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FLEUR BERTOIA

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FLEUR BERTOIA
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  FLEUR BERTOIA FEMINISM: “ The History of women: (…) A History made up of millions of singular stories, but traversed by the same questions, the same fears .” –Hélène Cixous For the laer years it has been important, if not essenal, to acknowledge the existence of diversity within the Feminist movement, as the Interseconal feminism strongly believes and states, in terms of women’s own experience and story. This acknowledgement has aroused in consequence many doubts around the noon of privilege: the Feminist movement has been indeed perceived as being mainly predominated by white and middle-class women. Women share dierent experience because of their dierence of race, class, naonality or gender. So how can women overcome these dierences and unite together in one whole movement to ght for the same rights? Do they really feel to belong to a same group?To comprehend the diversity inside the Feminist movement, it is essenal to analyse rst the general relaonship between women and men, and their comparison and dierence of treatment by the patriarchal society and in the world of literature. Hélène Cixous is a French Feminist theorist who has focused her theory on the exploraon of the feminine as related to the masculine, and more precisely, on the female experience in wring: her theory is in fact based on the French philosophy called the “écriture féminine”, which sees the wring as a source of power and freedom, making this way the main women’s role to re-order power by language. In her analysis of the Western discourse, Cixous makes a clear disncon between female and male writers,: throughout history, male wring and wring in general has always been perceived as something moral and raonal, seled by the strict rules imposed by the patriarchal society; while when it’s a woman wring, as soon as she tries to write about her raw emoons, it is felt as immoral, and immediately ignored by society. In one of her most famous theorecal essays, The Laugh of the Medusa , she writes: “ Every woman has known the tormet of geng up to speak (…) her words fall almost always upon the deaf male ear, which hears in language only that which speaks in the masculine .” It is dicult for a female writer to be taken seriously in a society shaped by strict codes that excludes automacally women writers. So the rstqueson that comes to mind is the following: how can a woman be listened and believed from a  male audience when she writes? What does she has to write about? The answer simple: her own personal story. Cixous believes that female writers need to get out of the system, out of the logic and the coded language, as she states in her essay Coming to Wring : “  As soon as you let yourself be led beyond codes (…) the codes diverge, you are no longer enclosed in the maps of social construcons, you no longer walk between walls, meaning ow  .” Only this way they will be able to escape the oppressive authority imposed by a male-dominang society, and leading this way to thebirth of a creave wring, characterized by excess, ow, and the sense of touch and body (Cixous promptly believes in the connecon between body and language, and denes “femininity” as a source of freedom and creaveness). This whole process will by consequence lead the female writer to build her own identy, even between women themselves, and so within the Feminist movement. So this is what dierenates a woman’s speech and wring from a man’s one: “ Listen to a woman speak at a public gathering (…) Her speech (…) is never simple or linear (…): she draws her story into history  .”But at the same me, building its own identy means also wring down on paper what makes each woman unique, and dierent one from another: this has led to a sharp and clear disncon between white women writers and black women writers. Because they share a dierent experience in history, with black segregaon and discriminaon, a white woman cannot truly express what a black woman really feels, as society doesn’t treat her, not only the same way as men, but also not the same way as it treats white women. Acknowledging its self-identy and individuality, means also acknowledging the fact that women have dierent structures of power in dierent sociees.Alice Walker came up in fact with the word of “womanism”: this is how the whole movement, builtand composed by dierent women sharing dierent experiences, should be called according to her. With this statement she sorts of acknowledges the fact that feminism is indeed a privileged movement, which means that the power of this movement is mainly held by only one category or type of woman, the white and middle-class one, and so it doesn’t represent the movement as a whole. Calling it “womanism” would mean including another large but powerless part of this movement, the black women. By “powerless” it is not intended that they detain less power than white women: society just gives them less means to discover and fulll their power, because of thehistorical background characterized by violence that is bound to black women.This is how the issue of idencaon comes up: you cannot idenfy as someone that is dierent from you, simply because you are not that person. So we can come up with a sort of equaon: the same way men cannot speak for women, white women cannot speak for black women. For instance, in Herland  , the male voice that narrates the life of a woman, as a mother and a wife, is perceived as not credible, nor authenc; and as Hélène Cixous said: “ I write woman: woman must write woman. And man, man .”Una Marsden, in her poem Kinky Hair Blues , expresses explicitly this sort of inferiority complex of black women towards white women, in terms of how they are seen from the perspecve of white men: for a long