Note on Feminist criticism

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Feminist Criticism

Feminism is a socio-political theory that is concerned not only with criticizing patriarchal ideas that have long been dominating, exploiting and discriminating women in every part of their life but also with promoting women’s ideas for their progress and changing their situation. Its objective is to uplift the situation of women. So this theory always advocates for the rights, justice, freedom and the equality of the female race in the society. Hence, it is a progressive ideology. During 1970s, a group of female started talking about male and female equality. Their slogan became popular to all women. In 1975, it took as a movement which in history is called feminist movement.

There is exploitation everywhere upon female. The female are treated as male supplement. They are called unfinished man. The stereotypical representation of women can be seen everywhere. Feminist philosophers challenge basic principles of traditional western philosophy, investigating how philosophical inquiry would change if women conducted it and if it incorporated women’s experiences as well as their view points. The pre-established norms and ways of representations are at the high concerns. They want to subvert the existing lopsided position. The marginalization of women started from the birth. The processes of socialization are patriarchy. From childhood they are taught to be shy, docile and “beautiful”. They are taught as weak beings. Their dress, languages are all given by male. They have nothing of their own. Some feminist appeals the rejection of existing language. For them, it is male oriented so it cannot carry female experience. So they need a different kind of language which can carry their feeling and experience. To sum up, we can say that Feminism is a concept of empowering women in society. It wants to establish equality in all sectors of social and cultural life. It assumes that the economic, political, social, psychological oppression of women should be eliminated.

Traditional Gender Roles

Gender is a social construction. According to Biological and anatomical differences between male and female, society creates discourses about them such as-masculinity and feminist. The masculinity of male and feminist of female is gender. The society imposes roles in accordance, which is called gender roles. Traditional gender roles cast men as rational beings, strong, protective and decisive but they cast women as emotional, weak, nurturing and submissive. The gender roles have been used very successfully to justify inequities, which still occur today such as excluding women from equal access to leadership and decision-making positions. For the same work, they are paid less than the male. They are referred mostly for household works such as carrying family members, nurturing child. Even though, the government has passed laws of equality, the women are still backward and are treated unequally. It is due to the traditional gender roles still existing in society. Patriarchy is thus, by definition, sexist which means it promotes the belief that women are innately inferior to men. The inferiority is by birth, they suppose. The ideology is so intense that even for the same emotional problem women are called ‘hysteric’ and men are called ‘bad tempered’. Hysteria is called female specific disease. The novel written in 19th century has portrayed female character with some disease. It has helped to create the discourses of women. Anorexia, Agoraphobia, claustrophobia etc are some examples. It is not essential to implement roles, features only because of biological differences. But the negative portrayal of women is just due to the patriarchy.

The process of socialization according to patriarchy is called patriarchy programming. It taught especially women the role the society has organized for them. The programming generates the patriarchy upon women. They even being aware of their exploitation cannot speak against it. To cite a similar example of patriarchal programming, little girls have been told early in their educational careers that they can’t do maths. It is told not so explicitly in words, they are told so by the body language, tone of voice, and facial expression of adults and peers. When they failed really in maths, they get readymade sympathy. Then the patriarchal mind set points to girl’s lower text scores in math and their failure to become math major as proof that they are biologically ill- suited to mathematical studies, which given the closed relationship between math and logic, suggests that females are less logical than males. The patriarchal ideology is not only harmful to women but also to male. Such as male are not supposed to cry because crying is considered a sign of weakness a sign that one has been overpowered by one’s emotions. For similar reasons it is considered unmanly for men to show fear or pain to express their sympathy for other men. Patriarchy assumes that only the mutest and stoic forms of male bonding are free of homosexual overtones. In addition, men are not permitted to fail add anything they try because failure in any domain implies failure in one’s manhood. The concept of real men, unbeatable, unsympathetic can bring emotional crises in male.

