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Oct 28, 2014

Rape of the Lock: Pope


Rape of the Lock: Pope

Sex Symbol:

The eighteenth century is and age of psychological insight. Every writer as well as his work is being analyzed in psychological terms. Modern psychology has proved that it is the sex psychology which determined the superiority of a sex. Sex is the nucleus of human life and its all activities. It is not the product of conventions, rather, it is just a natural instinct, which is reduced to some discipline by accepted social convention, morals, laws, etc. Sex is at the root of all moral and physical health. So it may be disciplined, but if it is curbed and suppressed, it leads to drastic consequences.

In fact, frustrations, depreciation, persecution, disparities coupled with economic problems result in dejection and in order to bring about catharsis, one may get depressed or find any easy escape and become immoral in the eyes of the world. 

The lock in "The Rape of the Lock" is a symbol of the female organ and the rape of the lock symbolizes the rape of Belinda by the hands of Lord Peter. In fact, the poem projects a synthesis between sex and religion. The boys and the girls were allured to have relations and were in favour of free sex but religion did not allow it. Besides, they were also afraid of their social disreputation. So they had to suppress their natural instinct sometimes. Resultantly, they established relations with others secretly. Belinda's grief was not the loss of chastity but her social disreputation. That's why she repented would that Baron had cut "hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these". So the sex philosophy in that age was that sex, being a natural instinct, should not be suppressed, but the fear of religion and social disreputation did not allow the boys and the girls have free sexual relations and such relations were dubbed as immoral. That's what happened with Belinda and her shock was social disreputation and not the loss of chastity. 

We notice that throughout the poem, there is a competitive spirit between the female and the male sexes. The game of Ombre is the game of sex in which both the sexes try to dominate each other. The victory of Belinda yielding to lords and the lords playing toy with them. Pope has also indicated their secret relations with the beaus. In this way, if we read the poem, we will find sex symbols scattered here and there and a lot of sex implications. He talks about "soft bosoms", "winning lips", "melting maids", "mid-night masquerades", "the charge of petticoat", etc. These are all sex implications and the modern psychology has interpreted them in terms of the sexual behaviour and sexual relations of the women of that age. Even the lock reaching the sky and turning into a comet has a sex implication i.e. Belinda's reputation is lost for ever and the event of her rape is now known to everyone which implies that she was a woman of yielding and submissive nature who easily fell a prey to the charm of beaus but she frequently changed her favours from one to another and kept "Shifting and the moving toyshop of her heart". She was not satisfied with one man and was always in search of the better. Thus the poem appears before us as a sex symbol.

Comic Epic:

An epic, according to Aristotle, is the tragedy of a conspicuous person, who is involved in adventurous events and meets a tragic fall on account of some error of judgment i.e. hamartia which throws him from prosperity into adversity,however, his death is not essential. So, the subject matter of an epic is grand and that's why it is written in bombastic language and heroic couplet. Its style, too, is grand.

A mock-epic is a satire of an epic. It shows us that even a trivial subject can also be treated on epical scale. The subject of "The Rape of the Lock" is trivial – a love dispute between a lady ad a gentleman. Lord Byron proposes Belinda who rejects his proposal. Baron cuts one of her beautiful looks. This trivial theme has been given epical treatment as if it were some grave event of paramount importance.

The style of the poet is mock-heroic. He employs bombastic and showy diction for thoughts and ideas which are not really grand – pompous expression for low action – for example, the game of Ombre had been described as a war of nerves, the table has been termed as the battlefield, the dispersed cards have been dubbed as routed army etc.

Similarly, the process of Belinda's make –up has been termed s adoration and the sacred rites of priced. Belinda is called 'inferior priestess' and her toilet an 'alter' etc.

The poet has employed the epical method to heighten the effect i.e. the great has been made look small and vice versa. The introduction of the aerial machinery is used for heightening of effect. Belinda is an ordinary fashionable girl, but she has been shown being protected by thousands of spirits. The trivial game of Ombre has been compared with a grave war of nerves. The ordinary flight between the supports of Belinda and those of Peter has been compared with the fatal war between gods and goddesses and their hair pins, fans, etc. with which they fought have been termed as 'deadly weapons', spears, etc. The grief of Belinda at the loss of the lock has been compared with the shock at the death of a husband or a lapdog or at the breakage of a China vessel. Thus the poet raises a lapdog to the level of a husband or reduces a husband to the level of a lapdog.

The poet has also employed epical and heroic images, which is one of the prerequisites of a mock-epic. For example, Belinda has been named as 'the fairest of mortals', the 'bright fair'. The cards have been called 'parti-coloured troops'. The pair of scissors has been termed as a two-edged 'weapon', 'little engine', 'forfex', 'fatal engine', etc.

Belinda's dreams have been called mystic vision. The air-pins have been compared with 'deadly weapons' and 'deadly spears' etc. Belinda's eyes have been dubbed as 'fair suns'.

Humour is one of the prerequisites of a mock-epic and the poem is full of humour and its humour is pleasing as compared to Swift's humour.

Moral is an essential part of a mock-epic. This poem is full of morals from the beginning till the end. However, the speeches of Belinda and Clarissa are especially soaked in moral. Belinda repents that she would have been ten times happier if she had indulged herself in the pursuits of the fashionable circle. So, the more a woman exposes herself and her beauty, the more her chastity is in danger.

Supernatural Machinery

Pope explains that "machinery" is a term invented by the critics to signify the part which deities, angles, or demons play in a poem. He goes on to say that the machinery in this poem is based on the Rosicrucian doctrine of spirits in which the four elements are inhabited by sylphs, nymphs, gnomes and salamanders. The sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best-conditioned creatures. 

