Feminist Theory

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  • Topic: Feminist theory, Feminism, Gender
  • Pages : 9 (3033 words )
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  • Published : January 2, 2010
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Feminist theories have emerged as early as 1792 (– 1920’s) in such publications as “The Changing Woman”[10], “Ain’t I a Woman”[11], “Speech after Arrest for Illegal Voting”[12], and so on. “The Changing Woman” is a Navajo Myth that gave credit to a woman who, in the end, populated the world. Footnote with citation. In 1851, Sojourner Truth addressed women’s rights issues through her publication, “Ain’t I a Woman.” Sojourner Truth addressed the issues surrounding limited rights to women based on the flawed perceptions that men held of women. Truth argued that if a woman of color can perform tasks that were supposedly limited to men, then any woman of any color could perform those same tasks. After her arrest for illegally voting, Susan B. Anthony gave a speech within court in which she addressed the issues of language within the constitution documented in her publication, “Speech after Arrest for Illegal voting” in 1872. Anthony questioned the authoritative principles of the constitution and its male gendered language. She raised the question of why women should be punished under law but they cannot use the law for their own protection (women could not vote, own property, nor themselves in marriage). She also critiqued the constitution for its male gendered language and questioned why women should have to abide by laws that do not specify women. Although there were not any feminist terminologies based on their arguments, all of these women have founded a lexicon of debates that contribute to feminist theory. For example, Sojourner Truth raised the issue of the intersectionality debate and Susan B. Anthony raised the issue of the language debate. Nancy Cott makes a distinction between modern feminism and its antecedents, particularly the struggle for suffrage. In the United States she places the turning point in the decades before and after women obtained the vote in 1920 (1910-1930). She argues that the prior woman movement was primarily about woman as a universal entity, whereas over this 20 year period it transformed itself into one primarily concerned with social differentiation, attentive to individuality and diversity. New issues dealt more with woman's condition as a social construct, gender identity, and relationships within and between genders. Politically this represented a shift from an ideological alignment comfortable with the right, to one more radically associated with the left.[13] Susan Kingsley Kent says that Freudian patriarchy was responsible for the diminished profile of feminism in the inter-war years,[14] others such as Juliet Mitchell consider this to be overly simplistic since Freudian theory is not wholly incompatible with feminism.[15] Some feminist scholarship shifted away from the need to establish the origins of family, and towards analyzing the process of patriarchy.[16] In the immediate postwar period, Simone de Beauvoir stood in opposition to an image of "the woman in the home". De Beauvoir provided an existentialist dimension to feminism with the publication of Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) in 1949.[17] As the title implies, the starting point is the implicit inferiority of women, and the first question de Beauvoir asks is "what is a woman"?.[18] Woman she realizes is always perceived of as "other", "she is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her". In this book and her essay, "Woman: Myth & Reality", de Beauvoir anticipates Betty Friedan in seeking to demythologise the male concept of woman. "A myth invented by men to confine women to their oppressed`state. For women it is not a question of asserting themselves as women, but of becoming full-scale human beings." "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman", or as Toril Moi puts it "a woman defines herself through the way she lives her embodied situation in the world, or in other words, through the way in which she makes something of what the world makes of her". Therefore, woman must regain...
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