up and speak up for social, political and economic gender equality.
Feminist theory therefore defines the object of study (women’s writing) but the relationship between the two goes deeper than his. Many texts by women express the same concerns as feminist theory: the unique experience of women in history; the notion of female consciousness; the definitions of gender that limit and oppress; and the cause of women’s liberation from those restrictions. What is more, it gave birth to a great number of famous female philosophers, journalists and political activists, whose works formed a base for what is today referred to as feminist philosophy.
Due to this movement, the issue of gender equality and the manifestation of womanhood became of high importance in many works of male writers of the time. In the chapters that follow, I offer a survey of the diversity of feminist theories (Psychoanalytic Feminist theory, Marxist Theory and Black Feminism theory) together with a selected history of American women’s writing: my aim is to show how the issues of feminism have been engaged by women writers – reflected, supported, challenged – throughout history.
I will also speak about the black feminism, also called “new wave” of feminism, which argues that feminist ideology is unable to account for the unique experience of black women and that they needed, as bell hooks deices, more feminist scholarship which would address a wide variety of issues in black life, such as black masculinity, mothering, the close relationship between homicide and gender, poverty, the crisis of black womanhood, connections between health and our conceptions of the body, sexuality, media, etc. The first theory’ that I want to explore, is Marxist Theory of feminism, with a brief summary and some principles explained.
Marxist feminism is organized around the basic conflicts between capitalism versus patriarchy and class versus gender oppression. Marxist feminism combines he study of class with the analysis of gender. Capitalism is viewed as both sexually and economically exploitative; capitalist patriarchy is seen as the source of women’s oppression: their alienation from labor (through the necessary creation of a pool of available labor), the patriarchal ownership of the means of production and reproduction, the construction of women as a class of passive consumers, and the exploitation of women’s work.
The latter constitutes a common perspective that unites all women and allows them to expose the ways in which capitalism requires that men dominate women, wrought a political analysis of the ideology of patriarchy. So gender is a more profound and basic cause of oppression than is class, and gender oppression structures all our social relationships. ‘Though class society appears to be the source, the cause of the oppression of women, it is rather its consequence’, Nancy Hardtack observes, in her rewriting of Marx.
She continues, Thus, it is “only at the last culmination of the development of class society that this, its secret, appears again, namely, that on the one hand it is the product of the oppression of women, and that on the other it is the means by which women participate in and create their own oppression’ [Hardtack’s emphasis and ellipses, 1 983, p. 86). 2 Personal and cultural identities are viewed as ideological products. One Of the contradictions Of capitalism revealed by a feminist analysis is that capitalism trivialities what it most needs – female labor.
Marxist feminists find themselves in conflict with socialist feminists over the question: does class or sex underpin the primary division between men and women? Marxist feminists substitute sex for the role taken by class n classical Marxist analyses and attend to the conditions of the sexual division of labor. The material conditions of the household prescribe various gendered oppositions, like the separations analyses by Marx as by-products of the class struggle: among these oppositions are those formed between body and mind, nature and culture, real and ideal.
The dominance of the masculine side of each dichotomy and the corresponding devaluation of the female is a powerful characteristic of patriarchy. When the political relationships within the domestic sphere are seen as in a microcosm, it comes apparent that similar relationships in the public world produce the systematic devaluation of ‘women’s work’ which structures social relations and public political life. In terms of literary theorizing Marxist feminists focus upon the relationship between reading and social realities. Art, including literature, is seen to be prescribed by the forms of economic production.
The conditions of the production of literary’ texts are determined by the economics of publishing and distribution, marketing and profit-making. Marxist feminists question the effect of gender on the manner in which tutorship is received and canons are formed. Textual meanings are assumed to be produced by their socioeconomic context and the ideology of the reader rather than existing in some transcendent apolitical realm. Marxist analysis concerns itself with the identification of the structural determinants of experience.
