What is the meaning of “Feminism”?

Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women. Most feminists are especially concerned with social, political, and economic inequality between men and women; some have argued that gendered and sexed identities, such as "man" and "woman," are socially constructed. Feminists differ over the sources of inequality, how to attain equality, and the extent to which gender and sexual identities should be questioned and critiqued. Thus, as with any ideology, political movement or philosophy, there is no single, universal form of feminism that represents all feminists.” (1_wikipedia)

First wave of feminism: “First-wave feminism refers to a period of feminist activity during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the United Kingdom and the United States. It primarily focused on gaining the right of women's suffrage. The term, "first-wave," was coined retroactively after the term second-wave feminism began to be used to describe a newer feminist movement.” “In the UK, Mary Wollstonecraft published the first feminist treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), in which she advocated the social and moral equality of the sexes. Her later unfinished work Maria, or the Wrongs of Women earned her considerable criticism as she dared to acknowledge the existence of women's sexual desires, almost certainly becoming the first published woman writer to do so.” (2)

Second wave of feminism: “the period of the second-wave feminist movement was concerned with the issue of economic and other forms of equality (including the ability to have careers in addition to motherhood, or the right to choose not to have children)”.(3)

Third wave feminism: “is a feminist movement that began in the early 1990s. While second-wave feminism largely focused on the inclusion of women in traditionally male-dominated areas, third-wave feminism seeks to challenge and expand common definitions of gender and sexuality.” (4)

“Traits of third-wave feminism include queer theory, women-of-color consciousness, post-colonialism, critical theory, transnationalism, and new feminist theory. In particular, a post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality is often, though not always, central to third-wave feminism. Other consequences include a decreased emphasis upon addressing and overthrowing a perceived oppression by patriarchy and instead focuses on equality between the sexes”(4)

Feminist Literary Criticism: Some Definitions.

“Generally, feminist literary criticism exists to counter, resist, and eventually eliminate the traditions and conventions of  patriarchy­ the ideology or belief system which sees as "natural" the dominance and superiority of men over women in both private and public contexts--as it exists in literary, historical, and critical contexts.” (5)

 “Feminist literary criticism is literary criticism informed by feminist theory, or by the politics of feminism more broadly. Its history has been broad and varied, from classic works of nineteenth-century women authors such as George Eliot and Margaret Fuller to cutting-edge theoretical work in women's studies and gender studies by "third-wave" authors. In the most general and simple terms, feminist literary criticism before the 1970s -- in the first and second waves of feminism -- was concerned with the politics of women's authorship and the representation of women's condition within literature. Since the arrival of more complex conceptions of gender and subjectivity and third-wave feminism, feminist literary criticism has taken a variety of new routes. It has considered gender in the terms of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, as part of the deconstruction of existing relations of power, and as a concrete political investment. It has been closely associated with the birth and growth of queer studies. And the more traditionally central feminist concern with the representation and politics of women's lives has continued to play an active role in criticism.” (6).

“Écriture féminine, literally women's writing, is a philosophy that promotes women's experiences and feelings to the point that it strengtheness the work.

Écriture féminine places experience before language, and privileges the anti-linear, cyclical writing so often frowned upon by patriarchal society. For Cixous, though, ecriture feminine is not only a possibility for female writers, rather, she believes it can also be employed by men. Just as women often lapse into masculine writing, Cixous believes that men can also tap into feminine writing.” (7)


Goals of Feminist Literary Criticism


“Lisa Tuttle has defined feminist theory as asking "new questions of old texts." [citation needed] She cites the goals of feminist criticism as: 1) To develop and uncover a female tradition of writing; 2) to interpret symbolism of women's writing so that it will not be lost or ignored by the male point of view; 3) to rediscover old texts; 4) to analyze women writers and their writings from a female perspective; 5) to resist sexism in literature; and 6) to increase awareness of the sexual politics of language and style.” (8).


What did the women’s writers say?


“Helene Cixous states that l'ecriture feminine seeks a way of writing that literally embodies the female, thereby fighting the "subordinating, linear style of classification or distinction." While men have a penis, she states, women, too, possess something of their own: All women write in a little of that good mother's milk.” (9)

Some of the women’s writers of the 19th century adopted male names, pseudonims,as for example George Eliot:

“George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans): She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure that her works were taken seriously. Female authors published freely under their own names, but Eliot wanted to ensure that she was not seen as merely a writer of romances.” (10)

“Adrienne Rich: Feminism means finally that we renounce our obedience to the fathers and recognize that he world they have described is not the whole world re-vision--the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes of entering an old text from a new critical direction--is for us more than a chapter in cultural history,it is an act of survival.” (9)






1_  “Feminism”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.24 May 2006 23:36 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Feminism&oldid=54976835.

2_ “First-wave feminism”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 16 april 2006, 15:19 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=First-wave_feminism&oldid=48708897

3_ “Second- wave feminism”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.13 May 2006, 00:50 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006.  http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Second-wave_feminism&oldid=52928008

4_  “ Third- wave feminism”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 May 2006, 02:23 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Third-wave_feminism&oldid=52597511




6_ “Feminist Literary Criticism”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 24 May 2006, 00:42 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Feminist_literary_criticism&oldid=54809691


7_ “Écriture Feminine”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 20 April 2006, 16:00 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=%C3%89criture_f%C3%A9minine&oldid=49301247


8_ “Feminist Literary Criticism”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 24 May 2006, 00:42 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Feminist_literary_criticism&oldid=54809691




. Links update in July 2003 By James Romesburg. Last time viewed: 25 May 2006.

10_ “ George Eliot”. Wikipedia,The Free Ecyclopedia. 24 May 2006, 21: 15 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 May 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=George_Eliot&oldid=54954503