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Sexism in Literature, Yes or No?

"Any text which does not recognize the fundamental moral reality of women is sexist." (Donovan 226)

What?! Is Donovan being serious? I take offense to this as a writer. What if I, as a woman, decide to write a story with a male protagonist (which I do quite often) does this mean I am not recognizing the fundamental moral reality of women? Or would this only apply if I were a male author?

I am sure in many ways stories have objectified women throughout the ages, but to say that there is nothing in them where women can find self-awareness is something I just cannot agree with. All Donovan talks about in her essay is how these stories have "been a vehicle for the male's growth in self awareness," but offers nothing for the female (226). I think that the self-awareness for women comes from the knowledge and realization of history and this becomes a growth not a detering factor.

Perhaps Donovan is forgetting that in many ways women were looked upon as the "object" and the "Other" as she calls them. This is a fact that most people, if not all, are aware of, so why must we focus primarily on these issues. Perhaps there is a strength in these female characters which Donovan hasn't brought out. There is a sense of survival that all women, even today, have that most men will never experience, maybe she should be focusing on those aspects of the female character.

Read what my classmates have to say.

Comments (2)

Greta Carroll:

Mara, I had some problems with Donovan’s article too. And I agree with you, it is ridiculous to say that men cannot create realistic female characters. I will grant her that she at least admits that it is possible for men to do so (she gives Shakespeare and Sophocles as examples), but she seems to find it unlikely. I mean, if we flip this argument around, and some male critic argued that females cannot portray males accurately, Donovan would probably jump all over him saying that it was sexist of him to say females cannot create realistic male characters. I mean we can go around in circles finding sexism everywhere if we want to, and I think it could affect the writing of a text, but there is more to a text than just that. For example, as Dr. Jerz pointed out in class about “The Yellow Wallpaper.” There are obviously gender issues inherent in the story, but they are not the only thing going on in the story.

So I have discovered a new phenomenon. It's Mara's blog. I really like your writing Mara. Keep up the good work.

I agree with the two of you about Donovan's own prejudice. She is a bit hypocritical. I don't appreciate when anyone says that I can't do something or counts me out. It makes me angry and sometimes motivates me to try harder to prove that person wrong. Maybe that's Donovan's intent (although I doubt it).

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 14, 2009 3:21 PM.

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