Pope tells us that beautiful women return, after their death, to the elements from which they were derived. Termagants or violent tempered women become salamanders or spirit of the fire. Women of gentle and pleasing disposition pass into nymphs or water-spirits. Prudish women become gnomes or earth spirits. Light-hearted coquettes are changed into sylphs or spirits of the air. 

The first and the foremost activity of the sylphs is the protection of fair and chaste ladies who reject the male sex. They guard and save the chastity of maidens and save them from falling victims to the "treacherous friends". The gnomes or earth spirits fill the minds of proud maidens with foolish ideas of being married to lords and peers. These gnomes teach young coquette to ogle and pretend blushing at the sight of fashionable young men. However, sylphs safely guide the maidens through all dangers. Whenever a maiden is about to yield to a particular young man, more attractive and tempting man appears on the scene and the fashionable maiden at once transfers to the new comer. This may be called levity or fickleness in women but it is all contrived by the sylphs. 

In most of the famous epics, "machinery" consists in supernatural beings like gods and angles who play a vital role in the poems thus showing that the human world is not independent and that supernatural powers have an important bearing in this world. Pope thought that his mock epic would be incomplete without machinery. The machinery of his poem comprises the sylphs led by Ariel. Pope described wittily the occupation and tasks of the sylphs in general. 

Ariel and his followers were assigned humble but pleasant duty of serving fashionable young ladies. Their functions are described humorously including saving the powder from being blown off from the cheeks of ladies, preventing scents from evaporating, preparing cosmetics, teaching the ladies to blush and to put on enchanting airs, suggesting new ideas about dress. 

The sylphs show a delightful down scaling of the epic machines. They are heroic standards but feel scared when a crisis approaches. They are Belinda's counselors. They explain the various anxieties that make up Belinda's day. 

"The Rape of the Lock" may be described as a satirical comedy of manners. The sylphs in this poem are both in mirror and mock customs and conventions of the society of the time. Belinda is told in a dream about the danger of life. 

Reassuring Belinda in this way, Ariel is in fact undermining her moral position. He explains how a woman's defence is achieved. A maid would fall to Florio if Demon were not at hand to divert her attention. It is the sylphs who make her do that. 

The machines are present at every crucial situation in the play. The sylphs are present during Belinda's journey by boat to Hampton Court. They have been warned by Ariel to remain alert and vigilant. Fifty of them take charge of Belinda's petticoat. They attend on her when she plays Ombre. They hover around her when she sips coffee and they withdraw only when Ariel sees "an earthly lover lurking at her heart". A gnome, called Umbriel, goes to the cave of Spleen and brings a bag full of sighs, sobs, screams and outbursts of anger, and a phial filled with fainting fits, gentle sorrows, soft briefs, etc. all of which are released over Belinda. And then sylphs are present to witness the flight of Belinda's lock of hair to the sky. 

The sylphs were added to the poem not simply as shinning trinkets and three-penny bits to a Christmas pudding but to develop and flavour the whole. They improve the literary and human mockery. The machinery of sylphs is the principal symbol of the triviality of Belinda's world. "The light militia of the lower sky" is a parody of both Homeric deities and Miltonic guardian angles. Like these they have an ambiguous status; they exist within and without the characters. The sylphs who protect Belinda are also her acceptance of the rules of social convention which presume that a coquette's life is a pure game. 

The machinery of sylphs in this poem is vastly superior to the allegorical personages of respective mock-epics. It allows Pope to show his awareness of the absurdities which nevertheless is charming, delightful and filled with a real poetry. The myth also allows him to suggest that the charm, in past at least, springs from the very absurdity.

Machinery serves various purposes in the poem. It imparts splendour and wonder to the actors and the actions in the story. Like Homer's gods, Pope's sylphs move easily in and out of the lower world. What they really stand for – feminine honour, flirtation courtship, the necessary rivalry of man and woman – is seen in its essence, and is always beautiful. 

These "light militia of the lower sky", increase dramatic suspense and story depth. They help to universalize the whole action. They are in binding symbolism of the little drama. 

The sylphan machinery is superb. Ariel offers a satanic substitute for Christianity. Addison advised Pope against adding the machinery of the sylphs to the poem but that Pope ignored the advice. Pope succeeded eminently in his design of introducing his element. 

According to John Dennis, Pope's machinery contradicts the doctrine of the Christian religion and all sound morality. They provide no instruction and make no impression upon a sensible reader. Instead of making the action wonderful and delightful, they render it absurd, and incredible. Dennis' opinion is, however, not sound or convincing.

Significance of Cave of Spleen

Spleen was the Augustan name what Elizabethan described as melancholy. It is less of a disease than a fashionable affectation. Fashionable ladies, poets, and playwrights pretend to suffer from it so as to give an impression that he victims are serious thinkers of creative writers. Pope exalts Spleen to the level of Goddess and cave of Spleen to the level of underworld and personifies her as the Queen of underworld. This suits his scheme to mock the epic conventions systematically because the serious epics like "Illiad" and "Aenied" show heroes taking a voyage to the underworld. In travesty of this convention, however, Pope packs a lot of social criticism, especially the criticism of fashionable vanities and affectations of the fashionable women.

Sylphs were in attendance to Belinda when she plays Omber. They hover around her when she sips coffee. They withdraw when Ariel sees "an earthly lover lurking at her heart". A gnome, called 'Umbriel' holds the place of Ariel. After the rape of the lock of Belinda, Umbriel wanted to inflict her with Spleen. So he took a journey to the underworld to the cave of spleen.

