Feminism campaigns for women's rights in intellectual fields, property and voting bringing within its ambit ideas such as sexual harassment and equal pay at the work place, domestic violence and assault. The theory is based on the oppression women suffered/suffering in a male dominated society. While a gender inequality is something to be eradicated in a civilized society, the feminists often disregard the biological weakness woman inherits which often precludes her from carrying out tasks with the same strength of a man. It would be far better to accept this physical weakness and work around it rather than blindly cry for equality. It has become a fashion to evaluate women in public life to see as to how far they adhere to the principles of fighting feminist causes. It is almost as though every successful woman must take a stance on the issues feminists usually grapple with. Writers – especially women writers – are more closely scrutinized in this aspect, more than any other women achievers. Feminism in the novels of Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler’s popularity is due to her wit and a down-to-earth approach to life in general. Her fiction is based on portrayal of a search for self-identity in dysfunctional family relationships. She seems to always convey that life is not always a bed of roses and that problems cannot be avoided. Her practical approach, however, does not fall into stereo-typed gender roles nor does it portray a picture of emancipated women. She does not elaborate on the usual feminist grievances against the society but rather accept life as it is. The compassion is obvious but she presents the characters as simply human without restricting them in strait-jackets. Was Anne Tyler a liberal feminist? Justification
Some critics have censured Anne Tyler for disregarding the advances the society has made in the status of women after the commencement of the feminist movement. But there is no indication in her novels of stark feminism of any kind. The characters seem to struggle to discover themselves and seek identity amidst the confusion of a family identity but they don’t forge any kind of bond with any obvious movement such as gender equality. Tyler’s female characters are neither aggressive nor meek but they definitely seem to learn to compromise and accept life as it happens. Tyler was not a feminist and if at all such a term has to be used to fit her writings into a profile, she may be termed as a liberal feminist – the term ‘liberal’ simply indicating that her female characters exhibit a mindset directed towards a cultivation of the mind for its own sake and free from all restraints.
Feminism is a new measure with which critics often judge women writers because the issue has gone beyond mundane levels of masculine oppression and freedom of expression. It has now become a theme to fit a frame-work encompassing society as a whole. Tyler’s women characters are not rebels and are almost oblivious to the feminist issues of the modern times. At best she can be termed as a liberal feminist since her characters do not fit into any pattern per se. “Tyler’s feminism is of this less dramatic sort – she admires the people, often women, who have an abyss running right through their own backyards and still hand out the laundry” (Betts, 1984).