26 F*** a Society and F*** Gender Norms

Marissa Vargas

In Rivkin and Ryan’s “Introduction: Feminist Paradigms,” we are introduced to two different contemporary feminist literary criticism approaches, essentialist and constructivist. Each approach really challenges the other, while both providing some valid thoughts and theories.

The essentialist approach is more biological rather than psychological, which backs up the constructivist approach. The essentialist explains that women are more caring, loving, responsible and more because they are more tied to nature with more responsibilities. A lot of the explanations and theories behind this approach all relate back to the biological effect of how women are seen. Feminist psychoanalytical theorist Nancy Chodorow, ethical philosopher, Carol Gilligan and feminist philosopher, Luce Irigaray all “argued that women’s physical differences alone (birthing, lactation, menstruation etc.) make them more connected with matter or with the physical world than men” (Rivkin and Ryan 767)

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I found this exact quote and explanation to the theory approach to be very interesting, problematic, but also true? I really like how they are pretty much saying that women are more loving, caring and responsible, WHICH is sexist. I just found it comical but problematic. I understand that they are stating their thoughts, but isn’t feminism about equality and not just explaining why one gender is better than the other? Interesting.

Now on to the constructivist approach….

The constructivist approach argues that a women’s role in society derives from the psychology behind that society. The approach theorizes how gender is performative and something constructed by a society, and not so much biological factors. “Of more importance than physical or biological difference might be psychological identity…women can be just as much ‘masculine’ as men, and biological men might simply be ‘masculine’ or pretend to be such, only out of obedience to cultural codes” (Rivkin and Ryan 768). Wow…talk about gender roles and societal norms. I found this quote/explanation to be interesting and started talking about it with my roommate, who is a Crit Theory junkie. I said to her, “I wonder how a societal/gender norm came to be constructed????” and she said “Well think of it this way…when women are pregnant, they become more vulnerable and not able to do as much physically. This deems them as weak, so the men need to take over or at least step in. which could be why women are seen as the weaker.” TRUE TRUE AND TRUE….but like also, women are creating a life inside of them and then PUSH A BABY OUT OF THEIR HOO-HA or have them ripped from their internal organs during a C-section. That right there is not weak, but rather incredible and beautiful in so many ways.

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See….Pam gets it.

But in conclusion to this all, I loved this introductory piece and found it so interesting. I loved it because, it challenged my own thoughts and theories, but allowed me to have new ideas with new perceptions. I also learned THERE ARE SO MANY DAMN DIFFERENT TYPES OF FEMINIST/FEMINIST APPROACHES/THEORIES AND MORE. Ugh. So amazing. So problematic. Here is the ending sentence of this beautiful work of art: “There as well perhaps, from the achieved vantage of a international, transethnic, parasexual perspective, it discovers a field of work that takes it back beyond its own beginning in the emergence from silence into language- to undo the silence of those who still do not speak” (Rivkin and Ryan 769). This sentence just really blew me out of my chair (Well bed; I was in bed when reading.) It made me so excited to learn more. Hashtagfeminism. My hashtag button is broken. sad face.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Marissa Vargas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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