It is reported that the Queen of Spleen as a capricious and eccentric goddess holds full control over the fashionable ladies ranging from fifteen to fifty. She, the Goddess of Spleen is the aspiration behind the affectation of melancholy as well as the pretension to the poetry by the female sex.

The effect of Spleen on the women varies according to their temperament. While some consults the physician for their treatments. Some begin to write scurrilous plays and those who are proud give them an air and try to delay their visit as to show their importance.

While speaking of the cave of Spleen, Pope gives a vivid picture of the fantastic vision to which the men and women plagued with spleen are exposed to. At the moment we see flaming devils and snakes erected on their coils, lustrous ghosts, opening sepulchers and red fires and the other moment we visualizes the lakes of liquid gold, scenes of paradise, transparent places and angles coming to solve the difficulties in human life. Thus the description of the cave of Spleen is highly symbolic and conveys the accurate picture of the people suffering from Spleen.

Moreover, Pope points out the illusion from which morbidly melancholic people suffer. Such people are often plagued with fantastic ideas or visions and often imagine themselves transformed into various objects.

Then, there are two hand maidens who wait upon the Goddess of Spleen, are Ill-Nature and Affectation. Apparently, it is seemed that Pope has delineated the pictures of two hand-maidens just to emphasize the splendour of Goddess of Spleen. But since Spleen, Ill-Nature and Affectation are the typical feminine vices in Pope's time, therefore, the delineation of their portraits provide the vivid picture of the fashionable women who affected so many things.

Ill-Nature is presented as an ugly, wrinkled and decayed woman who pretends to be virtuous and pious but essentially a vicious creature who takes delight in murdering reputations of the other people. The black and white lines of her dress presents the contrast between her pretension and reality – the while colour suggests purity, innocence and religiosity and the black colour suggest malice, envy and scorn. In fact, Pope has satirized the double role of the woman's nature of his times who pretends to be pious and virtuous just to maintain their good reputation i.e. the woman of his age gives importance to their reputation than their virtues. In other words they are hypocrite.

The, Pope delineates the portrait of the Affectation, the second hand maiden of the Goddess of Spleen. Affectation is personified as an old woman who is beautiful, young and tender though she is fairly old. Delineation of the portrait of the Affectation provides a vivid picture of the fashionable woman. It includes a sharp, ironical commentary on the vanity, frivolity d hypocrisy of fashionable women.

There Affectation, with a sickly mien,
Shows in he cheek the roses of eighteen,
Practiced to lisp, and hang the head aside,
Faints into airs, and languishes with pride,
On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe,
Wrapt in a gown, for sickness, and for show.
The fair ones feel such maladies as these,
When each new night-dress gives a new disease.

Then, the bag, which the Goddess of Spleen gives to gnome, Umbriel, is the clever mimicry of the bag in which Ulysses entrapped the winds. The bag contains all the violent and noisy emotions while the Phial contains the noisiest sort of sufferings. This bag is indicative of female weaknesses. Thus, Pope seems to imply that the women are capable of all sorts of antics to demonstrate their sufferings.

To sum up, the visit to the cave of Spleen is introduced for the sake of mock-heroic effect, which gives an opportunity to the poet to satirize the evil nature and the affectations of ladies and gentlemen of his society. Furthermore, it also serves the action of the poem.


The Rape of the Lock is a brilliant and humorous satire on the aristocratic society of England, with its social scandals, follies, trivialities and vanities in general of fashionable men and women. Dryden said, “The true end of satire is the amendment of vice by correction,” and that is what Pope set out to do in his “Rape of the Lock.” By using the burlesque, mockery, and irony, Pope ridicules the deviation of his society.

Satire in “The Rape of The Lock" can be called a social satire because it satirizes the society as a whole in ways still relevant to to-days world. Moreover it is not a satire against any individual, but against the follies and vanities of fashionable men and women in general. Through Belinda Pope satirizes the fashionable women of the time and through Baron, he satirizes the aristocratic gentlemen of the age. However, the reason for why Pope’s “The Rape of The Lock” can be called a social satire is given below:

The poem is, in fact, a satire upon feminine frivolity. And Pope introduces the readers with many “Female Errors”. At the very beginning Pope satirizes the idleness late rising of aristocratic woman by Belinda. It was the hour of twelve when Belinda opened her eyes to fall asleep again-

“Now Lap-dogs give themselves the rowzing Shake,
And sleepless Lovers, just at Twelve, awake:”

The poet goes on to make fun of the vanities of woman .The aristocratic ladies of those days were over fond of gilded chariots and of ombre; and the poet makes fun of that over fondness here .These vanities, he says, do not end even with the death of the woman:

“Think not, when Woman's transient Breath is fled,
That all her Vanities at once are dead."

The poet also expresses the weakness of these ladies for entertainment and for marked balls. The satire in the following lines is obvious:

“With varying Vanities, from ev'ry Part,
They shift the moving Toyshop of their Heart"

Woman, in short, are all frivolous beings whose genuine interest is in love making and they felt keenly interested in the love letters that they received. The poet makes fun of Belinda by saying that when at least she woke up from her prolonged sleep, “Thy eyes first opened on a Billet doux" in which the lover had spoken at charms. He satirizes by saying that love making was the greatest pastime of young ladies .They expected attention and gifts from the lovers, but they were rather inconsistent in their love.

The poet also ridicules the women’s excessive attention of self embellishment and self decoration of a famous satirical passage. Belinda is described as commencing her toilet operations with prayer to the cosmetic power, puffs, and powders lie on Belinda's dressing table.

“Here Files of Pins extend their shining Rows,
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.”

Another object of satire is present in the arrangement of things on the table: the Bibles are usually placed in the midst of her beauty aids. But Bible is the holy book which should be kept separately. So, Bible is as important as other thing to Belinda. This type of attitude towards religion is satirized by Pope.

Then the poet satirizes how chastity and serious thing might be lost in the world of philanderers. Honour was merely a word with little meaning to them and reputation was more important than honour. A lady's honour is no more serious than her staining new brocade, a lady's missing a ball is as serious is her forgetting her heart. As Elwin points, "The relative importance of things, the little with them is great, and the great little. They attach as much importance to a china jar as to their honour as much to religion as to dances and masquerades, as much to their lap-dogs as to husbands."

"Not louder shirks to pitying Heaven are cast
When husbands or when lap dogs breathe their last"

In this poem, Pope also satirizes Belinda as well as whole fashionable woman's pretended purity. Because of her false purity, she was punished. Ariel discovered that Belinda was not quite keen on preserving her virtue and therefore she withdraws from the scene pope satirizes Belinda by saying that if she tried she could save his hair but she tried outwardly not from her heart. Pope also satirizes the aristocratic men of his time. They are as frivolous as the ladies. Lord peter and his fellows are the representatives of the fashionable society of the time .They are all idle, empty minded folk, and seem to have nothing else undo but making love or flirting with ladies and pope satirizes this.

One can't easily forget the satire in the portraits of sir Plume, another fashionable gentleman, with his snuff emptiness. When he is requested by his beloved Thalestris to persuade Lord Petre to surrender the precious hairs of Belinda, he utters words which are unsurpassed in their emptiness and pore ridicules this emptiness:

“With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face,
He first the snuff-box open'd, then the case,
And thus broke out — "My Lord, why, what the devil?
"Z — ds! damn the lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil!
Plague on't!'t is past a jest — nay prithee, pox!
Give her the hair" — he spoke, and rapp'd his box.” (593-598)

Nothing shows more clearly the faithfulness and unthinking folly of the smart set than this little speech of Lord Plume. Not only that the poet has also satirized the system of justice. At four in the afternoon, judges hurriedly sign the sentence so that they could have their dinner in time. This is their sense of responsibility and showings these judges Pope satirizes the system of justice of his time. He says about them:-

“Mean while, declining from the Noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
The hungry Judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jury-men may dine;”

Even Pope has attacked the concept of friendship. Friends are hollow and fickle. 
Belinda’s friend Thalestris is as shallow as the age in which she lives. As soon as the reputation of Belinda is gone, she doesn’t like to be called her friend, because it will be a disgrace to be known as her friend henceforth.

Thus the poem is a delicate humorous and witty satire on the upper class society of the eighteenth century. It exposes the follies with a light ridicule. It points the idle life of pleasure seeking young men and women. It introduces us to a world of frivolity and fashion and by showing these; he wants to correct these things.

Social Satire:

ocument because it mirrors contemporary society and contains a social satire, too. Pope paints about England in 18th century.

The whole panorama of “The Rape of the Lock” revolves around the false standard of 18th century. Pope satirizes the young girls and boys, aristocratic women and men, their free time activities, nature of husbands and wives, the professional judges and politicians of the day.

Pope clearly depicts the absurdities and the frivolities of the fashionable circle of the 18th century England. The world of Belinda – the world of fashion is a trivial world. The whole life of Belinda is confined to sleeping, make-up, enjoyment and alluring the lords. There are no transcendental elements in her life. This life is marked by ill-nature, affection, mischievousness, coquetry, yielding and submissive nature, fierce and unruly nature, infidelity, cheapness, meanness, trivialities and frivolities etc. Belinda represents all the fashion struck women, busy in such stupidities.

The gallants of the time have not been spared by Pope. Baron not only represents Peter but also typifies the aristocratic gallants of the age.

Pope satirizes man’s nature that is always weak at beauty. Men sacrifice everything at the altar of beauty and even the most intelligent man behaves foolishly when he fall a victim to beauty.

In order to make his satire sharper and all the more effective, Pope introduces the aerialmachinery, which facilitates the satire. Through this weapon, the poet throws in contrast the weaknesses of the fashionablewomen of that age. He satirizes women who are interested in fashionable life and its pursuits and who go on ex ercising their evil influence even after their death. For the sake of worldly grandeur, they can bid farewell even to their chastity and honour. He satirizes women of fiery, coquettish mischievous and yielding nature and gives them different names. It also provides the poet with an opportunity to satirize the class consciousness of women.

All the women and beaus gather at the place where they exchange talks on trivial things e.g. visits, balls, films, motions, looks, eyes, etc. and “at every word, a reputation dies”.

“A beau and witling perished in the throng,
One died in metaphor, and one in song.”

Man’s favourite activity is to take suffered women to play with fan. There is singing, dancing, laughing, ogling, etc. and nothing else. Women are busy alluring the dukes and lords. The poet reflects the hollowness of men in the character of Sir Plume who is coward, foolish and senseless, lacking courage. Women are on the whole irresolute and they have made toyshops of their hearts. They have even illicit relations with the beaus. Women are meant only for the entertainment of men, who play toy with them.

Pope also satirizes of the husbands and wives of the day. Husbands always suspect their wives. They think that their wives have been merry making with their lovers.

