Feminist thinkers

Feminists #

Mary Wollstonecraft, #

In A Vindication of the Rights of Women,

Wollstonecraft was responding to the English con­servative and opponent of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, who had written in his Reflections on the Revolution in France that ‘a woman is but an animal, and an animal not of the highest order.’ She wrote:

I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love … will soon become objects of contempt. … I wish to show that the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex.

Joan Didion #

Antonella Gambotto-Burke The Australian, April 2, 2021

Didion was widely recognised as the world’s pre-eminent literary, non-fiction stylist. Characterised by detachment, her remove came at the expense of heart; her fixation with style is a buffer to emotion as displays of feelings were distasteful. She mocks any need to surrender; what Grahame Greene called: “the splinter of ice in the heart of a writer”.

Instead she sought respite in alcohol. In Why I Write, Didion presents it as an act of aggressive hostility imposed on your audience.

“You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions – with the whole manner of imitating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating – but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully.”

In regards to her oeuvre, the issue of affective integrity is significantly more pertinent than that of aggression. As Als points out, Didion maintains that truth is provisional – that is, arranged to suit the circumstances and open to revision: a drinker’s motto.

Invariably, her subjects play handmaid to her style. the Presidential campaigns of 1988, she argued that the so-called “democratic process” had become unlinked from the people it was supposed to speak to and for.

Darryl Pinckney maintains

Joan Didion’s genius was at exploring the paradoxes and contradictions in the stories we tell ourselves.

Janet Malcolm #

Janet Malcolm is renowned for her artful explorations of the artifice of life writing. Her most famous book, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (1994), is as much an analysis of other biographies of Plath and Hughes as it is an examination of the entangled lives of the two poets.

Malcolm works to expose biography as a “flawed genre” that disguises the biographer’s desires behind a “pose of fair-mindedness” and that privileges the sensational over the commonplace in ways that give rise to inauthenticity and prurience.

In an earlier book, The Journalist and the Murderer (1989), Malcolm wrote:

“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”

Nevertheless, it’s the job.

Channelling the first line of L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953), she writes:

“The past is a country that issues no visas. We can only enter it illegally.”

Malcolm likens biographers to professional burglars:

The voyeurism and busybodyism that impel writers and readers of biography alike are obscured by an apparatus of scholarship designed to give the enterprise an appearance of banklike blandness and solidity.

Readers, as well as biographers, are skewered for colluding in the exciting, forbidden undertaking of “tiptoeing down the corridor together, to stand in front of the bedroom door and try to peep through the keyhole”.

The Saturday Paper on February 11, 2023 as “Janet Malcolm, Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory”.

Susan Sontag #

1933 - 2004 Excerpts from : What Susan Sontag Wanted for Women by Merve Emre May 23, 2023 NYRB

The singular glamour of Susan Sontag has done her some injustice, particularly where matters of sex and gender are concerned. Suspicious of her celebrity, and convinced that her success had rendered her immune to the plights of ordinary women, her critics have characterized her relationship to the second sex as inconstant at best and faithless at worst.

” Women and men alike were ensnared by this desire to accumulate—but women were additionally oppressed by the institution of the nuclear family, a prison of sexual repression, a playing field of inconsistent moral laxity, a museum of possessiveness, a guilt-producing factory, and a school of selfishness.”

The fact that the family was also the source of apparently unalienated values (“warmth, trust, dialogue, uncompetitiveness, loyalty, spontaneity, sexual pleasure, fun”) only increased its power.

On A Woman’s Beauty:

“Beauty, women’s business in this society, is the theater of their enslavement. Only one standard of female beauty is sanctioned: the girl.”

Women were not permitted to change, were not allowed to cast off their smooth innocence and docility in favor of wisdom, competence, strength, and ambition.

“To be sure, beauty is a form of power. And deservedly. Yet it was a power that had always been conceived in relation to men: “not the power to do but the power to attract.” In this sense, it was a power that negated itself. It could not be “chosen freely,” nor could it be “renounced without social censure.”

Women were not permitted to change, were not allowed to cast off their smooth innocence and docility in favor of wisdom, competence, strength, and ambition.

Beauty had been “abridged in order to prop up the mythology of the ‘feminine,’ ” then a more shocking and forgiving definition of beauty required unsexing it, violently. Beauty would no longer be subject to the approval of men; it would appropriate the masculine to do women’s bidding for them.

“A society in which women are subjectively and objectively the genuine equals of men . . . will necessarily be an androgynous society.”

She did not value separatism, the aggressive policing of the boundaries of who was or was not a woman. She valued the right to plural forms of being, the right to her many fractured selves. She envisioned an aesthetic and political integration that would, in the final analysis, result in the obliteration of “men” and “women” as categories of identity.

Helen Garner #

Garner came to fame through her fiction but forged a second career as one of the nation’s foremost practitioners of narrative non-fiction, and a highly controversial one, too.

More @: https://nebo-lit.com/women/helen-garner.html