This involves analyzing the ways in which private experience is prescribed by public political conditions and, correspondingly, how public experiences are shaped by personal relationships. Three prominent Marxist feminist thinkers are Emma Goldman, Lillian Robinson and Michele Barrett. What comes next is a survey of Psychoanalytic Feminist theory, focusing upon Simons De Behavior The Second Sex, where she famously commented, ‘One is not born a woman; one becomes one’ – psychoanalytic feminists ask how this process of ‘becoming actually occurs. They ask how it is that a woman can come to identify with patriarchal interests, and set about answering this question by investigating the subconscious structure of gender identity. Feminist psychoanalytic theory builds upon the work of Sigmund Freud, especially his theory of the Oedipal stage of psychosocial developments. The Oedipus Complex begins in the pre-Oedipal stage when the child experiences no distinction between itself and the world and is therefore pure ego. The Oedipal crisis comes about when the boy discovers that he is different to his mother (he has a penis) but he is the same as his father.
His mother is perceived as castrated through her lack of a penis and this symbolizes the inferiority of the feminine, the child’s love for which threatens to incite his father’s anger and rejection. As a result, the boy shifts his allegiance and his eve from the powerless mother to the authority of the father; in this way, the boy child differentiates himself from the surrounding world and in the process develops both a superego (social consciousness) and an id (instincts). The boy, then, emerges from the Oedipal stage in possession of a masculine gender identity.
The Oedipal stage is more complicated for girls who do not perceive any difference between themselves and their mothers. Freud argues that the girl will see her mothers lack of a penis as a sign that she has been castrated and this will give rise to ‘penis envy. The girl then shifts her love from mother to father, and develops a gender identity in response to the demands of the father’s (patriarchal) culture. However, she never completely loses her pre-Oedipal identification with the mother.
This places the girl in a position of ambivalence where she belongs completely to neither the mother nor the father but still she seeks to belong to the powerful masculine culture. Feminists have reinterpreted and taken issue with Freudian theory, but even more than the writings of Freud himself they have engaged with the work of Jacques Lagan who offers a revision of Freudian psychoanalysis. Lagan renames the pre- Oedipal phase of development as the ‘Imaginary Order, where there is no difference and no language to express the experience of difference between self and the outside world.
For psychoanalytic feminists, ‘femaleness’ is viewed as an oppressive concept that denies the plural nature of all human consciousness by forcing individuals into single identities. This coercion is masculine, so the aim of feminism must be to counter and abolish this oppression of both men and women. This interpretation of the concept f ‘femaleness’ is attacked by cultural feminists because the assault on the category of the feminine denies the basis for solidarity, for community action and struggle.
After presenting these two theories, want to write some words about black feminism, a very important, in my opinion,theory of feminism. For an excruciatingly long time women of color were one of the most marginalia social groups in the Western society. Being both female and black, these women formed a separate social group, often neglected and diminished even by other minorities, who were fighting for their rights in late as and ass. Ward and Herded, for example, notice that black women were doubly marginalia as female and African Americans (Ward & Herded, 1997: 741 )5 and therefore their case required particular attention.
As shortly mentioned above, Alice Walker was one of the first black female authors to publicly express her dissatisfaction with the limitation of mainstream feminism. In one of her interviews, published in “The New York Times” on the 8th of January 1984, Walker said: “one of the problems with white feminism is that it is a tradition that teaches white women that they are capable” (In: Bradley 1984). 6 Black feminism, on the other hand, accounts for many universal issues related to women of color.
Interestingly, however, in the same interview Walker claims that even the term “black feminism” is rather insufficient in accounting for all experiences: “l just like to have words that describe things correctly. Now to me, black feminist does not do that. I need a word that is organic, that really comes out of the culture, that really expresses the spirit that we see in black women. And it’s just… Womanish”6. The term womanish has been appropriated by many women of color who affirmed homeless as clouded and, and at the same time revealed their strong connection with some aspects of the general feminist ideology.