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Postmodern feminism


Postmodern feminism is a mix of post structuralism, postmodernism, and French feminism.[1] The goal of postmodern feminism is to destabilize the patriarchal norms entrenched in society that have led to gender inequality.[2] Postmodern feminists seek to accomplish this goal through rejecting essentialism, philosophy, and universal truths in favor of embracing the differences that exist amongst women to demonstrate that not all women are the same. [3] These ideologies are rejected by postmodern feminists because they believe if an universal truth is applied to all woman of society, it minimizes individual experience, hence they warn women to be aware of ideas displayed as the norm in society since it may stem from masculine notions of how a women should be portrayed. [4][5]

Postmodern feminists seek to analyze any notions that have led to gender inequality in society. Postmodern feminists analyze these notions and attempt to promote equality of gender through critiquing logocentrism, supporting multiple discourses, deconstructing texts, and seeking to promote subjectivity. Postmodern feminists are accredited with drawing attention to dichotomies in society and demonstrating how language influences the difference in treatment of genders.[1][3]

The inclusion of postmodern theory into feminist theory is not readily accepted by all feminists, some believe postmodern thought undermines the attacks that feminist theory attempts to create, while other feminists are in favor of the union.[1] For this reason, postmodernism and feminism have always had an uneasy relationship.[5]


Origins and theory

Butler

Postmodern feminism's major departure from other branches of feminism is perhaps the argument that sex, or at least gender, is itself constructed through language, a view notably propounded in Judith Butler's 1990 book, Gender Trouble. She draws on and critiques the work of Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan, as well as on Luce Irigaray's argument that what we conventionally regard as 'feminine' is only a reflection of what is constructed as masculine.[6]

Butler criticises the distinction drawn by previous feminisms between (biological) sex and (socially constructed) gender. She asks why we assume that material things (such as the body) are not subject to processes of social construction themselves. Butler argues that this does not allow for a sufficient criticism of essentialism: though recognizing that gender is a social construct, feminists assume it is always constructed in the same way. Her argument implies that women's subordination has no single cause or single solution; postmodern feminism is thus criticized for offering no clear path to action. Butler herself rejects the term "postmodernism" as too vague to be meaningful.[7]

Paula Moya argues that Butler derives this rejection to postmodernism from misreadings of Cherríe Moraga's work. "She reads Moraga's statement that 'the danger lies in ranking the oppressions' to mean that we have no way of adjudicating among different kinds of oppressions—that any attempt to casually relate or hierarchize the varieties of oppressions people suffer constitutes an imperializing, colonizing, or totalizing gesture that renders the effort invalid…thus, although Butler at first appears to have understood the critiques of women who have been historically precluded from occupying the position of the 'subject' of feminism, it becomes clear that their voices have been merely instrumental to her" (Moya, 790) Moya contends that because Butler feels that the varieties of oppressions cannot be summarily ranked, that they cannot be ranked at all; and takes a short-cut by throwing out the idea of not only postmodernism, but women in general.[8]

Frug

Mary Joe Frug suggested that one "principle" of postmodernism is that human experience is located "inescapably within language". Power is exercised not only through direct coercion, but also through the way in which language shapes and restricts our reality. She also stated that because language is always open to re-interpretation, it can also be used to resist this shaping and restriction, and so is a potentially fruitful site of political struggle.

Frug's second postmodern principle is that sex is not something natural, nor is it something completely determinate and definable. Rather, sex is part of a system of meaning, produced by language. Frug argues that "cultural mechanisms ... encode the female body with meanings", and that these cultural mechanisms then go on explain these meanings "by an appeal to the 'natural' differences between the sexes, differences that the rules themselves help to produce".[9]

