Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies.
Week 2. Tuesday September 17 Feminisms in the 20 Century: The Politics of “Difference”
Methodology – How we are approaching the course.
Thinking about ‘difference’
How we think about gender is formed and structured by power.
‘Curiosity’ is dangerously comfortable.
What is ‘the problem that has no name’?
– Educated women being subjected as housewives –Lack of individuality
- Lack of individuality
- Silence: They couldn’t talk to each other.
- Notion of unfilliment.
- If they do complain about it they will seem ungrateful.
- Placing women in a box and should be happy
- Force able categorization
- Dissatisfaction felt amongst American housewives; They want more than their husbands,
children and home.
- Linking roles to the feminine: based on the body, they connect it to the social roles.
- Understanding of the gender- they were simply different
- “Women naturally belonged to the indoor sphere and men naturally belong to the outdoor
- Socially constructed.
Lorde – The master’s tools will never dismantle the masters house : - Understanding of the
Primarily on gender differences
The state has always interfered in the lives of poor and coloured people
Benefit for women that hide their differences
Mad Men, Episode 5 (Season 3) The fog Clip – Betty has no control or say in the whole birth
She doesn’t even have a say to her new born baby’s name (when her husband shuts her up)
Mother demands her “to be happy with that she has” and “to look what she did when
Betty “ I need to put on a face” – ( basically a gender mask)
Whites were actively encouraged to have more children and the “other” women were actively
discouraged to have children.
Week 2 Tuesday September 17
A Black Feminist Statement pg9 : - Mainstream feminists did not focus on race, class, ability.
Every women are different. Movement for gender equality and movement for racial equality. These black women feel very
alienated. They feel like they are being ignored in both the movements, even though both
movements are highly important for them and their identities.
The Masters tool Will never dismantle the masters house : - “the Masters tools will never
dismantle the masters house” means that the oppressor that is being oppressed should not
oppress others. Ex) White men oppressing white women, then white women oppress black
Learn how to take our differences and make them strengths.
Capitalism is a system where some people are control of the money and some people aren’t. :
That is why it is so hard to form a society free of enquality.
Differences is important.
Feminism – A Movement to End Sexist Oppression pg 69 : - Not every women share the same
Argues that rather looking for feminist, rather advocate feminism.
The Problem That Has No Name – Friedan
For women, in all the columns, books, and articles by experts telling women their role was to
seek fulfillment as wives and mothers.
They learned that truly feminine women do not want careers, higher education, political rights –
the independence and the opportunities that the old fashioned feminists fought for.
All they had to do was devote their lives from earlier girlhood to finding a husband and bearing
A new degree was instituted for the wives – “Ph.T ( Putting Husband Through).
By the end of the 50s, the U.S birthrate was over taking India’s: the birth control movement,
renamed Planned Parenthood, was asked to find a method whereby women who had been
advised that a third or fourth baby would be born dean or defective might have it anyhow.
Fewer and fewer women were entering professional work.
The shortage in the nursing, social work, and teaching professions caused crises in almost every
Concerned over the Soviet Union’s lead in the space race, scientists noted that America’s
greatest source of unused brain power was women. But girls would not study physics: it was
Their only dream was to be perfect wives and mothers; their highest ambition to have 5 children
and a beautiful house, their only fight to get and keep their husbands. They had not thought for
the unfeminine problems of the world outside the home; they wanted the men to make the
If a women has a problem in the 1950s and 1960s, she knew that something must be wrong with
her marriage, or with herself – other women were satisfied with their lives, she thought – what
kind of women was she if she did not feel this mysterious fulfillment waxing the kitchen floor?
For over 15 years women in American found it harder to talk about this problem than about sex.
Gradually I came to realize that the problem that has no name was shared by countless women
in America. It is no longer possible to ignore that voice, to dismiss the desperation of so many American
women – this is not what being a woman means, no matter what the experts say.
It is not caused by lack of material advantages, it may not even be felt by women preoccupied
with desperate problems of hunger, poverty, or illness – and women who think it will be solved
by more money, bigger house, a second car, moving to a better suburb, often discover it gets
It is no longer possible today to blame the problem on loss of femininity: to say that education
and independence and equality with men have made American women unfeminine.
I have heard so many women try to deny this dissatisfied voice within themselves because it
does not fit the pretty picture of femininity the experts have given them.
The problem cannot be understood in the generally accepted terms by which scientists have
studied women, doctors have treated them, counselors have advised them. And writers have
written about them.
Women who suffer this problem, in whom this voice is stirring, have lived their whole live in the
pursuit of feminine fulfillment.
