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February 25, 2007

EL312: The "Poor me" calling card

Before anyone freaks out that this is the second feminist piece we've read in two weeks, I'm going to ask for more maturity and respect concerning this piece than is typical with regards to feminism. (In my experience at Seton Hill, all I've felt is either radical feminism or radical anti-feminism--from both genders. Slapping each other around saying one is right or wrong is not the way to discuss something like this. And pure denial of any hardships that women faced in our history (and, in some cases, still face) is just (terrifying) ignorance.)

What I noticed about this essay was that Gilbert and Gruber draw conclusions from all of the criticisms we've examined thus far--author intent, historicism, formalism, and now mimesis. Valerie mentioned in class this past Thursday that it seems difficult to separate any criticism from its neighbors since they all sort of stream one into another. Brilliant, Val. This couldn't be more true than in this particular essay.

While the claims for a feminist view of the literature presented ("The Yellow Wallpaper" in particular) are somewhat obvious, the attention to detail left me with more questions than I initially had before reading this piece...

For example, on page 263, the authors quote this passage from Gilman's short story: "creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind." When I read this in the context of the essay, I found myself searching for a metaphor. What I came up with is this: the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the shadow of the cloud (her husband or men, in general) in high wind (or society).

The authors claim that women were less likely to use metaphors when defining their jails and prisons of life in their writing; however, I find this example to be particularly metaphoric. What of that, Gilbert and Gubar?

As a woman, I recognize that feminism is a movement that is slowly coming to a plateau (much in the same way that Affirmative Action is, or should, in my opinion). This plateau is the leveling of many injustices that women faced in the past. While many claim that feminism is no longer a concern at all in the 21st century, I beg to differ with reference to the variety and strength of reactions experienced in our class Thursday night. If feminism is still garnering that much of a reaction out of a small class at a small liberal arts institution, it is still important in our society to view feminism in a way that sees women as working for their equity.

What I find disturbing, though, is that in our class someone equated the use of feminism to that of racism--in discussing the Kolodny essay someone insisted that saying one race couldn't read a text as well as another was exactly the same as how Kolodny insisted that, in reference to literature written at the end of the 19th century, men could not read it as well as women.

People see racism as a problem that is to be smoothed over with a recognition of diversity--equal treatment to all races. People tip-toe around this discussion, though, in either fear of harming or in respect to the "other."

This is far different from how I see people discussing feminism. It's typical (although I admit that it is not always the case) for the men in the room to become hostile towards the women (the "other" in their minds) and insist that the feminist argument, whatever it is, is completely unworthy of being discussed for reasons x, y, and z. Usually reasons x, y, and z are reasons that seem justified to only the males (the "other" in the minds of the females) and seem absurd to the females. The hostile treatment of this subject does not allow a coming together or agreement on an issue or argument--it leads to a compromise and forced smiles while both genders wonder why the other doesn't see the point they were trying to make.

There has got to be a more reasonable and effective way to discuss feminist issues rather than ignoring or belittling issues (or even just denying the issues). I'm not saying that I have all the answers, but I do know that discussions like the one we had last class do not allow any conclusions to be drawn for either "side" of an argument. A more civil debate of the issues would be more likely to keep both sides engaged and active in the discussion, allowing the genders to present arguments for each side.

While feminism has calmed down from the bra burning of the 1960s and 70s, our generation faces a somewhat more difficult challenge--convincing the "other" that the issues are not solved, but require constant monitoring.

Gilbert and Gubar purport to monitor the treatment of women in literature, but they really only present a pitiful argument--using the "poor me" calling card. While I'm not sure what mimetic argument they're making, exactly, I know that the argument is characteristic of the time they wrote it--1979. We need more modern arguments and open minds in order to properly discuss this thing called feminism.

Gilbert and Gubar, ''The Yellow Wallpaper'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at February 25, 2007 4:16 PM


Comments


I have to agree with you on the grounds that while the authors are attempting to make an argument on mimesis, I still haven't found it. I also wrote about women making themselves the victim and what's even sadder is that we have to keep going back to "that's how it was back then." What about "now?"

Posted by: Erin at February 28, 2007 2:31 PM


Thank you so much for saying that, Erin! Focusing on things "back then" is like telling everyone those lame old "when I was your age" stories that no one ever wants to here... :-/

The only mimetic argument I found was that this represents like as it WAS (not as it is... even though every second of every day the version of "is" changes... now that's profound... haha).

Get with the program, feminists...

Posted by: Karissa at February 28, 2007 3:47 PM



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