With the advancement in science and the arrival of enlightenment it was believed that it will lead to human emancipation.
But in oppose to the universal common view critical perspective believes that science like other forms of knowledge has also been used as an instrument of oppression.
Thus they warn against the blind faith in scientific progress and knowledge.
Critical Theory was established as a school of thought by the Frankfurt School Influenced by Western Marxist philosophy.
Feminist theory and postmodernist theory have challenged the ongoing norms and tries to rescue people out of the illusion of science.
Feminist at the one hand tries to the break the male dominance over the knowledge system and society, postmodernists challenge the modernist claim over about the universality and homogeneity of truth.
Feminism is an ideology or belief which seeks equal rights for women in every fields of work.
The term feminism first came in use during the period of 1890s.
But the origin of modern feminism can only be traced back to late seventeenth century surely not in its present form.
The first full expression of liberal feminism came in Mary Wollstonecraft’s book “Vindication of the Rights of Woman”.
She challenged her contemporaries who excluded the women from enjoying the full citizenship rights.
Wollstonecraft criticized such appeals to the ‘natural’ differences between men and women.
Some enlightened men like John Stuart Mill in the “Subjection of Women” 1869 Mill came up with full scale analysis of women’s situation and advantages to society of giving them full legal and political equality as per with men.
He believes that what is now considered as the nature of women is completely spurious and a result of a forced suppression and fabricated incitement.
Schools of Feminism
Feminist movement as a whole was concerned with the women rights and advocated for equality of sexes Vis-à-vis challenged male dominance.
Broadly speaking there can be three varieties of Feminist traditions namely liberal, socialist and radical feminism.
1. Liberal Feminism
It mainly emphasizes upon the equal worth of all individuals whether male and female.
The main focus is on achieving gender equality through political and legal reforms within the liberal democratic framework.
Liberal feminism has a great admiration and belief for the respective laws, the political institutions and the education.
Liberal feminism did not undermine the existing institutions of power in liberal democratic societies thus seems more inclusive and socially progressive.
They also believed that men can be an active participant in female struggle.
As some of men like JS Mill, have successfully done by advocating equal rights for women.
The major feminist associated with this theory include Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Stuart Mill, Helen Taylor, and Gina Krog, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, Rebecca Walker and many more.
Many feminists believe that liberalism is the source of the problem and not the solution.
2. Socialist Feminism
It mainly focuses upon the interconnection between capitalism and patriarchy as both capitalist system of production and a gendered biased institutionalized system of patriarchy is collectively responsible for the women’s condition.
Socialist feminists believe that financial dependence over males is a major cause of women’s oppression and discrimination.
Between 1960s and 1970s this variant of feminism has spread widely.
Gender equality can only be established by eliminating this economic and social structure.
Women's liberation here is imperative to larger quest for economic, social and political justice.
Some of main socialist feminist are Barbara Ehrenreich, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Johanna Brenner, Silvia Federici, Clara Fraser, Donna Haraway, Emma Goldman and so on.
Thus, feminist movement is actually a movement for the so cold upper class women’s dominance over the poor lower class women.
3. Radical Feminism
It is a perspective which advocates for radical reordering of a male dominated society.
The male dominated society is characterized by the male supremacy in all social, economic and political sphere of life.
Radical feminism advocated the elimination of male’s supremacy and women's experiences should also be count along with other divisions like race, class, and sexual orientation.
They proposed that the society is basically patriarchal based upon the women oppression by men.
Janice Raymond, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Germaine Greer, John Stoltenberg, Monique Wittig, Mary Daly and Robin Morgan are some important radical feminist.
They collectively struggled against the sexual objectification of women; oppose the violence against women in form of rape and other such crimes.
Patriarchy is the fundamental reason of systematic oppression and marginalization of women, it make women other.
Common points advocated by all feminists
1. Entrenchment of Gender
Gender inequality is widespread in all societies in all times.
All feminist are in one voice confirmed that the unequal bifurcation of individual roles on the bases of gender has been a major and common issue of concern as this gendered division lead to long term inequality in society.
2. Existence of Patriarchy
Patriarchy literally means ‘rule of father’.
Normally it signifies towards a condition where all necessary and relevant decisions in a family are taken by the male member.
Feminists have consensus over the existence of patriarchy in society.
3. Need for Change
All feminists believe that there is a deep need of change in the attitude and the manner hitherto society is running.
Different path can be adopted for the betterment of the women.
Shulamith Firestone in her best known work “The Dialectic of Sex” (1970) advocated an entirely different kind of solution to alter the status quo.
Waves of Feminism
1. First Wave Feminism
First Wave feminism mainly concerned with the treatment of woman in the male-dominated society.
The major works of this phase are Mary Ellman’s Thinking about Women (1968), Kite Millet’s Sexual politics (1969) and Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (1970).
Many important works of the male writers have been studied in order to analyze the attitude of male towards women and society.
The major demand in this wave was women’s interest cannot be sacrificed and not subject to any reductionism.
Writers like Mary Wollstonecraft “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” 1792, highlighted the inequalities between the sexes.
Activities like Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull contributed to the women’s suffrage movement in 1920 with the passing of the 19th Amendment.
2. Second Wave Feminism
It is more commonly, also known as ‘Gynocritisism’.
This stage is believed to have begun with Elaine Showalter’s “A literature of Their Own” in 1970.
It is associated with the resurgence of feminist activism, specifically the radical feminism, in 1960s and 1970s
Second Wave Feminism is concerned with the women writings include Ellen Moore’s Literary Women (1976), Elaine Showalter’s Literature of their Own(1970).
This phase chiefly explores the relationship between female and male literature and text were analyzed to understand the treatment of female characters by the male in the society.
3. Third Wave Feminism
The third wave of feminism emerged in the mid-1900s.
It resisted the perceived essentialist ideologies and a white, heterosexual, middle class focus of second wave feminism.
Third wave of feminism borrowed from post-structural and contemporary gender and race theories to extend on marginalized populations experiences.
The third wave was much more inclusive of women of colure than the first and second waves had been.
Feminist criticism in the 1970 exposed the mechanism of patriarchy, that is, the culture ‘mindset’ in men and women, which perpetuated sexual inequalities.
Feminists during this wave demanded that women must not see themselves as victims, rather consider themselves as active agents.
Sexuality should be thought as liberating and consensual sex should not be treated as a taboo.
Feminism should focus on women’s material equality rather than symbolic aspect of gender.
Throughout the different waves of feminism, the phrase ‘personal is political’ was used widely particularly in the second wave.
The phrase was popularized by the Carol Hanisch through her article “The Personal is Political” in 1969.
Personal is Political
In “Justice, Gender and the Family” Susan Molar Okin argues that there are four major respects in which the personal is political. These are:
A distinguishing feature of the political but private sphere is also a sphere of power.
Power exists within the family, among the gender relations between husband and wife, sister and brother and so on.
For example domestic violence is clear reflection of the use of power within family.
2. The domestic sphere
Itself is the result of the political decisions taken in other sphere. In that sense political sphere infiltrates private sphere.
State interference in family matters and the institution of marriage reveals this infiltration.
Marriages are sanction by the state; the state is the supreme authority to decide who can be marrying and whom you cannot marry.
3. Domestic life
It where most of individual’s early socialization takes place.
Private sphere creates the psychological conditions that can govern public life.
The social construction (gender division of labor) and patriarchal surrounding work as an initial setup.
4. The division of labor
Within majority of families raises psychological and practical barriers against women in all other spheres.
The household responsibilities cause women’s underrepresentation in most relevant public institutions like government, judiciary and economy.
Feminists reject the liberal idea that the family is part of a ‘private’ realm where principles of justice cannot be actualized remove the difference between personal and political, difference of sex and gender must be abolished first.
Sex and Gender
Women’s sex is defined relative to maleness, a woman is a ‘not-man’.
Men on the other hand are defined independently of their sex and of women, as autonomous and rational beings.
Feminists have confirmed the fact that gender and sex are two different things and gender distinctions are socially constructed.
Since the seventeenth century, some feminist have argued that the women’s nature which is characterized as natural and universal is actually artificial and distorted, a product of constructed societal upbringing.
Gender refers to those differences that are imposed only by social norms such as girls should wear pink and boys should wear blue or the norm that women should be kind and emotional and men should be tough and rational.
Feminist political thought has been primarily concerned with at least two issues.
First, it analyses and explains the processes, institutions and practices through which women have been subordinated to the men.
The women have been marginalized through a set of constructed societal norms.
Second, feminism is not limited to the analysis of the problem but it also tries formulated the most appropriate and effective ways to challenge this subordination and domination.
Feminist criticism takes the feminism and the feminism theories as a base to criticize the literature of old and modern times.
It is focused on addressing the issues regarding places and consideration of women in social, political and psychological and economic aspects of human life.
The greatness of feminist literary criticism lies in its ability to take a variety of new routes.
In practice, feminist literary criticism is not limited to texts written and read by women, for its interest is not only how ‘women’ have been treated, but how notions of gender and sexuality have generally determined an inferior place for many different voices of women, of racial and ethnic minorities and gay and lesbian writer and readers of literature.
Feminist criticism works with a shifting agenda endlessly acknowledging both the complexity of the past and the limits of any schemes of interpretation we place on the past.
Feminist literary Criticism may be seen to intervene in the process of culture’s self-reproduction to make visible the injustices of present between men and women, and keep them from being reproduced in the future.