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Feminism and Postmodernism - Essay Example

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Feminism and Postmodernism

In particular, the so-called postmodernist feminism has challenged the claims that observed differences between men and women are necessary and that women have an essence that justifies their subordinating position in society.

Central to the postmodernist understanding of society is the belief that the grand or totalizing principles of modernity and the Enlightenment - including appeals to rationality, progress, humanity, and justice - have been completely undermined. This line of reasoning emerges from poststructuralist critiques of language, subjectivity, and representation. In other words, where poststructuralists criticized the foundations of modernism, postmodernists read these critiques as mandates for rejecting foundations altogether (Stabile 1995). European postmodernists, like Jean-Francois Lyotard, have expressed the belief that Marxism, like the Enlightenment in general, culminated in Stalinism because of its totalizing impulses.

Some postmodernists have gone much further than this identification of Marxism with Soviet-style systems, holding Marxism responsible for all kinds of oppression. Twentieth-century Marxism has used the generalizing categories of production and class to delegitimize demands of women, black people, gays, lesbians, and others whose oppression cannot be reduced to economics. This kind of judgment dramatically displays yet another feature of postmodernism: its historical amnesia. Marxism and socialist organizations in general have been repeatedly marginalized and delegitimized by capitalism.
Postmodernism is full of confusions and contradictions, nevertheless, it is based on some unifying principles such as non-critical and idealistic focus on the construction of real as well as examination of the concept of difference. For example, if the society is not able to identify any interests which might unite it, then the only mean to unify people is based on identity differences. This Marx's so-called unity in differences or the identity of interests shared by people and represented by the political institutions was rejected by postmodernists who did not accept any form of presentation in favour of the particular difference (Stabile 1995).
Feminism
From the first glance, feminism seems to be more accessible than postmodernism and refers to the females as the political unity with the identifiable electorate. Feminism shares with postmodernism the idea of rejection of historical materialism. Notably, the contemporary theories of feminism do not reject the idea of system and totality, but rather elaborates its own analysis in which male domination is seen as the alternative or confederate of capitalism. Thus, women, being oppressed by male dominating system, share the common interest to oppose it. At its beginning, feminism was both intellectual and political movement: to help women in understanding their oppressed position and to promote the changes in society in terms of gender issue. Early feminists organized as the distinct class with radical intentions (Tong 1989).
Essentialism argument (the foundation of category "women" from biological perspective) and anti-essentialism argument ("women" seen as the historically and socially constructed group) are essential to understanding feministic assumptions. Essentialists believed that women have similar characteristics upon which political action can be founded. While, anti-essentialists claimed that labels "male" and "female" were not fixed ...Show more

Summary

Postmodernism is the North American movement based on the intellectual inspirations from French poststructuralists including Foucault, Derrida, Irigaray and others. …
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