A bit of a placeholder.

I just found this quote and can’t get the actual book(s) for the rest of the context, right now, but the questions it brings up — not least why femininity seems to be so devalued by the feminist movement — are something I do want to talk/write about in the future and keep at the forefront of my mind right now. So, I’m channeling all the A-Level Literature practice exams I had to write and setting this up as an open discussion question. I’ll definitely be taking a stab at it soon, but everyone else who feels like it is welcome to as well.

In her review of Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology, Joanna Russ writes:

I could not at first understand Daly’s insistence that femininity has nothing to do with women, that femininity–what a bizarre assertion!–is a male trait, and yet she is right. We’re still all too prone to talk as if “femininity” were produced by the selective obliteration of some natural female traits and preservation of others or the exaggeration of some traits at the expense of others. But Daly is more perceptive: Femininity is a male projection of a solution to problems in the male situation, which is then imposed on women. That is why Daly states that she will no longer use the word “androgyny.” Femininity is not an incomplete part of anyone’s character but a man-made mess from the word go.
(p. 158)

Discuss.

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~ by mortarandpestle on December 8, 2007.

2 Responses to “A bit of a placeholder.”

  1. oh man, my head is getting tangled trying to articulate all the thoughts that this brings up in me.

    to start – I think the feminist movements have been seen to devalue feminity because of the ways that second wave feminism especially was so focused on gender roles, and the idea that compulsory gender roles were the source of discrimination. gender roles are different than gender, however, and I think for the most part the feminist movements know that now – look at Bust, Manifesta, Bitch, for example.

    Generally, I think a side effect of second wave feminism has actually been the *revaluing* of femininity, the reclaiming of things that are traditionally “women’s things” or “feminine things” as actually deeply complicated, culturally important, and valuable.

    Don’t forget that Gyn/Ecology came out in 1990, and that was (damn) nearly 20 years ago, and ideas about femininity and reclamation were also very altered during the third feminist wave.

    Re: Russ’s comment that femininity is “made by men” – there’s something to that, I think, especially in terms of othering such that one category can establish dominance. Similarly to the argument that there was no heterosexuality until someone defined homosexuality first.

    But to discount “femininity” entirely as created by men? That’s dismissing a lot of old old mythology and archetypes and human character studies of the wide range of gender. It also takes away all of a woman’s autonomy to choose to dress feminine-ly, to play with her own range of gender expression.

    Strikes me as an outdated vision of gender, as much of Mary Daly’s work falls into that second wave category which sees gender roles, and therefore gender, as inherently oppressive.

  2. I wish I could comment on this. I’ve been trying to since you posted it, because interestingly enough, I just read that whole article by Daly for my feminist theories class. Now that I’m out of school tho and a bit distanced from the chaos, I think I will attempt to articulate something soon. I like academic discussions!

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