The gender roles are taught through process of socialization. Besides, media art literature is also a means of spreading gender roles. For example: through feeling, literature, the roles of women are categorized. The women who follow the gender roles are called “good girls” and who neglect is called “bad girls”. The “good girls” should love, weak, fragile, submissive, shy, nurturing, caring etc. who do not follow this order will become “bad girl”. Then who want to be bad girls? To be ‘good girls’ according to established norms, women join patriarchy programming. They then enter into the world to exploitation. The bad girls are hated, but the irony is that the man having relations with those girls are not hated. In Victorian period the “good girl” had to remain uninterested in sexual activity, except with their legitimate husband, because it was believed unnatural for women to have sexual desire. If the women expressed their desire, they were called “bad girls” bit the same rules were not applied for men. Even the language is different. We use negative word “Slut” to describe a woman who sleeps with a number of men while we use positive word “stud” to describe a man who sleeps with a number of women. The dresses of women are also ideologically constructed. The most “Feminine” cloths are for example the extremely tight corsets won by nineteenth-century women prevented them from getting enough of oxygen to be physically active or to express emotion without getting “the vapors”. Shortness of breath or slight fits of fainting, which were considered very feminine, proved that women were too fragile and emotional to participle in a man’s world.

Getting beyond patriarchy

It is the system of society that superior male and inferior female and the system of society dominated by males and their ideas. Patriarchy is always working tom dominate, discriminate and exploit females. Previously, we have discussed more about what is patriarchy. No doubt, it is a discourse, an ideology, a program to oppressed, exploit women by taking their consent. Women are taught only submissive role; they are told weak, fragile. In return they started to accept male supremacy and their inferiority, the “lack”. Some theorists like Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Simone De Beauvoir, Elaine Showalter, and Judith Butler have resists against the patriarchal ideology. To resist patriarchal ideology, one should go beyond it. The psychoanalysis defines women through penis envy. Their interiority complexes are only exposed by it, which after all dominates women. The Marxism, no doubt speaks of oppression. But its categorization of class do not specifically talks about females issues. The new criticism is totally apolitical theory. It puts curtains over the eyes which try to examine ideology in text. In such situation deconstruction is somehow helpful. It is about the binary opposition. It changes the opposition and deconstructs the preexisting binaries order of center-margin. Similarly, New Historicism is another useful tool. It examines the circular relationship between power, truth, and knowledge and discusses about the discourse formation. It is critical to the ideology therefore useful for feminism to expose male ideology. The empowerment of women is only a possible through broadening the horizons of traditional gender roles. Feminists, to expand their horizons, should be critical towards all patriarchal agencies.

Patriarchy is the most powerful situation of the society that has dominated every part of our life. Nothing is free from its influence. It has such a complex network from which nothing is free. At this situation it is not easy to escape from it, we are one way or other programmed by the patriarchal system and its belief. So it is very difficult to get beyond patriarchy. But there are some possible ties to overcome patriarchy:

  • By providing patriarchy as a fall system and by showing its weaknesses and prejudges, we can have a way out of its influences.
  • Through resistance, reaction, protection and rejection.
  • By taking the help of many other theoretical ideas such as Marxism and deconstruction. But they should be aware of using these ideas for their benefits.
  • The ideas of feminism are the ways of getting beyond patriarchy. Feminism content stronger ideas and remains ever fresh because it has borrowed useful ideas from other theories according to its needs. Still the problem exists. The problem is related to our subjectivity. We are influence by various things such as race, religion, culture, family, society, education and so on. So the ideas of feminism are also grounded on the subjectivity of the theorist.


Tyson, L. (2013). the critical theory today. Kathmandu: Ekta Publication.

  • Patriarchal ideology is the basis cause of exploitation of woman in which women are exploited socially, economically and psychologically.
  • Woman gets meaning in differences with a male. Patriarchy others the woman by comparing them with a man.
  • The western society is dominated by a patriarchal ideology which is called phallogocentric.
  • Woman’s revolution is an activist movement whose ultimate goal is to change the world by empowering woman by putting them into the center.
  • The gender issues are too aware us about the social reality.

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