Wives are also not virtuous at all. They love their lap-dogs more than their husbands. And the death of husbands is not more shocking than the death of a lap dog or the breakage of a china vessel.

So through the medium of satire, Pope paints a picture of 18th century English society. His satire is didactic and impersonal. It is not inflicted against any person or individual, rather against the society and that, too, owing to some moral faults. He is dissatisfied with the society around which he wants to reform. The society he pictured is the aristocratic group of 18th century fashionable English society. But thee are several allied subjects, too, on which he inflicts his satire. For example, he satirized the judged who make hasty decisions.

“The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine”

He also satirized those friends whose friendship is but lust, those politicians who do not have a deeper insight and cannot see beyond the shows and take steps just for their own interests and ends etc.

To sum up, the poem is a reflection of this artificial and hollow life, painted with a humorous and delicate satire. Pope’s satire is intellectual and full of wit and epigram. Is picture of Addison as Atticus though unjust and prompted by malice, is a brilliant piece of satire.
“As an intellectual observer and describer of personal weakness, Pope stands by himself in English verse.”

Oct 24, 2014

Feminist Criticsm


[The] Feminist Criticism

A free and autonomous being like all human creatures (a woman) nevertheless finds herself living in a world where man compel her to assume the status of the other. *1

Feminism is the belief in social, political and economic equality of the sexes and a movementorganised around the belief *2 that gender should not be the predeterminant factor shaping a person's social identity or sociopolitical or economic rights. Feminist literary criticism affiliates women with two things - one is the representation of women in literature and another is to change the condition of women through making them free from the repressive hindrances. It has great connection with the fundamental attachments of modern literary theory. So, Feminist criticism is a part of the greater movement for women's equality in society.

Feminist theory aims to understand the nature of gender inequality. In examines women's social roles and lived experience and feminist politics in variety of fields."3

Feminism became an organized movement in the 19th century as people increasingly came to believe that women were being treated unfairly. Charles Fourier coined the word fĂ©minisme in 1837. He had argued that the extension of women's rights was the general principle of all social progress. At first the feminist movement concentrated on gaining legal equality especially the right to vote, called suffrage. Women in the United States and many European nations finally obtained the vote during the early 1900's. The Feminist movement nearly disappeared after women received the right to vote. During the mid 1900's however increasing the numbers of women entered the labour force. They found them. A new concern with economic and social equality helped to create a revival of the feminist movement in the 1960's. The national list fought to end education and job discrimination against women.

Feminist criticism can be divided into two distinct varieties- (1) the first type is concerned with woman as reader with woman as the consumer of male produced literature and with the ways in which the hypothesis of a female reader changes our apprehension of a given text awakening up to the significance of its sexual codes. (2) the second type is concerned with woman as writer with woman as the produces of textual meaning, with the history, themes, genres and structures of literature by women.

Many feminist thinkers raised their pen againist oppression, suppression and inequality of women. One of them is Wollstonecraft. In her book "A vindication of the Rights of Women," (1792). She describes the state of ignorance in which society kept women. Sarah M. Gimke in her pamphlet "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman (1838)" placed a powerful argument against the religious leaders.

The Feminist literary criticism of today is the direct product of the "women's movement" of the 1968's. The concern with conditioning and socialization underpins a crucial set of distinctions that between the terms feminist, female and feminine. As Toril Moi explains "a matter of biology' and the third "a set of culturally defined characteristics." *04

Feminism is not a single ideology. Over-time several sub-types of feminist ideology have developed. . Early feminists and primary feminist movements are often called the first-wave feminists, and feminists after about 1960 the second-wave feminists. More recently, a new generation of feminists have started third-wave feminism.

Feminist criticism since the 1970's has been remarkable for the wide range of positions that exist within it debates and disagreements have centered on three particular areas, there being -

1. The role of theory
2. The nature of language and
3. The value or otherwise of psychoanalysis.

Feminist criticism and the role of theory:
The Anglo-Americans maintain a major interest in traditional critical concepts like themes, movie and characterization.

English feminist criticism is, after all, often distinctly different from Americans.

Feminist Criticism and Language:

Virginia Woolf in her essay is gendered so that when a woman turns to novel writing, she finds that there is no common sentence ready for her use she quotes am example and says that is a man's sentence : this has been " subsemstently developed and theorized by feminist critics such as Dale Spenser is "man made language" 1980.

English-speaking feminists are often proponents of using non-sexist language, using "Ms." to refer to both married and unmarried women, for example, or the ironic use of the term "herstory" instead of "history". Feminists are also often proponents of using gender-inclusive language, such as "humanity" instead of "mankind", or "he or she" in place of "he" where the gender is unknown.

Feminist criticism and Psychoanalysis:

The story, feminisms's relationship with psychoanalysis, can be said to begin, like so much else, with Kate Millett's "sexual politics" in 1969 which condemns Freud as a prime source of the patriarchal attitudes againist which feminist must fight.

Postcolonial feminist criticizes certain ideas of western forms of feminism, notably radical feminism and its most basic assumption, universalization of the female experience. They argue that this assumption can not so easily be applied to women for whim gender oppression comes second to, for example racial or class oppression.

Relationship to other movements:

Most feminists take a holistic approach to politics, believing the saying of Martin Luther King Jr., "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".*5 In that belief, some feminists usually support other movements such as the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement and, more recently fathers' rights.

Criticism of Feminist Criticism:
Feminism has attracted attention due to the social changes it has effected in Western society.