me, even aer the black segregaon, black women have been seen as less aracve in a society where reign the Western beauty standards, such as clear skin, straight hair, being skinny, and educated, etc. Even though the woman of Marsden’s poem seems at the  beginning to accept herself the way she is, she seems to lose condence at the end of the poem precisely because of those standards: “Now I’s gwine press me hair And bleach me skin. What won’t a gal do some kind of man to win .” This also shows at the same me how nding a man or husband seemed to be the only concern or interest in a woman’s life at the me; women were useful to society as wives and mothers, and because they weren’t valued by society for other things, women couldn’t value themselves in return. So not only black women have to ght for the equality between men and women, like white women do, but they also had to endure the discriminaon against them, because of their skin and their looks, that did not correspond to the society’s standards. Educaon is also another important factor: if for women it has been hard to access educaon compared to men, for black women it has been and it is even harder. Being educated is essenal for a woman in order to express her power and self-identy. Most of black women didn’t had the chance in the past to be educated because they were forced to marry at a very young age and so abandon their studies, as it is showed by Alice Walker in her remarkable novel  The Color Purple : Celie is raped and forced to marry and have children when she’s only 14 years old, while her younger sister Nee gets the chance to pursue her studies and escape home. Wring is in fact the only way for a woman to escape male authority, and so educaon is a key to freedom. It is precisely because women started to speak up for themselves through speeches or manifestos, that they found the strenght to start wring their stories and so ghng for their rights; and then other women followed their example and found the courage too to come out of their shell: the Feminist movement took in fact its srcins from the Abolionist movement.As a female writer, Cixous also gets to tell her own story, by revealing her srcins, and so her identy: she was born and raised in Algeria and she is Jewish; she in fact calls herself “Jewoman”. However, she explains that both her religion and being a woman are being considered as minories, as weakness by society: “ Naked. I felt naked for being Jewish (…), naked for being a woman (…).” Those same aributes that are supposed to shape het as a woman, as someone unique, those same tools necessary to a woman writer in order to exercise her power through language and through the sharing of her story and identy, are seen at the same me as obstacles to wring by the patriarchal society: “Everything in me joined forces to forbid me to write. History, my story, my srcin, my sex. Everything that constuted my social and cultural self. ”But once you start wring, it’s the moment when you start to realize that there is a hidden voice inside you that you didn’t about. A voice hidden deep inside you, in a dark place that you never ought to explore because society never gave you the means to do it, because what society did was only oppress you and make you think you didn’t count because of your gender, race, naonality, religion or whatsoever. This way this hidden power kept going down instead of going up, emerge. But wring as the power to show your power, as Audre Lorde wrote in her essay Poetry Is Not a Luxury  : “The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep .” For the rst me in their life, women are feeling valued through poetry andwring, they can nally bring that hidden and dark voice to light, to surface, learning eventually how to fulll this (no more) hidden power: “ For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, rst made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible acon.”   So the relaonships between all these categories, are always established by a binary hierarchy, where one side always comes out as the strongest, the superior, the one that has authority and power over the other: society establishes that a man is superior to a woman, as a white person (whether it’s a man or a woman) is superior to a black person. But because both being black and being a woman is considered by society as being a minority, as someone weak (which is why for instance that the female gender is considered as “the weak sex”), they can unite together, or at least relate each other as they share, not the same, but a similar experience in terms of treatment and oppression by society.So, although it is important to recognize the dierence of power between white and black women, instead of transforming this dierence into compeon, both black and white women have decided to follow the path of sisterhood, precisely what we call “women supporng women”, and this concept is well explained by Cixous: “ In woman, personal history blends together with the history of all women”  . In this essay, Coming to Wring , one of the main themes that she discuss is in fact the noon of “to get past the wall”: but which wall? It’s the wall of genres, the wall of sexualdierence, the wall of religions. All the walls that humanity itself, and especially male-dominang sociees, have built in history, and literature, educaon, culture, are one of the means that we can use to ght discriminaon, violence, hatred, ignorance and oppression, in order to build a beer world where we don’t have to look anymore at those elements that separate us, but instead and more at what unite us. Bibliography : - Hélène Cixous, Coming to Wring -Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of Medusa -Audre Lorde, Poetry Is Not a Luxury  -Alice Walker,  The Color Purple -Una Marsden, Kinky Hair Blues -Charloe Perkins Gilman, Herland 
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