Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reading Notes (on Feminism)

This article I was editing for TSWL cites Susan Gubar's 2006 work, Rooms of Our Own, and I was so struck by the description of the book that I decided to take it home and read it. While I did have to go through the text really fast because it was on Interlibrary Loan, I would definitely like to check it out again since it sort of exemplifies this weird genre that I have been trying to conceptualize in my mind (and perhaps even write about in the near future). [Although at this point I should totally thank my friend Court for helping me think through some of these ideas and for even coming up with some impetus for me to pursue this idea.]

I think one of the best ways to classify this genre is creative criticism. Sort of like a variation on creative non-fiction. I have been finding some works that fit into the genre and was thankful to come across The Intimate Critique--a bright prospect for future reading!

Well, what I want to share comes from Gubar's text. In her rift on Woolf's Chapter One and talking about first-wave feminism, Gubar writes:

"Still the poorer half of humanity, still woefully unrepresented in political circles, women have nevertheless begun to earn wages nearly equal to those of men. The Pill, birth control, abortion: did these trigger transmutations in sex (the biological manipulation of the body) and in gender (the societal manipulation of the roles of mother, caregiver, nurturer), or was the real basis for change economic, the opening up of virtually all professions to women for the first time in history? In any case, birth control and woman's greater employment had driven home and the real point behind Wollstonecraft's and Fuller's, Mill's and Schreiner's polemics, their attack on biological determinism, their resistance to the idea that anatomy is destiny, that biology justifies or dictates social norms." (pg. 32)

This particular question really got me thinking. Is one of the reasons that we have a shift in how we conceptualize gender today because of the technologies of birth? And how much does our understanding of genetics and hormones influence it? Gubar's question made me realize the significance that birth plays in how we think of gender. If woman uses the pill and aborts fetuses, is she not a woman? If a woman hates her offspring, is she a man? I had thought of these questions in some form or another before, but it was reading this that catalyzed these thoughts. And yet even if anatomy is not always destiny, it is important to remember that anatomy is important sometimes. So, I guess it is a good question. What causes a change in people's thinking, woman's control of their body or woman's ability to be equal in the social arena? And doesn't woman's ability to be equal socially (say in the workforce in particular) may entail a control and manipulation of their biology?

No comments: