Essay by noone July 2004

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Some roots of prejudice against women:

Aristotle's idea that the male is by nature superior and the female inferior.

Biblical statement of the fall from Eden blamed on Eve.

St. Augustine and other religious leaders dictating that women are spiritually weak, sensual creatures that tempt men away from spiritual truths.

Darwin's theory that sees women as a past and lower state of civilization.

Early feminist voices:

Mary Wollstonecraft's A vindication of the Rights of Women (1972): women must stand for their rights and refuse to be labeled by men as inferior.

Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1929): males define what it means to be female as male controls political, economic, social, and literary structures. Women must develop their own discourse to combat these beliefs.

Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949): in a patriarchal society women are defined as the Other, secondary in nature.

Kate Millet's Sexual Politics (1969): female is born, woman is created, distinguishes between sex and gender.

Millet calls for establishment of female social conventions (literary studies, feminist criticism, etc)


Women's movement (1960s): literary in the sense that it realized the significance of the images of women presented in literature, and saw the need to question these images.

1970s feminism: an attempt to expose the system of patriarchy which promotes sexual inequality, specifically as represented in literature by male writers. Elaine Showalter termed this androtexts.

1980s feminism: began to draw on other theories and to focus on exploring the nature of female experience by constructing new canon of women's writing. Showalter termed this gynotexts.

Elaine Showalter's A Literature of Their Own

Feminine phase (1840-80), women writers imitate dominant male artistic standards.

Feminist phase (1880-1920), radical positions taken, sometime separatist ones.

Female phase (1920--), focus on female writing and experience.

Gynocriticism: (the study of...