Feminist Friday: Feminist roots, and: guests wanted

I don’t have a specific purpose for Feminist Friday posts, other than the fact that they relate to feminism, or women’s issues in some way. My hope is to grow an audience with these posts that can discuss openly, the issues that touch everyone in our society, men included, whether those intended men want to own up to their part in the process or not.

Feminism makes many people of both sexes uncomfortable, and I think that those of us who find truth in feminist ideals as needed change agents in our society have a responsibility to question why that is. We may think we know the answers, at times we often do, but if we choose to close ourselves off to discussion then change is impossible.

On September 5th, when I introduced Feminist Friday, I talked briefly about two texts edited by Miriam Schneir. I think that it’s important to return to these texts, and the essays and lectures contained within them, on occasion.

The first text that Schneir has edited begins with feminist pioneers, or the voices of women she assigns to “old feminism” from the mid 18th century (xvi). It is challenging to me, as someone who wants to give credit to the female pioneers of feminism, and as someone who enjoys research, to strike a balance between the been-there-done-that sort of post, the concepts that unfortunately are still necessary to include and discuss, and my overall desire to keep this feature of the blog fresh. I don’t want to re-hash too much of where we came from, yet I also don’t want to simply replay news stories, magazine articles, and countless shared news feed posts from social media. Of course, we have to be heard, and I have no intention of silencing any voice that chooses to speak to feminism.

I would love to hear what you want to talk about, what concerns you in regards to feminism, rather that be the past, present or future. I have some ideas for guest bloggers who are willing to share their experiences, either positive or negative, with feminism or related issues. Those personal stories can only strengthen what feminism is about: an intersectional approach to women’s place within patriarchal boundaries. I will continue to re-blog other sites that strike me as important, but if anyone wishes to discuss being a guest blogger for Feminist Friday, please let me know in the comments.

To end this post, let’s go back to Schneir and look at a few feminist voices.

Early feminism has long been associated with suffrage, an implied idiom that has often come to mean equal rights for women, but as we know, only defines the right to vote in a political election. Schneir highlights three prominent themes associated with early feminists: marriage as oppressive to women, economic dependence of women, and selfhood for women (xvi-xviii). Does it surprise you that those themes carry over into society today?

How better to illustrate the prolonged, perhaps unending, fight we face even today than to remember Mary Wollstonecraft and The Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Socially acceptable destiny for women in 1792 was locked into the convention that women were to be kept ignorant and servile (Schneir 6). Wollstonecraft took on all three of the themes of early feminism in this publication and had the audacity to ask “…how many generations may be necessary to give vigour to the virtue and talents of the freed posterity of abject slaves” (Schneir 16).

A second feminist who stood out to me was George Sand. Schneir reveals that Sand “was born Aurore Dupin in Paris,” was married at eighteen, legally separated eight years later, and began a literary career in 1832 writing under “the pen name of George Sand” (25). Sand was noted to state that the “laws which…govern a woman’s existence in wedlock, in the family, and in society are unjust and barbarous,” and that any reform of those laws “would be “‘long and bitter…’” (Schneir 26). She got that part right I believe.

In excerpts from The Intimate Journal, Sand discusses love and relationships in 1837, a time when women were considered inferior, and men had absolute rule. In light of the many reports of domestic abuse lately, many of her comments are sadly timely and profound.

Deep in a discussion with her alter ego, Sand finds fault with the idea that women should embrace complete acceptance to subordination and she counters with these three meaningful thoughts:

“Devotion he expects as a matter of course, as his natural right, for no other reason than that he is his mother’s son. She must permit herself to be ruled, possessed, absorbed by him, for the privilege of adoring him as a god” (Schneir 33).

“Most women…are so desperate not to lose the men they love, that they will allow these men to rule their lives absolutely. Her submission, loyalty, tenderness and devotion are received by him as his due. Unless a woman treats him this way, he will not deign to put up with her at all” (Schneir 33).

“Immodest creature, [man] you do not want a woman who will accept your faults, you want one who pretends that you are faultless–one who will caress the hand that strikes her and kiss the lips that lie to her” (Schneir 33).

Work Cited

Schneir, Miriam. Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings. New York: Random House, 1994. Print.

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3 thoughts on “Feminist Friday: Feminist roots, and: guests wanted”

  1. I’m not familiar with Schneir nor up on Sand, so thanks for educating me 🙂 Here’s what I want to talk about: Where’s the Next Wave and how does it start? I’ve got a link to a Guardian article someplace that quotes a couple of musicians talking about Fourth Wave Feminism, but that article was posted in January and I’ve not heard anything more. This is why I’m so keen to see what comes of the Watson speech.

    My sense is that Millennials have to lead the charge and men have to be included in an up-front, unapologetic way if we want to make progress. The reason I think that is that Gen X is a small generation, relatively speaking, and we’re never going to have a lot of power because the demographics are against us and the culture has changed so much over the last 20 years that we’re stuck with one foot in the 90s and one in the present. And the Baby Boomers are dying off. And defining feminism as man-hating is a tried-and-true tactic for separating feminist women from natural male allies. Mobilizing a swarm of male feminists is a good way to neutralize that man-hating argument. Is what I think.

    Nice to find someone else writing about gender inequality on a regular basis. 🙂

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    1. Watch for more from Schneir-her second text is focused on the more contemporary feminists and I plan occasion posts focused on many of them as well. She has a balanced editing style that has highlighted both well-known names and the not-so-prominent ones as well.

      Great question on the whole idea of a 4th Wave. Bits and pieces on this came up in Feminist Theory and other WGS courses I took over this last year, but they weren’t well defined. My take on this move is more to an internal focus between all feminists-the concept of intersectionality more or less and a global identity of recognition that all women, everywhere bring something to the table unique to feminism. Patricia Hill Collins and Gloria Anzaldua are two good places to start, and for Queer Theory Judith Butler gets into a great deal on the intersection of gender. All topics for future discussion I think.

      Mobilizing men has to be a part of this process. Feminists of my era are often stuck in the patriarchy debate (I admit to that definitely) and we have a lot to learn from younger feminists, both females and males. This is one reason I wanted to start posting about feminism on this blog. I feel like I only touched the basics during my recent college courses and I yearn for more.

      Consider your blog the newest one on my follow list 🙂

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      1. I’m so glad I left those comments now 🙂

        Thanks for the advice for further reading. I’m not really up on the feminism, as far as what people are writing about it goes, and I’ve reached the point where I need to catch up in a hurry.

        That link to my post about the Watson speech I left you on the other thread actually goes to my sister’s blog. Long story, but we have three. We post our feminism stuff at hers.

        I’m glad you see the importance of mobilizing men — that’s crucial, I think. And I agree that all women, everywhere bring something to the table. The failure to recognize that caused a lot of problems for some feminist bloggers I followed ten years ago or so. Arguments over that ended friendships and broke up little online communities of feminists I was following.

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