Is it sexist if I call Feminism a "Broad Subject"?
 
A Letter to Mr. Pope


Originally Posted to the Moodle Forum Thursday, October 18th, 2007, 12:02 PM

        Based on my background studying sociology, religion, and gender issues in addition to English, I would have to posit that, while the section on Feminist Criticism is very well-crafted, it is not particularly reflective of the current state of the genre, if you will. I understand, of course, that this is a constantly shifting and evolving mode of study, and as a result it is difficult to present anything even approaching a firm, authoritative overview of it, but it would still be beneficial for the readers if the section was updated to reflect the most recent developments within the field. I won’t get down to the nitty-gritty, but here are a few suggestions for modernizing the section as a whole.

        First and foremost, toss aside “Feminism.” While the term is still often used in certain circles, it in no way accurately portrays the wide range of issues that actually come into play within the field. At its most basic, in the act of studying and deconstructing socially-constructed femininity, we are deconstructing masculine ideological roles as well. Therefore, the term Gender Studies, or perhaps Gender Criticism, is more accurate.

        Once the leap from Feminist Criticism to Gender Criticism is made, the issue becomes one of addressing the wide-reaching, intersectional, interdisciplinary qualities of the form. It may be cliché at this point, but it still behooves the conscientious literary critic to keep in mind that Gender Criticism, in addition to focusing on sex and gender roles, must also take into account a wide range of contextual issues involving class, culture, ethnicity, religion, age, ability, etc. In most modern incarnations of this method of criticism, all these factors are studied simultaneously, a reality that presents a rather different picture than that of the strictly-defined list of feminist positions delineated in the textbook.

        And, of course, no section of Gender Criticism could be termed complete without more than a passing focus on Queer Studies. When attempting to deconstruct socially-constructed gender roles, it is important to examine the literary representations of those who reject the expected labels. Queer Studies addresses just this area, and is a form of criticism that can be easily incorporated into more traditional Gender Studies. In the course of exploring the seeming dichotomy of masculine and feminine roles, it is essential to understand the ways in which non-typical gender roles function, especially those that refuse to prescribe to strictly oppositional female/male gender ideology.

        So, in closing, let me reiterate my main points Reader’s Digest-style. The study of gender, including feminine and masculine roles, is constantly shifting, never static or open to easy definitions. However, it is important to realize that it covers more than Feminism, and as a result should be referred to as Gender Studies, or Gender Criticism, rather than Feminist Criticism. It is an interdisciplinary, intersectional field of study, incorporating a gamut of contextual issues in addition to the basic ones of sexuality and gender, and includes Queer Studies. To my knowledge, this little collection of advice reflects the current state of the field. I hope that my contribution to the conversation is helpful!