Posted by Marie Bernadette on April 20, 1998 at 18:29:44:
In response to The term "feminist", written by Carolyn B on April 19, 1998 at 14:49:25
Erin:but she offers ways that her characters can achieve freedom (defined essentially as a retention of individuality)
Marie Bernadette: To me, 'retention of individuality' is a major ingredient of femimism! My mother told me once that feminism did not mean totally rejecting all the stereotypical roles society proscribed for women but that it meant having choices: choosing to go to work, choosing to stay at home, the right to enjoy traditional activities such as sewing and cooking but also being able to do things not traditional for women such as canoeing or even hunting, &c. JA was just joking about hunting and was poking fun at Mary Shelley, but she did believe in the 'retention of individuality' and our modern notions of freedom of choice make the retention of individuality possible. The term 'feminism' may be fairly new, but the concepts behind it go back centuries (actually millenia). Definitions and perceptions of the word have changed since the 1960's but I think womens' push to maintain individuality has long been a basic tenet of feminism that has not changed (and here I mean the ideas about womens' rights that existed before the term feminism was coined) so in that sense I consider Jane a 'feminist'.
Carolyn: I agree with Erin that JA can't be called a "feminist" especially since that term today has so many connotations based on what has happened in the history of women's rights in this century. (also it carries so much post-modern[?] political and academic baggage - I'm using the p-m term rather gratuitously ; )
Marie Bernadette: It's true that the words 'feminist'and 'feminism' have many 20th connotations, but when taken down to a barebones definition they cover what women have wanted and fought for over centuries: basic rights. These terms are but 20th century labels for ideas that have long existed.
Carolyn: Erin can probably address this better than I can, but so many of the ideological terms we use ("feminist", etc.) have taken shape since JA's time that our trying to use it to discuss the Regency period would be anachronistic.
Marie Bernadette: Maybe the terms are different but many of the issues are the same. Mary Wollstonecraft made many of the same arguements (In Vindication of the Rights of Woman)and brought up similar points to those of the feminists of the 1880's and 1960's and 1990's. There were women long before Mary that said such things also, although each generation of women tailors these issues to her own times and her own situation (which is what I think JA did).
Carolyn: I see JA as a woman, like many women before her, who as a human being had ideas, desires, goals, that other humans have shared but because of her time & gender, she could be thwarted in certain aspects of her life or conditioned by her culture not to expect to do certain things
Marie Bernadette: I agree with that.
Carolyn: I was struck in the Tomalin bio how important her earnings as an author were to here because they were HERS. JA was certainly conscious of the many limitations her culture (though she wouldn't call it that) put on her gender (a term she also wouldn't use).
Marie Bernadette: I was also impressed with how much earning her own money meant to her. I have never had a career and a steady wage but when I do make a little money solely from my own efforts, well, I know just how Jane must have felt!
But perhaps she was concious of the restraints her society applied to those of her sex!
- More on feminism and Austen Erin 22:18:37 4/21/98 (1)
- JA as Humanist Marie Bernadette 13:43:58 4/22/98 (0)
- Arguing over semantics : ) Carolyn B 19:37:22 4/20/98 (3)
- Semantic antics Marie Bernadette 13:50:34 4/22/98 (0)
- The Vote -- not very good example (try education) The Mysterious H.C. 22:34:23 4/20/98 (1)
- This is (in an oblique way, perhaps) my point ; -) Carolyn B 21:44:14 4/21/98 (0)
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