French feminism

French feminism as it is known today, is an Anglo-American invention coined by Alice Jardine to be a section in a larger movement of postmodernism in France during the 1980s. This included the theorizing of the failure of the modernist project, along with its departure. More specifically for feminism, it meant returning to the debate of sameness and difference.[10]The term was further defined by Toril Moi, an academic with a focus on feminist theory, in her book Sexual/Textual Politics.In this book she further defined French feminism to only include a few authors such as Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva, while also creating a distinction between French feminism and Anglo-American Feminism.[11]She states that the difference between the two is that Anglo-American feminists want to find a "woman-centered perspective" and a woman identity since they were not given the chance to have one in the past. French Feminists believe there is no identity for a woman but that "the feminine can be identified where difference and otherness are found."[10]Elaine Marks, an academic in the field of Women's Studies, noted another difference between French and American feminists. French feminists, specifically radical feminists, criticized and attacked the systems that benefit men, along with widespread misogyny as a whole, more intensely than their American counterparts.[12]Through American academics contriving their own concept of French feminism, it separated and ignored the already marginalized self-identifying feminists, while focusing on the women theorists associated with Psych et po (Psychanalyse et politique) and other academics who did not always identify as feminists themselves. This division ultimately ended up placing more importance on the theories of the French feminists than the political agenda and goals that groups such as radical feminists and the Mouvement de liberation des femmes(women's liberation movement) had at the time.[13]

The link between Post-modern Feminism and Biology

For decades, there has been little connection between the scientific and feminist communities. That has changed in a post-modern feminist world because a woman's body is more important than ever to her rights as a human. Until recently, very little contact has occurred between the two communities. However in the past two decades, the feminist historians and the philosophers of science have pointed to a connection between the two topics. This source would be used to describe the intersection between the biology of a woman’s body and the objective of feminism today. The mission of post-modern feminism is to highlight women’s rights in an effort to encourage equality between the men and women. These rights start with understanding and allowing women to take control of their own body and mind.

Liberal Feminism

A general definition of liberal feminism is "the belief that women are suppressed in contemporary society because they suffer unjust discrimination."[14] Liberal feminists argue for women’s rights "in terms of their welfare needs, equal opportunities in employment, education, and health services."[15] The implication is that, historically, this discrimination would prevent women from entering and succeeding in science. This type of feminism shares two fundamental assumptions with the traditional method of scientific discovery. The first assumption is that humans are highly individualistic and obtain knowledge in a rational manner that may be separated from their social conditions. The second assumption is that both accept positivism as a theory of knowledge. "Positivism is a philosophical belief that all knowledge is constructed by inference from immediate sensory experiences."[14] These two assumptions hinge on objectivity, which is a key component of the traditional scientific method. Like scientists, liberal feminists strive to be objective, which is contingent upon neutrality regarding class, race, and sex.

Radical Feminism

Unlike liberal feminism, radical feminism rejects the possibility of science from an objective perspective and believes that "woman-centeredness can be the basis of a more equal society." [15] Unlike racial feminism, it maintains the ideology that women's oppression is the first, most widespread, and deepest known oppression because institutions, politics, and knowledge in society reflect a male perspective to further oppress women.[14] Scientific institutions, practice, and knowledge, in particular, are still male dominated and have been, historically. This means science, as a patriarchal institution, can potentially be used as a tool to control and harm women. This rejection of traditional, proven scientific methodology, in favor of women's personal knowledge and experience, is why this theory has been known as "radical."

Racial/African-American Feminism

Racial feminism is based on the "African-American critique of the Eurocentric approach to knowledge, which maintains that race is the primary oppression over gender."[14] It is also known to reject individualism and positivism, in favor of social construction. The main reason this type of feminism objects science is because it is viewed as a way to favor white Eurocentric needs and beliefs, while not accounting for other kinds of people. Black feminist, Patricia Hill Collins, in her book Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment claims that "by following strict methodological rules, scientists aim to distance themselves from the values, vested interests, and emotions generated by their class, race, sex, or unique situation."[16] Maria D. and Scott Davidson in chapter 12 of their book, African-American Studies, makes mention of Patricia's claim and agrees with it, adding that black women need a feminist theory that speaks to their unique embodiment as both women and Black within a society plagued by sexism and racism.[17] African-American feminists are on record claiming that because their oppression is doubled down, due to their gender and race, this provides them with a different perspective that both white women and African-American men cannot relate to.

