Critical Analysis Of Elaine Showalter And The Ideal Woman

3315 Words14 Pages
Megan O’niell


Rob Holton

ENGL 3605 A

December 8 2014

Elaine Showalter and the Ideal Woman

Elaine Showalter is a feminist writer who analyzes the oppression of women in psychiatry. Her contributions to British and American literature have brought new insights to feminism and have helped to influence other female authors to do the same. In writing “Toward a feminist poetics”, Showalter does not show women as being multiple women, but as a single “woman”. It is implied that she does not believe that there can be many different types of women, and that there can only be one. Showalter writes in this article about how women cannot become doctors or lawyers and cannot aspire to be anything other than a writer. Showalter argues that
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She writes her article “Toward a feminist poetics” in 1979, before Simone de Beauvoir. Showalter writes this piece as a resistance to feminist criticism. There are traditionalist males who mock female critics because it is easy for a man to put down a woman who at this point, is believed to not have anything of importance to say in her literature. This is a reductive way to approach literature. Women who were Marxists, but who were also committed feminists thought that feminism was a distraction from changing the world. That feminism moved people away from the main goal. The situation of women has not really changed despite women having theory taught to them in school. Showalter says that it is time we develop a theory, she states what can be done in her article, “The feminist critique is essentially political and polemical, with theoretical affiliations to Marxist sociology and aesthetics; gynocritics is more self-contained and experimental, with connections to other modes of new feminist research” (Showalter, 26). This is the taxonomy of where feminism should go. Showalter states that it is important to reconstruct experiences of women. Showalter is very ambitious in her article. This is because proper guidelines for feminism did not exist before. “…compare the feminist critique to the Old Testament, ‘looking for the sins and errors of the past’, and gynocritics to the New Testament, seeking ‘the grace of…show more content…
She asks the question ‘what is a woman’? and how it has to do with the way the nerves feed the brain. The way she is supposed to help her husband. She is very strong in the way she sees women because she wants there to be more women doing the same things as men. She asks why are women losing their femininity when there are women in Russia who are doing construction. This is a valid question because women are quite capable of doing the same things that men are allowed to do. Beauvoir wants to get down to what it means to be a woman. The belief is that if there is a woman, then there is a feminine solidarity. Beauvoir looks at the concept of a woman, but she does not see her as a single woman, but a bunch of women who will fight discrimination together. A woman does not exist, women together, are capable of a lot more than what they are given credit for. A feminist consciousness is what is required, to think that women are capable instead of underestimating them. There are struggles for blacks that need to be addressed. Marxists need to be understood as a unit. Feminists must become a unified consciousness just like these groups. Beauvoir does not believe that there is a single women that exists, unlike Showalter. Beauvoir asks what it means to be a feminist, and whether there is there a standard of femininity. The conceptualism has lost ground for the common woman. If femininity is in danger that means that
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