Feminists – “I am a Woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman, that’s me.” ―Maya Angelou.
Over centuries the feminist revolution is still growing strong with passage of time and is unleashing new possibilities each new day. Centuries ago ‘feminism’ was just an idea, which swept the world and radically changed the society. For the first time the existing misogynist societal order was challenged. The idea of feminism was basically based on equal rights for woman as a human being and was rooted in liberal conceptions of individual identity and fair play.
Revolution is not only an idea spreading like fire, but it also means awakening the generation from the deep slumber of exploitation and habit.Feminism was not about any political or economic movement, neither it was about nationalism or communism but, it was and is about how two halves of humanity view each other despite the biological differences.
Feminists of 20th Century –
There were many women who came forward and participated in this movement of feminism. The feminists took the help of performing arts, fine literature and art of speaking to promote the idea of equality and were more open to sexuality-world. 20th century witnessed some of the greatest advancements in this movement, many women feminists came forward and gave words to the plight of women through their pens. Their words inspired more and more women, to fight for their basic human rights and raised an awareness for the distressed & exploited womenfolk. If they wouldn’t have used their pen to pen-down the plights of women, then they would have remained the second-class citizens forever, and men would have never realized what a woman has to go through for being born as a female.
Our first feminist in the list is none other than Virginia Woolf, the most widely read and an eminent feminist writer of the 20th century. She is best introduced as a stream of consciousness novelist, who put forward the women in her novels, which was a rarity in her days. In her works like ‘Mrs.Dalloway’ and ‘A Room of One’s Own’, for the first time she brought a woman’s life in front of the world from a woman’s perspective. She for the first time noted misogyny and militarism go hand in hand. So, all the nonbinary ladies out there can thank her for validating gender as a fluid concept.
Next in the list is Monique Wittig, whose writings focused exclusively in overcoming the need for gender roles. She regularly talked about the problems which a woman has to cope up while living their life with the male. Wittig coined the term ‘heterosexual contract’, proving that she was much ahead of her time. ‘The Straight Mind’ and other essays can help the feminists to understand her approach towards the misogynist society in her time.
Simone de Beauvoir was another powerful feminist, who put the founding stone of feminismin 20th century. ‘The Second Sex’ and ‘She Came to Stay’ explored the women’s role in the society and openly criticized the double standards of the culture in which the women grew up at that time. She pointed out the existing norm of how a women were mingled to ‘be women’, her attacks helped the girls and women of her era to realize the existing double-standards in modern society.
‘The Bell Jar’ one of the hard-hitting novels which covered feminist social commentary, mental illness and many other issues which were considered as taboo during those days. It was written by one of the most short-lived powerful feminist of 20th century Sylvia Plath.Here we have a quote from her novel “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.” Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar. She was bold enough to express herself in those days, when women were expected to be the silent doll
Margaret Atwood, the Canadian poet, literary critic and novelist. Her works encompasses around the themes like gender and identity, religion and myth, power-politics and many more. Though she rejects to be called as a feminist, but her works perfectly adjusts in the frame. Some of her works are weaved on sexual politics, gendered relationships and religion and myth, which very comfortably fits under the label of feminist literature.
Helene Cixous, best known for her article ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, which established her as a thinker of post-structuralist feminist theory. She founded the first center for feminist study at a European University. In this work she issued an ultimatum to the women, either to choose: to read and remain entrapped in the flesh and blood by a language which doesn’t allow them to express themselves or they can use the body to communicate. She urges women to address their needs by creating a self-identity and a self-narrative. Expression is the only way out for survival.
And the list continues. We have many feminists like the ones mentioned above, who defied the patriarchal society and refused to remain entrapped within the body and came forefront to express themselves. After ages of exploitation and mistreatment, it had became necessary to rise above the existing norms in order to survive with dignity. These feminist writers indeed proved that pen is mightier than sword, if used wisely. Women are born with wisdom, and when they get the touchstone of confidence and importance, they can shine out of all adversities. The biological differences cannot be the excuse for accepting the tortures and torments inflicted upon them by the misogynist society.
Every women who is struggling with the male chauvinists who believe women to be just a show-piece of flesh and blood should remember the famous lines of Sylvia Plath “Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ And I eat men like air.” From the poem “Lady Lazarus”.
So, ladies wake up, get the inspiration and win the world. You are your own pole star.