What are the common stereotypes that are used to characterize feminism in American culture?.

In previous weeks, we have examined how cognitive bias can prevent people from maintaining a fair-minded perception of different subjects, people, or communities. Rather, it allows people to function on narratives that are created to inferiorize, stereotype, or distract, instead of using critical thinking skills that examine evidence and facts.

As you read about the feminist approach (PLEASE SEE BELOW) to literature, consider some assumptions you might have made (or are making) about your knowledge of the term “feminism” or “feminist.” A feminist approach is a helpful lens to examine Susan Glaspell’s Trifles because there are so many ways in which issues of gender and power function in the play.


A) What are the common stereotypes that are used to characterize feminism in American culture? In contrast, what is the actual (brief) history and purpose of feminism? (Use research for your response, only from .edu, .gov, or .org sources).

B) Examine the questions at the bottom of the feminist approach page.(WHICH ARE THE QUESTIONS AT THE END OF THIS PAGE.) Choose one, and respond to it, using textual support from Trifles. Here is the link for that: https://www.one-act-plays.com/dramas/trifles.html


Feminist Approach

What is a literary approach?

A literary approach is a “lens” by which we interpret literature. There are three elements in a literary exchange one might consider when making meaning from the text: the source, the text, and the receiver. Some approaches to literature focus on only the material that is contained in the text, separate from external contexts. Conversely, others believe that the text should be interpreted in the context of, for instance, the speaker’s identity, the text’s time period, the particular reader’s experiences, and so forth. There are various approaches to literature, but below is just one to consider as you read a work.

What is a feminist approach to literature?

Feminism asserts that much of what we read has at its base a patriarchal viewpoint, one which privileges men and “maleness” and which denigrates women and “femaleness.”  A patriarchal view would minimize anything that is related to women—what they do and what they believe as well as aspects that are particular to women and their roles, choices, and opportunities in life.  Feminism seeks to make readers aware of these often unconscious attitudes and to encourage them to reevaluate women in literature as well as in real life.  Feminists seek to make readers aware of the ways that women have traditionally been ignored in literature or, when depicted, are done so in a way that is prejudiced, both in the language used (a language which is biased in favor of men) as well as in the attitudes conveyed about both the male and female characters.

Feminism ultimately strives for a reconsideration of these past injustices—both through the recovery of works from the past by women writers as well as through the study of works by current women writers.  In creating a more balanced view of the world, feminists hope to eradicate inequalities between men and women and foster a reevaluation of women and their work and worth.  With respect to literature, then, the feminist approach looks at the way men and particularly women are depicted in the text, seeking textual prejudices against women, situations which demonstrate the unequal opportunities afforded women, and women who strive to overcome the limitations which prohibit them from achieving true equality with men.

Additionally, feminism considers a text historically, socially, politically, and linguistically, seeking to expose the patriarchal forces that limit women’s potential.  This does not mean one can do a feminist reading solely of literature written by women, however, for not all texts by men are anti-feminist texts, nor, in fact, do all texts by women automatically present a feminist viewpoint.  Be aware of cultural differences which may affect the attitudes toward women, but do not merely “excuse” patriarchal tendencies because of the culture or time period which they represent.  That is, even though society as a whole tended to restrict a woman’s choices in the nineteenth century,  a feminist would still question those tendencies, seeking to expose the rigid notions which limited a woman’s freedom of choice in making her life her own.


What questions from a feminist approach should I consider when reading?

  • Is a patriarchal mindset privileged in the text or within characters’ ideas/actions?
  • Are the female characters important within the text?
  • What is the overall depiction of women in the text—are they generally weak, inclined to
  • obey others’ wishes, sacrificing their own ideas and identity?
  • Do the female characters have an identity outside of being daughters, wives and mothers?
  • What kinds of relationships do the female characters have with men?  Do the men treat them as if they are children or demean or ignore them?  Do they treat them as if they are saintly?  Or are they treated like an equal?
  • How are the male characters depicted—do they seriously consider the woman’s point of view or do they dismiss the female characters?
  • What about the text itself—do you find binary oppositions which privilege the men and
  • denigrate the women (i.e., strong/weak; logical/emotions; active/passive; master/slave; intellectual/nurturer)?

What are the common stereotypes that are used to characterize feminism in American culture?



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