Some critics (both male and female) find that some feminists are effectively preaching hate against males or claiming male inferiority, citing that if the words "male" and "female" were replaced by "black" and "white" respectively in some feminist writings, the texts could be viewed as racist propaganda. While some feminists generally disagree with the view that men are equally oppressed under patriarchy, other feminists, especially third-wave feminists agree that men are similarly oppressed and that gender equality means oppression of neither gender.

Some argue that because of feminism, males are beginning to be oppressed. Those who make this claim often note that males die from suicide 4 times more frequently than females attempting suicide in the USA. *6

Many people object to the feminist movement as trying to destroy traditional gender roles. They say that men and women have many natural differences and that everyone benefits from recognizing those differences.

Conclusion: Throughout history, women have usually had fewer rights and lower social status than men. Feminist movement has enabled large groups of women to question and determine their rights and responsibilities.…


01.Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1959.
02. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.
04. Peter Barry, Literary Criticism, 2002, Page 122.
05. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Oct 20, 2014




►        Introduction
►        Origins
►        Feminism in many forms
►        Relationship to other movements
►        Effects of feminism in the West
►        Worldwide statistics
►        Perspective: the nature of the modern movement
►        Criticisms of feminism
►        Famous Feminists

Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women, especially in terms of their social, political, and economic situation. As a social movement, feminism largely focuses on limiting or eradicating gender inequality and promoting women's rights, interests, and issues in society.
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Within academia, some feminists focus on documenting gender inequality and changes in the social position and representation of women. Others argue that gender, and even sex, are social constructs, and research the construction of gender and sexuality, and develop alternate models for studying social relations.
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Feminist political activism commonly campaign on issues such as reproductive rights, violence within a domestic partnership, maternity leave, equal pay, sexual harassment, discrimination, and sexual violence. Themes explored in feminism include patriarchy, stereotyping, objectification, sexual objectification, and oppression.
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In the 1960s and 1970s, feminism and feminist theory largely represented, and was concerned with, problems faced by Western, white, middle-class women while at the same time claiming to represent all women. Since that time, many feminist theorists have challenged the assumption that "women" constitute a homogenous group of individuals with identical interests. Feminist activists emerged from within diverse communities, and feminist theorists began to focus on the intersection between gender and sexuality with other social identities, such as race and class. Many feminists today argue that feminism is a grass-roots movement that seeks to cross boundaries based on social class, race, culture, and religion; is culturally specific and addresses issues relevant to the women of that society: for example female circumcision in Sudan, or the glass ceiling in developed economies; and debate the extent to which certain issues, such as rape, incest, and mothering, are universal.
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As it moves further into the new millenium, feminism continues to lobby for the rights of the marginalized and is beginning to found explicitly feminist political parties.

Feminism as a philosophy and movement in the modern sense may be usefully dated to The Enlightenment with such thinkers as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Marquis de Condorcet championing women's education. The first scientific society for women was founded in Middelburg, a city in the south of the Dutch republic, in 1785. Journals for women which focused on issues like science became popular during this period as well. Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of the first works that can unambiguously be called feminist.
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Feminism became an organized movement in the 19th century as people increasingly came to believe that women were being treated unfairly. The feminist movement was rooted in the progressive movement and especially in the reform movement of the 19th century. The utopian socialist Charles Fourier coined the word fĂ©minisme in 1837; as early as 1808, he had argued that the extension of women's rights was the general principle of all social progress. The organized movement was dated from the first women's rights convention at Seneca FallsNew York, in 1848. In 1869, John Stuart Mill published The Subjection of Women to demonstrate that "the legal subordination of one sex to the other is of the chief hindrances to human improvement."
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Many countries began to grant women the vote in the early years of the 20th century, especially in the final years of the First World War and the first years after the war. The reasons for this varied, but included a desire to recognise the contributions of women during the war, and were also influenced by rhetoric used by both sides at the time to justify their war efforts. For example, since Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Pointsrecognised self determination as a vital component of society, the hypocrisy of denying half the population of modern nations the vote became difficult for men to ignore. (See: Women's suffrage)

Feminism in many forms

Some forms of feminist theory question basic assumptions about gender, gender difference, and sexuality, including the category of "woman" itself as a holistic concept, further some are interested in questioning the male/female binary completely (offering instead a multiplicity of genders). Other forms of feminist theory take for granted the concept of "woman" and provide specific analyses and critiques of gender inequality, and most feminist social movements promote women's rights, interests, and issues. Feminism is not a single ideology. Over-time several sub-types of feminist ideology have developed. Early feminists and primary feminist movements are often called the first-wave feminists, and feminists after about 1960 the second-wave feminists. More recently, a new generation of feminists have started third-wave feminism. Whether this will be a lasting evolution remains to be seen as the second-wave has by no means ended nor has it ceded to the third-wave feminists.
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Moreover, some commentators have asserted that the silent majority of modern feminists have more in common ideologically with the first-wave feminists than the second-wave. For example, many of the ideas arising from Radical feminism and Gender feminism (prominent second-wave movements) have yet to gain traction within the broader community and outside of Gender Studies departments within the academy.
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For example, Radical feminism argues that there exists an oppressive patriarchy that is the root cause of the most serious social problems. Violence and oppression of women, because they are women, is more fundamental than oppressions related to class, ethnicity, religion, etc. Radical feminisms have been very vocal and active in influencing attitudes and state-wide school curriculum standards. Thus, it is not unusual for feminism to be equated with the ideas proposed by Radical feminism. Some find that the prioritization of oppression and the universalization of the idea of "Woman," which was part of traditional Radical feminist thinking, too generic, and that women in other countries would never experience the same experience of being "woman" than women in Western countries did.
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Some radical feminists advocate separatism—a complete separation of male and female in society and culture—while others question not only the relationship between men and women, but the very meaning of "man" and "woman" as well (see Queer theory). Some argue that gender roles, gender identity, and sexuality are themselves social constructs (see also heteronormativity). For these feminists, feminism is a primary means to human liberation (i.e., the liberation of men as well as women, and men and women from other social problems).
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Other feminists believe that there may be social problems separate from or prior to patriarchy (e.g., racism or class divisions); they see feminism as one movement of liberation among many, each affecting the others.