They are not career women; they are women whose greatest ambitions have been marriage and
For the youngest, the new wives and mothers, this was the only dream – they are the ones who
quit high school and college to marry, or marked time in some job in which they had no real
interest until they married.
These women are very “feminine” in the usual sense, and yet they still suffer the problem.
The problem is always being the children’s mommy, or the minister’s wife and never being
Their words seem to indicate that housewives of alleducational levels suffer the same feeling of
The fact is that no one today is muttering angrily about “women’s rights” even though more and
more women have gone to college.
From Barnard College – a significant minority of earlier graduates blamed their education for
making them want “rights” later classes blamed their education for giving them career dreams,
but recent graduates blamed the college for making them feel it was not enough simply to be a
housewife and mother – they did not want to feel guilty if they did not read books or take part
in community activities.
And yes, there is a growing suspicion that the problem may not be sexual, though it must
somehow be related to sex – I have heard from many doctors evidence of new sexual problems
between men and wife – sexual hunger in wives so great their husbands cannot satisfy it – “we
have made women a sex creature” – “she has no identity except as a wife and mother. She does
not know who she is herself. She waits all day for her husband to come at night to make her feel
alive – and now it is the husband who is not interested – it is terrible for the women, to lie there,
night after night, waiting for husband to make her feel alive.
Can the problem that has no name be somehow related to the domestic routine of the
housewife? When a women tries to put the problem into words, she often merely describes the
daily life she leads. He found that his patients suffering from “housewife’s fatigue” slept more than an adult needed
to sleep as much as ten hours a day – and that the actual energy they expended on housework
did not tax their capacity.
Perhaps boredom – some doctors told their women patients must get out of the house for a
day, treat themselves to a movie in town.
The problem that has no name stirring in the minds of so many American women, today is not a
matter of loss of femininity or too much education, or the demands of domesticity – it is far
more important that anyone recognizes – it is the key to these other new and old problems
which have been torturing women and their husbands and children, and puzzling their doctors
and educators for years – it may well be the key to our as a nation and a culture – we can no
longer ignore that voice within women that says: “I want something more than my husband and
my children and my home”
A Black Feminist Statement –Combahee River Collective pg 9
The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively
committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression and see as
our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact
that the major systems of oppression and interlocking.
As black women we see black feminism as the logic political movement to combat the
manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.
Black women’s extremely negative relationship to the American political system (a system of
white male rule) has always been determined by our membership in two oppressed racial
and sexual castes.
Their sexual identity combined with their racial identity to make their whole life situation
and the focus of their political struggles unique.
Contemporary Black feminism is the outgrowth of countless generations of personal
sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters.
A black feminist presence has evolved most obviously in connection with the second wave
of the American women’s movement beginning in the late 1960s
Black, other Third World, and working women have been involved in the feminist movement
from its start, but both outside reactionary forces and racism and elitism within the
movement itself have served to obscure our participation.
National Black Feminist (NBFO)
Black feminists and many more Black women who do not define themselves as feminists
have all experienced sexual oppression as a constant factor in our day-to-day existence.
Black - Our economic position is still at the very bottom of the American capitalistic
economy, a handful of us have been able to gain certain tools as a result of tokenism in
education and employment which potentially enable us to more effectively fight our
The pejorative stereotypes attributed to Black women (eg mammy, matriarch, Sapphire,
whore, buildagger), let alone cataloguing the cruel, often murderous, treatment we receive,
indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives during four centuries of bondage
in the Western hemisphere.
This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We also often find it difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our
lives they are most often experienced simultaneously. We know that there is such a thing as
racial-sexual oppression which is neither solely racial nor solely sexual.
We struggle together with Black men against racism, while we also struggle with Black men
There is a very low value placed upon Black women’s psyches in this society, which is both
racist and sexist – “we are all damaged people merely by virtue of being Black women.”
Michele Wallace arrives at this conclusion: “We exist as women who are Black who are
feminists, each stranded for the moment, working independently because there is not yet
an environment in this society remotely congenial to our struggle- because being on the
bottom, we would have to do what no one else has done: we would have to fight the
The reaction of Black men to feminism has been notoriously negative – even more
threatened than Black women by the possibility that Black feminists might organize around
our own needs – they realize that they might not only lose valuable and hardworking allies
in their habitually sexist ways of interacting with and oppressing Black women.
One issue that is of major concern to us and that we have begun to publicly address is
racism in the white women’s movement-AS Black feminists we are made constantly and
painfully aware of how little effort white women have made to und