Critiques

Feminist Activist Gloria Steinem

There have been many critiques of postmodern feminism since it originated in the 1990s. Most of the criticism has been from modernistsand feminists supporting modernist thought. They have put a focus on the themes of relativismand nihilismas defined by postmodernism. Though modernist critics believe more importantly, that through abandoning the values of Enlightenment thought, postmodern feminism "precludes the possibility of liberating political action."[18]This concern can be seen in critics like Meaghan Morris, who have argued that postmodern feminism runs the risk of undercutting the basis of a politics of action based upon gender difference, through its very anti-essentialism.[19]Alison Assiterpublished the book Enlightened Womento critique postmodernists and postmodern feminists alike, saying that there should be a return to Enlightenment values and modernist feminism.[20]Gloria Steinemhas also criticized feminist theory, and especially postmodernist feminist theory, as being overly academic, where discourse that is full of jargon and unaccessible is helpful to no one.[21]


See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Sands, Roberta; Nuccio, Kathleen (Nov 1992). "Postmodern Feminist Theory and Social Work: A Deconstruction". Social Work. 37: 489. doi:10.1093/sw/40.6.831. ISSN 1545-6846 – via ProQuest.
  2. ^ Ebert, Teresa L. (Dec 1991). "The "Difference" of Postmodern Feminism". College English. 53 (8): 886–904. doi:10.2307/377692. ISSN 0010-0994 – via JSTOR.
  3. ^ a b Tong, Rosemarie (1989). Feminist thought : a comprehensive introduction. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. pp. 217–224. ISBN 9780429493836. OCLC 1041706991.
  4. ^ Wallin, Dawn C (2001). Postmodern Feminism and Educational Policy Development. MicGill Journal of Education. pp. 27–43. OCLC 967130390.
  5. ^ a b Bolatito, A Lanre-Abbas (Fall 2003). "Feminism in the postmodernist age". The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies. 28: 355–368 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ G. Gutting ed., The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2002) p. 389
  7. ^ Judith Butler, "Contingent Foundations" in Seyla Benhabib et al., Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 35-58
  8. ^ Moya, Paula M.L. From Postmodernism, 'Realism,' and the Politics of Identity: Cherríe Moraga and Chicana Feminism in Gilbert, Susan M.; Gubar, Susan Eds (2007). Feminist literary theory and criticism : a Norton reader (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 787–797. ISBN 9780393927900.
  9. ^ Frug, Mary Joe (March 1992). "A Postmodern Feminist Manifesto (An Unfinished Draft)". Harvard Law Review. Vol. 105 No.5: pp. 1045-1075.CS1 maint: Extra text (link)
  10. ^ a b Gambaudo, Sylvie A. (2007). "French Feminism vs Anglo-American Feminism: A Reconstruction". European Journal of Women’s Studies. 13: 96–97.
  11. ^ Moi, Toril. (2002). Sexual/textual politics : feminist literary theory (2nd ed ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN 0415280117. OCLC 49959398.CS1 maint: Extra text (link)
  12. ^ New French feminisms : an anthology. Marks, Elaine., De Courtivron, Isabelle. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 1980. ISBN 0870232800. OCLC 5051713.CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ Moses, Claire Goldberg (Summer 1998). "Made in America: `French feminism' in academia". Feminist Studies. Vol. 24, Issue 2 – via EBSCOhost.
  14. ^ a b c d Rosser, Sue V. (1997). "The Next Millennium Is Now Here: Women's Studies Perspectives on Biotechnics and Reproductive Technologies". Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy. 8 (1): 1–27. ISSN 1052-5017.
  15. ^ a b David, Miriam E. (2016). Reclaiming feminism: Challenging everyday misogyny (1 ed.). Bristol University Press.
  16. ^ Collins, Patricia Hill (2008 [1991]). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. Routledge. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ African American Studies. Edinburgh University Press. 2010. doi:10.3366/j.ctt1g0b6m8. ISBN 9780748637140.
  18. ^ Hekman, Susan J. (1990). Gender and Knowledge. Boston: Northeastern University Press. pp. 152–153.
  19. ^ Schmidt, K. (2005). The Theater of Transformation. pp. 129–130.
  20. ^ Assiter, Alison (1995). Enlightened Women. London: Routledge.
  21. ^ Denes, Melissa (2005-01-17). "'Feminism? It's hardly begun'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-29.

Bibliography

External links