The Effects of Femininity

1573 Words7 Pages
In order to understand the effects that ideas of femininity have on literary texts, we must first acknowledge what the term means. Clearly both terms derive from the original sex of the being, whether male or female, and can be similarly tied in with notions of gender, either masculine or feminine, which are said to be constructs, or labels, created by society. However `masculinity' and `femininity' become, on some levels, dislodged from the idea of the biological makeup and gender constructs, and instead tend to be described in terms of discourse. It is not just the sex and gender of a being that determines their actions, but instead their thoughts and opinions. This essay will assess ideas of femininity in reference to James' The Turn of The Screw, and Shakespeare's Othello. In order for us to deal with how a consideration of femininity can effect our understanding of a literary text, we must also be able to grasp the notion of `feminism' and `Feminist Literary Theory'. A dictionary definition of `feminism' is: `the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.' Although this leans towards feminism in the historical sense of the word, it still provides the grounds, or foundations, from which feminist literary theories were created. Feminists argue against the stereotyping and social construction of female norms, seeing them as created by men in order to establish their own sense of power. It is thought that while males suggest that gender is sex and not actually a construct, the female role will become much more passive, stereotyped and controlled. `The aim of feminism must be to break down the public/private split and the binaries of masculinity/femininity, mind/body, reason/f... ... middle of paper ... ...o the fact that Iago conspires in such deceitful ways against Othello and possible women in general. Her ignorance can again be reflected by Bianca, Cassio's mistress, who has been described as a whore. In conclusion, we can see that feminist criticism can be applied better to certain texts than others. Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, I feel, somewhat contradicts feminist literary theory, simply due to the fact the James writes so convincingly as a woman. The governess shows both masculine and feminine attributes to her character while also displaying passive and active traits, which seems to be what feminist critics appreciate in the literary canon. Shakespeare's Othello, on the other hand, is a text ready for feminist damnation. Femininity in the text is measured against other male roles, for example, Desdemona's fate is largely in the hands of Othello.
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