Feminist Review is a peer reviewed, interdisciplinary journal setting new agendas for feminism. The journal invites critical reflection on the relationship between materiality and representation, theory and practice, subjectivity and communities, contemporary and historical formations. Feminist Review resists the increasing instrumentalisation of scholarship within British and international higher education and thus supports the generation of creative and innovative approaches to knowledge production. As well as academic articles the journal publishes experimental pieces, visual and textual media and political interventions, including interviews, short stories, poems and photographic essays.
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Citation ePub 26 KB. All Issues. Only in the community of deceived tenants can words and feelings, attitudes and actions be developed as belonging together, as being her own at all. The husband literally has to get out of the house for her not to exclusively reflect his anticipated expectations, but to develop a standard of her own. In this way, Piercy seems to indicate that the relationship between the sexes stands protectively in front of, and makes us blind both to self-recognition, and to recognition of gender relations in society.
So the phrase that love makes blind, enters life in this displaced way.
Although such questions were posed for political and strategic reasons, they were fundamentally academic and had no consequences. But Piercy shows, both in the novel outlined above, as well as in others, that questions as to social belonging can nevertheless be very practical ones.
For her marriage and the subsequent step-by-step upward climb in status, Daria, the principal character in Fly Away Home has acquired the corresponding manner. Since, despite professional activity in the social world, almost nothing of that really belongs to her after her husband decides he wants a divorce, all these dimensions stand around her like foreign bodies, or turn their activities against her, as with the problem of the demonstrators brought into the house.
Her manner has literally lost its function, just as she has become property without an owner. So she joins together with others, who are propertyless and own nothing. In other circumstances, in which use is the general regulator, ownership as means of power and domination becomes property in a pathetic sense. To that extent, Piercy does not make things so simple for us, by taking up a position against property or for the propertyless. Instead, she suggests contesting property in its existing form.
And strategically, she seems to suggest that, for women, alliances should not be looked for in the dominant culture and its representatives, but with all those who have dropped out of the dominant patterns or have not been admitted to them in the first place. In other novels she deals with the various groupings of the left from the s to the s, with hippies, draft dodgers, terrorists, socialist students. Frequently her central characters have come out of a diverse ethnic mixture, in which their beauty is ascribed to the share of groups especially discriminated against—for example, Jewish-Asian or American Indian-Irish, Black-Chinese and so on.
That makes it lively and provocative. But does this not at the same time demonstrate a certain arbitrariness and limitation which therefore still means it is far removed from real knowledge? Or put another way: does this not pose once again in a quite exemplary fashion the problem of just how theoretical insight can be gained from individual experience? Piercy does not provide us with an answer to that. But we can derive one possible answer from the ordering of the literary material.
The novel is written in such a way that it invites taking up a relationship, as woman, with the central character Daria. At the same time it is made impossible for this to take place as simple identification, because Daria constantly finds herself in new constellations, in which her old ideas, wishes and desires are radically altered and take new forms. That simultaneously distances identificatory engagement.
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Perhaps we can describe the tension which enters the novel in this way as the fascination of solidarity. Piercy allows her principal character, Daria, to experiment with her life. Equality and inequality mean that readers gain a similar distance to themselves and their experiences, insofar as this is the process of development of the principal character of the novel.
Individuality is gained as reflexive attitude. So women who have been gripped can turn into women who grasp something. For us as social scientists there further remains the methodological question of how theoretical knowledge can be acquired from experience. It is presumably correct that theoretical work with experiences is required in order to derive something generalizable from them. This difficult and wearisome work seems to be solved differently by women writers. They write down even experiences in such a way that what is worth demonstrating stands out clearly, irrespective of whether the stories as a whole are fiction or directly autobiographical.
To that extent literary writings are material which virtually force themselves upon theoretical work. Literature and experience 2: appropriation of the body and abortion You shall make for yourself no ideal, neither an angel in heaven, nor a hero in a poem or a novel, neither one dreamed or imagined by the self; but you should love a man as he is.
For nature, your mistress, is a strict godhead, which visits the raptures of maidens upon women unto the third and fourth age of the sentiments.
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Let us take a second example, also by Piercy, her early novel Braided Lives. Again the theme is the formation of female identity. Piercy begins, in a way, by turning the question round, and so with the problem that young women first of all have to appropriate their bodies, in order to live in them. Here she can breathe, learn, think and write. This seems all the more likely, since from an early age she already enjoyed physical, sensuous games with other girls, including her cousin. She did not understand this as sexuality. In between come the efforts to make the body look right without any money.
The summer draws on endlessly with, on the one hand, increasing closeness and, on the other, the impossibility of finding a room in which the sexual experiment can be carried out. Finally the holidays come and the borrowed car, which, however, requires introductions to each set of parents. Piercy describes the apprentice years as a time of constant worry about the problems of the body and the consequences of sexual love.
This with reference to the position which studying occupies, to the organizing of rooms and meeting places, to the perception of other people, to self-presentation, and in between the terrible monthly question, whether one is pregnant, and the almost insoluble questions of actual pregnancy. The dominance of the body pushes into the background the question of how a love affair between two people can be given shape.
An abortion is at the centre of the novel. Here Piercy presents this theme of public parliamentary debates and simultaneous private silence as female tragedy. Piercy, ff It begins with an act of control. Jill is at home during the holidays. She wakes up, her mother is standing over her dressing-table, calendar in hand. Piercy allows her to express this placing within the female tradition both as a matter of pride and as knowing judgement.
She mixes them with class experience and with subordination to patriarchal power. Your father would kill me.
Sickly since you were seven. If the daughter gives her body to those specialists, she will betray her to her father, who will allow nature to take its proper course. The most essential strength women need is for the struggle against their own nature, in comparison to which the other forces seem almost harmless.
Appropriately Piercy chooses the form of the inner monologue and sets the individual words in futile oppositions: Jill waits until the bath tub has filled with hot water. I sit on the toilet seat staring at my belly smooth and flat from harsh laxatives. Under the cushion of fat lurks the womb, spongy fist that will not open while in it cells divide and divide.
The steam swirling hot from the tub smothers me as this body goes its animal way. Jill has to remind herself that the animal, in whose clutches she feels herself to be, is her own self as woman. With her genderization all earlier hopes of being human become ludicrous phantoms.
I seldom felt feminine. I felt neuter. An angel of words. I could imagine myself a Hamlet, a Trotsky, a Donne. I thought I was projects, accomplishments, tastes: I am only an envelope of guts.
This is what it is to be female, to be trapped. This sac of busy cells has its own private rhythms of creation and decay. Its viruses and cancers, its 28—day reminders of birth and death. My body can be taken over and used against my will as if I were a hall to be rented out.
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Hot baths with Epsom salt, hot baths with penny-royal: I am parboiled and still pregnant… Shakespeare had Hamlet walk in a graveyard and philosophize there on the transience of life and the takeover of the dead by worms. How can the hero overcome death? In the banality of the bathroom Piercy shows that for women death is in their lives, they themselves are vessels of unceasing growth and therefore of constant dying.
So they enter history as species being. To sacrifice myself for a girl-child whom I will try to teach to sacrifice herself, a chain of female suffering.