Relationship to other movements

Most feminists take a holistic approach to politics, believing the saying of Martin Luther King Jr., "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". In that belief, some feminists usually support other movements such as the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement and, more recently fathers' rights. At the same time many black feminists such as bell hooks criticise the movement for being dominated by white women. Feminist claims about the disadvantages women face in Western society are often less relevant to the lives of black women. This idea is the key in postcolonial feminism. Many black feminist women prefer the term womanism for their views.
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However, feminists are sometimes wary of the transgender movement because it challenges the distinctions between men and women. Transgender and transsexual women are excluded from some "women-only" gatherings and events and are rejected by some feminists who say that no one born male can fully understand the oppression that women face, also citing the sexism inherent in the notion that femaleness is a default gender that one can enter after shedding externally recognizable male traits. This exclusion is criticized as transphobic by transwomen who assert that the discrimination and various struggles (such as that for legal recognitions) that they face due to asserting their gender identity is closely linked to many feminist efforts, and that discrimination against gender-variant people is another face of heterosexism and patriarchy. See transfeminism and gender studies.

Effects of feminism in the West

Some feminists would argue that there is still much to be done on these fronts, while third-wave feminists would disagree and claim that the battle has basically been won.
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Effects on civil rights

Feminism has effected many changes in Western society, including women's suffrage; broad employment for women at more equitable wages ("equal pay for equal work"); the right to initiate divorce proceedings and the introduction of "no fault" divorce; the right of women in almost all countries to exercise a degree of control over their own bodies and medical decisions, including obtaining contraception and safe abortions; and many others.
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As Western society has become increasingly accepting of feminist principles, many of these issues, perceived as radical in the 19th century, are now part of mainstream political thought, such as the right of women to vote, own land, and choose their own marital partners, or decide not to marry. Almost no one in Western societies today questions these rights.
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Effect on language

English-speaking feminists are often proponents of using non-sexist language, using "Ms." to refer to both married and unmarried women, for example, or the ironic use of the term "herstory" instead of "history". Feminists are also often proponents of using gender-inclusive language, such as "humanity" instead of "mankind", or "he or she" in place of "he" where the gender is unknown. Feminists in most cases advance their desired use of language either to promote an equal and respectful treatment of women or to affect the tone of political discourse. This can be seen as a move to change language which has been viewed by some feminists as imbued with sexism - providing for example the case in the English language the word for the general pronoun is "he" or "his" (The child should have his paper and pencils), which is the same as the masculine pronoun (The boy and his truck). These feminists purport that language then directly affects perception of reality (compare Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis). However, to take a postcolonial analysis of this point, many languages other than English may not have such a gendered pronoun instance and thus changing language may not be as important to some feminists as others. Yet, English is becoming more and more universal, and the issue of language may be seen to be of growing importance.
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On the other hand, quite a different tendency can be seen in French. Gender, as a grammatical concept, is much more pervasive in French than in English, and as a result, it has been virtually impossible to create inclusive language. Instead, nouns that originally had only a masculine form have had feminine counterparts created for them. "Professeur" ("teacher"), once always masculine regardless of the teacher's sex, now has a parallel feminine form "Professeure". In cases where separate masculine and feminine forms have always existed, it was once standard practice for a group containing both men and women to be referred to using the masculine plural, but nowadays, forms such as "Toutes les Canadiennes et tous les Canadiens" ("all Canadians", or literally "all the female Canadians and all the male Canadians") are becoming more common.

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Effect on heterosexual relationships

The feminist movements have certainly affected the nature of heterosexual relationships in Western and other societies affected by feminism. While these effects have generally been seen as positive, there have been some consequences that can be catalogued as negative from the traditional point of view on morals.
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In some of these relationships, there has been a change in the power relationship between men and women. In these circumstances, women and men have had to adapt to relatively new situations, sometimes causing confusions about role and identity. Women can now avail themselves more to new opportunities, but some have suffered with the demands of trying to live up to the so-called "superwomen" identity, and have struggled to 'have it all', i.e. manage to happily balance a career and family. In response to the family issue, many socialist feminists blame this on the lack of state-provided child-care facilities. Others have advocated instead that the onus of child-care not rest solely on the female, but rather that men partake in the responsibility of managing family matters.
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There have been changes also in attitudes towards sexual morality and behaviour with the onset of second wave feminism and "the Pill": women are then more in control of their bodies, and are able to experience sex with more freedom than was previously socially accepted for them. This sexual revolution that women were then able to experience was seen as positive (especially by sex-positive feminists) as it enabled women and men to experience sex in a free and equal manner. However, some feminists felt that the results of the sexual revolution only was beneficial to men.Whether marriage is an institution that oppresses women and men, or not, has generated discussion. Those that do view it as oppressive sometimes opt for cohabitation or more recently to live independently reverting to casual sex to fulfill their sexual needs.
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Effect on religion

