Tag Archives: Feminist writings

Friday Feminist – Fiona Kidman

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Friday Christmas Eve beauty

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As you probably know, I am not a believer, but I do sing religious music, because so much of it is so very beautiful. Here is a small piece of exquisite singing for Christmas Eve – Gounod’s Ave Maria sung by Kiri Te Kanawa.

Ave Maria, a setting by Gounod of Bach’s Prelude in C, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa

Mary occupies a difficult place in feminist thought, especially for someone like me who was reared in the Catholic tradition. She is pedastalized, set above women as someone we should aspire to be like, holy and pure and eternally giving, with no thought of herself. Yet these magnificent words of social justice are placed in her mouth in the gospel of Luke, in what we know as the Magnificat.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy

I know that some of my readers celebrate Christmas as Christians, some as a secular festival of family, some don’t celebrate it at all. Whoever you are, wherever you may be, however you mark 25 December, may your day be happy.

Friday Aboriginal Rights Activist – Jackie Huggins (2)

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White liberation leaders are also fond of pointing to the analogy between blacks and women as second-class citizens in a white, male chauvinist society. One of the clearest points of similarity between the situation of blacks and women is that they have both been brainwashed into the same ‘low self-image’; they are not supposed to use their minds, they are incapable of making decisions. They are both second-class members of the society who should be kept in their place.

If white women in the women’s movement needed to make use of a black experience to emphasize women’s oppression, it would only seem logical that they focus on the black female experience – but they have not. Had white women desired to bond with black women on the basis of common oppression, they could have done so by demonstrating an awareness of the impact of sexism on the status of black women. Unfortunately, despite all the rhetoric about sisterhood and bonding, white women are not sincerely committed to bonding with black women to fight sexism. They are primarily interested in drawing attention to the oppression they consider they experience as white upper- or middle-class women.

Jackie Huggins, “Black women and women’s liberation”, Hecate, 13(1), 1987

Friday Feminist – Elaine Morgan (2)

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The longer I went on reading his own books about himself, the more I longed to find a volume that would begin: ‘When the first ancestor of the human race descended from the trees, she had not yet developed the mighty brain that was to distinguish her so sharply from all other species…’

Of course, she was no more the first ancestor than he was — but she was no less the first ancestor, either. She was there all along, contributing half the genes to each succeeding generation. Most of the books forget about her for most of the time. They drag her onstage rather suddenly for the obligatory chapter on Sex and Reproduction, and then say: ‘All right, love, you can go now,’ while they get on with the real meaty stuff about the Mighty Hunter with his lovely new weapons and his lovely new straight legs racing across the Pleistocene plains. Any modifications in her morphology are taken to be imitations of the Hunter’s evolution, or else designed solely for his delectation.

Elaine Morgan, The Descent of Woman, 1972

Friday Feminist – Elaine Morgan

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According to the Book of Genesis, God first created man. Woman was not only an afterthought, but an amenity. For close on two thousand years this holy scripture was believed to justify her subordination and explain her inferiority; for even as a copy she was not a very good copy. There were differences. She was not one of His best efforts.

There is a line in an old folk song that runs: ‘I called my donkey a horse gone wonky.’ Throughout most of the literature dealing with the differences between the sexes there runs a subtle underlying assumption that woman is a man gone wonky; that woman is a distorted version of the original blueprint; that they are the norm and we are the deviation.

It might have been expected that when Darwin came along and wrote an entirely different account of the Descent of Man, this assumption would have been eradicated, for Darwin didn’t believe she was an afterthought: he believed her origin was at least contemporaneous with man’s. It should have led to some kind of breakthrough in the relationship between the sexes. But it didn’t.

Almost at once men set about the congenial and fascinating task of working out an entirely new set of reasons why woman was manifestly inferior and irreversibly subordinate, and they have been happily engaged on this ever since. Instead of theology they use biology, and ethology, and primatology, but they use it to reach the same conclusions.

Elaine Morgan, The Descent of Woman, 1972

Friday Womanist – bell hooks (4)

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A central tenet of modern feminist thought has been the assertion that “all women are oppressed.” This assertion implies that women share a common lot, that factors like class, race, religion, sexual preference, etc. do not create a diversity of experience that determines the extent to which sexism will be an oppressive force in the lives of individual women. Sexism as a system of domination is institutionalized but it has never determined in an absolute way the fate of all women in this society. Being oppressed means the absence of choices. It is the primary point of contact between the oppressed and the oppressor. Many women in this society do have choices, (as inadequate as they are) therefore exploitation and discrimination are words that more accurately describe the lot of women collectively in the United States. Many women do not join organized resistance against sexism precisely because sexism has not meant an absolute lack of choices. They may know they are discriminated against on the basis of sex, but they do not equate this with oppression. Under capitalism, patriarchy is structured so that sexism restricts women’s behavior in some realms even as freedom from limitations is allowed in other spheres. The absence of extreme restrictions leads many women to ignore the areas in which they are exploited or discriminated against; it may even lead them to imagine that no women are oppressed.

bell hooks, “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory”, 1984

Friday Feminist – Sarah M Grimke (3)

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I cannot close this letter, without saying a few words on the benefits to be derived by men, as well as women, from the opinions I advocate relative to the equality of the sexes. Many women are now supported, in idleness and extravagance, by the industry of their husbands, fathers, or brothers, who are compelled to toil out their existence, at the counting house, or in the printing office, or some other laborious occupation, while the wife and daughters and sisters take no part in the support of the family, and appear to think that their sole business is to spend the hard bought earnings of their male friends. I deeply regret such a state of things, because I believe that if women felt their responsibility, for the support of themselves, or their families it would add strength and dignity to their characters, and teach them more true sympathy for their husbands, than is now generally manifested, — a sympathy which would be exhibited by actions as well as words. Our brethren may reject my doctrine, because it runs counter to common opinions, and because it wounds their pride; but I believe they would be “partakers of the benefit” resulting from the Equality of the Sexes, and would find that woman, as their equal, was unspeakably more valuable than woman as their inferior, both as a moral and an intellectual being.

Sarah M Grimke, Letter VIII: On the Condition of Women in the United States, 1837