My altering perspective 5/2/2011 Madison Strouse
Through serious acquisition I have come to several different understandings and questions about feminism. Four theorists have severely impacted my view and understanding on the concept of feminism. Those theorists are Sally Miller Gearhart, Helen Cixous, bell hooks, and Foss, Foss, and Griffin (including Condit’s response). In the next several paragraphs I will outline what each of these theorists have brought to my attention regarding feminism and what I feel in response; but before that I want to give you an idea of how little I knew about feminism prior to this class. On the first day of class, we were asked what feminism is. In response to this all I could say was that it was the movement which got women their rights. I really had no knowledge of the different feminist waves and felt somewhat embarrassed by my lack of knowledge. On that same day we were asked to acknowledge certain perceptions or stereotypes regarding feminism. Most of our class stated comments like “man haters,” “lesbians,” or “sex haters.” My stereotype of feminism was more along the lines of a “man hater.” Though there are some theorists who “don’t like me,” I feel these stereotypes towards feminism are really an expression of a lack of understanding. This class has really giving me a strong understanding about feminism and has cleared up those falsified stereotypes in my mind. I path to understanding began with Sally Miller Gearhart. Gearhart opened my eyes in two significant ways in regard to feminist theory; first, her view of women’s liberation verse women’s equality, and second, her definition of feminism. To Gearhart equality for women in a world of domination would mean women engage and encompass the same qualities of the destructive dominant culture. This of course would be useless for getting rid of this unhealthy
domination. Instead she wanted liberation of the dominant culture; she wanted to break down the system of “power-over other human being,” and create a new system of that nurtures the people within it. She defines feminism as an “ideology of change,” and this ideology is the means to transform this unsafe and damaging system of domination into one that is “life affirming and nurturing.” I really enjoyed Gearhart’s rhetoric on feminism. She expresses the fact that there is a system of domination in society and that it is not used for the benefit of others but rather to maintain power. I feel like her definition on feminism is really about creating a system that is constructive and beneficial to those with in it. I also manifested in her belief that women should engage in “self –nurturance;” the ability to be identified by yourself, a women, verses a man or a male dominated society. My Grand-mother is the same age as Gearhart, and he pursuit of “selfnurturance” when most women in that time did identify themselves through men, is very empowering. Gearhart’s grasp on feminism really opened my mind to that idea that feminism can take place in many different forms. The next theorist I related to, and really click with, was Helen Cixous; specifically her belief about the “new woman” verses the “old woman”. The idea Cixous had about liberating the new woman from the old, but also loving and respecting the old woman, is brilliant to me. The acknowledgement of where women have been and where we are now is vastly significant, and often seems to be forgotten. I agree that we must separate ourselves from the “old woman,” those who were oppressed and kept in the dark, and we must engage in actions of the “new woman.” We must step beyond the past and not allow it to define us anymore. She quotes, “from now on, who, if we say so, can say no to us? We’ve come back from always.” This concept, and that of the new and the old, seems to be a tool for motivating women. A tool that gives women more
power than they may have felt they had during the time she wrote this. Today this idea still pertains; I think women, especially in younger age groups, forget the suffering that had to take place for them to have the rights that they do. I am not recommending we dwell on our oppressed past as females, but there should be a common awareness and respect for it. From here I found myself really connecting with bell hooks. Prior to this class, and still, I am infatuated with the media’s negative influence, and ways of which to halt it. We see the destruction that comes from trying to attain unattainable beauty portrayed in the media, and I feel bell hooks approaches a good start on how to reduce the amount of mass media influence. Specifically, I agree with her “cultural criticism” approach, which places responsibility on the individual to critically view what their culture is telling them, and to start with mass media because it has the largest reach. She wants us to watch or absorb, then take apart or analyze what we saw, and end this criticism with a solution; a personal solution that could alter the negative messages you just received in positive messages. I truly believe that the more people who can critically acknowledge the power of the media, the more people who can rise above it. The last theorist I want to address is Foss, Foss, and Griffin, and well as Condit’s response to them. Foss, Foss, and Griffin imagine a world where domination is not prevalent where rhetoric is not about persuasion but rather just another form of communication. They call it “invitational rhetoric,” a form of two-way communication where ideas and rhetoric can be challenged, accepted, or even rejected. The concept that no matter what a person believes it is their conscious choice to believe and they have not been persuaded into believing it. Condit argued that persuasion is necessary and not all people have the abilities or eloquence to express their opinions or ideas, thus domination or some sort of superiority is nature. Condit also believes that a world which lacks gender norms would be better than a word with no domination.
Removing gender stereotypes and classifications would rid us of the inequities of man and woman because there would be no man and no woman; a clean slate of people who differentiated by other traits that are detached from gender. This discussion really made me question feminist theory, and where it is actually headed verse where theorists wish it were headed. I believe that society, one without gender norms or one that solely practiced invitational rhetoric would be better in different ways. However I look at these ideas and look at where we are today, and I question if any of these theories are even possible. I found myself getting a little discouraged, because I look at our society and gender norms and I see how prevalent they are. It makes me wonder what more will change. Have we hit a glass ceiling for the entire feminist movement? As you can see these theorists have left me scratching my head and pondering for many hours. Nevertheless, through all of them I have concluded that in the wave we are in today, feminism has to be practiced with in the individual. Feminism has come a long way and I think to rise above the “glass ceiling” it is up to the masses of people to personally make the efforts to make that ceiling disappear. Feminism is not just a practice for females; it is a practice of awareness and action. Like our guest speakers stated it is hard to figure out how your actions in day to day life exhibit feminism. However, feminism to me seems to be as basic as doing the right thing, questioning the norms, not striping people of who they are, embracing culture, and even more so embracing difference. The feminist movement has moved beyond a women’s movement. It is a movement that is for all genders, races, and ethnicities; through its history it is a movement that has influenced change, and I believe it still has the power to influence more change, it’s just up to the people.