Feminism has had a great effect on many aspects of religion. In liberal branches of Protestant Christianity, women are now ordained as clergy, and in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism, women are now ordained as rabbis and cantors. Within these Christian and Jewish groups, women have gradually become more nearly equal to men by obtaining positions of power; their perspectives are now sought out in developing new statements of belief. In Islam women have historically contributed to all aspects of Islamic life, from religious edicts to aid on the battlefield. Around half of the sayings of Muhammad are taken from his wife Aisha, whom men often consulted on religious matters. In this day you will often see many women scholars on Arabic satellite television answering Islam-related questions, asked by both genders. One matter remains debatable nowadays, which is whether or not a woman can lead men in prayers. These trends, however, have been resisted within Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism has historically excluded women from entering priesthood and other positions in clergy, allowing women to hold positions as nuns or as laypeople.
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Feminism also has had an important role in embracing new forms of religion. Neopaganreligions especially tend to emphasise the importance of Goddess spirituality, and question what they regard as traditional religion's hostility to women and the sacred feminine. In particular Dianic Wicca is a religion whose origins lie within radical feminism. Among traditional religions, feminism has led to self examination, with reclaimed positive Christian and Islamic views and ideals of Mary, Islamic views of Fatima Zahra, and especially to the Catholic belief in the Coredemptrix, as counterexamples. However, criticism of these efforts as unable to salvage corrupt church structures and philosophies continues. Some argue that Mary, with her status as mother and virgin, and as traditionally the main role model for women, sets women up to aspire to an impossible ideal and also thus has negative consequences on human sense of identity and sexuality.
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There is a separate article on God and gender; it discusses how monotheistic religions reconcile their theologies with contemporary gender issues, and how modern feminism has influenced the theology of many religions.

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Effect on moral education

Opponents of feminism claim that women's quest for external power, as opposed to the internal power to affect other people's ethics and values, has left a vacuum in the area of moral training, where women formerly held sway. Some feminists reply that the education, including the moral education, of children has never been, and should not be, seen as the exclusive responsibility of women. Paradoxically, it is also held by others that the moral education of children at home in the form of homeschooling is itself a women's movement. Such arguments are entangled within the larger disagreements of the Culture Wars, as well as within feminist (and anti-feminist) ideas regarding custodianship of societal morals and compassion.

Worldwide statistics

The following is a sampling of statistics related to the relative status of women worldwide.
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Worldwide, women work more than men, when both paid employment and unpaid household tasks are accounted for, according to the United Nations Human Development Report 2004: Section 28, Gender, Work Burden, and Time Allocation. In rural areas of the developing countries surveyed, women perform an average of 20% more work than men, or an additional 98 minutes per day. In the OECD countries surveyed, on average women performed 5% more work than men, or 18 minutes per day.
Women own only 1 percent of the world's wealth, and earn 10 percent of the world's income, despite making up 51 percent of the population.
Women are underrepresented in all of the world's major legislative bodies (see Women in National Parliaments, November 2004). In 1985, Finland had the largest percentage of women in national legislature at approximately 32 percent (P. Norris, Women's Legislative Participation in Western Europe, West European Politics). Currently,Sweden has the highest number of women at 45 percent. The United States has just 14 percent. The world average is just 9 percent. In contrast, half of the members of the recently established Welsh Assembly Government are women.

Perspective: the nature of the modern movement

Most feminists believe discrimination against women still exists in North American and European nations, as well as worldwide. But there are many ideas within the movement regarding the severity of current problems, what the problems are, and how to confront them.
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Extremes on the one hand include some radical feminists such as Mary Daly who argues that the world would be better off with dramatically fewer men. There are also dissidents, such as Christina Hoff Sommers or Camille Paglia, who identify themselves as feminist but who accuse the movement of anti-male prejudices.
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On the other hand, many feminists question the use of the term feminist to groups or people who fail to recognize a fundamental equality between the sexes. Some feminists, like Katha Pollitt (see her book Reasonable Creatures) or Nadine Strossen(President of the ACLU and author of Defending Pornography ), consider feminism to be, solely, the view that "women are people." Views that separate the sexes rather than unite them are considered by these people to be sexist rather than feminist.
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There are also debates between difference feminists such as Carol Gilligan on the one hand, who believe that there are important differences between the sexes (which may or may not be inherent, but which cannot be ignored), and those who believe that there are no essential differences between the sexes, and that the roles observed in society are due to conditioning. Modern scientists sometimes disagree on whether inborn differences exist between men and women (other than physical differences such as anatomy, chromosomes, and hormones).
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In Marilyn French's seminal works analysing patriarchy and its effects on the world at large--including women, men and children--she defines patriarchy as a system that values power over life, control over pleasure, and dominance over happiness. According to French, "it is not enough either to devise a morality that will allow the human race simply to survive. Survival is an evil when it entails existing in a state of wretchedness. Intrinsic to survival and continuation is felicity, pleasure. Pleasure has been much maligned, diminished by philosophers and conquerors as a value for the timid, the small-minded, the self-indulgent. "Virtue" involves the renunciation of pleasure in the name of some higher purpose, a purpose that involves power (for men) or sacrifice (for women). Pleasure is described as shallow and frivolous in a world of high-minded, serious purpose. But pleasure does not exclude serious pursuits or intentions, indeed, it is found in them, and it is the only real reason for staying alive" Beyond Power This philosophy is what French offers as a replacement to the current structure where power has the highest value--and it is this feminism to which many (women and men) subscribe.
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