FEM 1100 Lecture Notes - Marilyn Frye, Bechdel Test

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January 7, 2013
Introduction to Women’s Studies
Women, Gender, Feminism: An introduction
*Always write down discussion questions*
Oppression, Power, Choice:
How to think critically, rather than what to think. (The Politics of Reality- Marilyn Frye)
Oppression- the root of the word oppression “press” presses are used to mould things,
flatten them out, reduce them in bulk. Something pressed is caught between or among forces
or barriers. Those forces and barriers are so related to one another that they jointly restrain,
restrict, or prevent the things mobility or motion. (Suffocate, reducing, devaluing)
Typical dictionary definition- An unjust or excessive use of power, a sense of being weighed
down in body or mind.
Oppression is a whole set of barriers that are interrelated.
Birdcage metaphor - if you look too closely at one barrier, you might not understand what the
problem is.
Only when we step back it’s not just one act of discrimination it’s a part of a larger system that
limits, devalues a group of people.
*Not all forces or barriers are not oppressive*
In order to determine whether the situation is oppressive ask these questions:
1. Who constructs and maintains the barrier or force?
2. Whose interests are served by its existence?
3. Is it part of a structure which tends to confine, reduce, or immobilize a group of people?
4. Is the person a member of the confined group?
Power- can be bother constraining and productive (good and bad).
The ability or the right to dominate and control other people, power being absolute.
Tradition accounts of power are ruling class, forces and dominate unruling victims.
Panopticon (pan=all; optic=seeing) how social discipline functions in general. Internalizing and
controlling their own social discipline. I internalize a lot of societal norms, and expectations.
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