Examining Feminism: In texts and in life.

As I have previously alluded to, I think that critical theories are not only important for examining texts in ELA classroom, but they also present a variety of different lenses for critiquing interpreting the our roles as citizens in world in which we live, an argument that both Tyson and Appleman seem to agree with as well. Without theories, how can we understand our existence?

 

Regarding feminist criticism, Tyson writes that it “examines the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforces or undermines the economic, political, social and psychological oppression of women” (83). Further, feminist theory aims to critique the patriarchal society “which promotes the belief that women are innately inferior to men” (85). I think these two quotes represent a wonderful definition of feminist theory, as they highlight the main concerns of this theory, but also leave room for more specific explorations under this general definition, such as French Feminism or Multicultural Feminism, which are both described in Tyson. Further, “gender issues play a part in every aspect of human production and experience, including the production and experience of literature, whether we are consciously aware of these issues of not” (92). Thus, it seems not only necessary, but crucial that students learn and apply feminist theory, and others, as the come of age and encounter and recognize how society views and treats both men and women. Would you agree? Are there theories that are too advanced for adolescent students?

 

I think feminist theory is particularly important as it explores the social and controversial issue of the role of women in society, which has been historically dominated by men. I think feminist theory would allow students examine and analyze our country’s (and our world’s) past, present and future, in relation to feminism. Further, in ELA classrooms, I think that a feminist lens would be a great theory to introduce first, because as Tyson points out “one of feminism’s strengths is the freedom with which it borrows ideas from other theories” (94). Thus, initial explorations of feminist theory could serve as a gateway to other theories as well. Further, I think most students are aware of feminism, but that most are unaware of how much it may affect their everyday lives.

 In the first paragraph of Tyson, she makes a very interesting statement when she writes that “the oversimplified, negative view of feminism…still persists in American culture today” (83). Consider this remark, because as individuals, we need to understand our personal beliefs regarding feminism, in order to determine how this theory may be investigated in our classrooms. Further, Tyson also writes that women aren’t born biologically inferior to men, but rather culture determines that women are inferior. How do you feel about this statement? Agree or disagree? Do you believe that women occupy an inferior position to men because of biology and/or because of culture? Finally, another interesting point that Tyson makes is when she writes that “as the source of life, women are themselves the source of power and energy” (100).  How does the reality of women’s abilities to reproduce fit in with our society’s view of women as being inferior?  Further, please also consider how women are portrayed in the literary canon novels that most high school students read. What values are these novels perpetrating regarding women? These are some questions I was thinking about as I read this chapter. It will give us a place to start on Thursday.

Appleman also presents a strong argument as to why feminist theory should be taught to adolescents. She writes that this theory allows students, “young men and young women to make meaning of their reading, their schooling, and their gendered place in the world” (97). She suggests at least four ways in which using feminist theory can “transform students’ reading on page 77, so be sure to make special note of those. Perhaps think of additional examples as well. Throughout this chapter and in contrast to Tyson, Appleman applies feminist theory to texts, within various ELA classrooms. Important questions she asks in this chapter which we should consider for Tuesday include:  “How does the fictional portrayal of female characters reflect the reality of women’s lives? How does the creation of female characters reinforce of resist certain social attitudes toward women? How are we as readers implicated in what is essentially a gendered act as we read and interpret the lives of women who people the pages of the works of literature we read?” Do you think these are good questions to ask adolescents? What others can we add?

 Feel free to respond before Tuesday! -Mandy

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One response to “Examining Feminism: In texts and in life.

  1. sunyprof

    Mandy, great questions for us to consider. Did you happen to see the front page of the Sunday POST today? Take a look at For Women Only–great for discussion.

    Do post again with more of your thoughts about your own experience as a female reader in middle and high school. You’re reading A NORTHERN LIGHT, yes? You might point out how you re-see this text in light of the chapters you’ve been reading.

    Also, I wonder what exposure you have had to feminist theories? KES

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