The Term Feminism: Meaning and History

Categories: FeminismHistory

The term feminism’ was derived from the Latin word Femina’ meaning woman’ and was first used with regard to the issues of equality. Furthermore, feminism is the protest against the legal, economic and social restrictions on the basic rights of women which have existed throughout history and in all civilizations(CHAPTER ” II Concept of Feminism in Literature ). In fact, in many modern day relationships between a man and a woman, usually there is a controlling figure that is dominant over the other.

It may be women over man, man over women, or the true definition of a marriage; an equal partnership. The play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was first performed in 1949 before the women’s movement, however, feminist critics would look back on it with a particular interest in the representation of American women at the time. In the play, the husband, Stanley, is clearly the more dominant figure over his wife, Stella.

In addition, Stella is portrayed as a little girl who lives around in Stanley’s world and conforms the expected gender role in their society; this is shown through symbolism and imagery.

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Whilst Blanche, doesn’t follow the expected gender role, this is shown through symbolism and irony. In the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Stella was portrayed as a little girl who lives around in Stanley’s world and conforms the expected gender role in their society; this is shown through symbolism and imagery. To begin with, Stella symbolizes a traditional Southern woman who is unappreciated, abused, and is oppressed by the male dominant society.

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She is oppressed through Stanley’s physical abuse which is recurring and common. Hence, why Scene 3 is a pivotal moment in the play, as he charges after Stella and without hesitance he lays his hands on her (Mpofu, Shantelle). Feminists would view Stella as a conformist, as she allows herself to be constantly oppressed by society in various ways, such as her tolerance of domestic violence, from her husband, and not being given the opportunity to progress as she stays in the private sphere where she fulfils the role of a homemaker (Mpofu, Shantelle). Another example is He heaves the package at her manages to catch it: then she laughs breathlessly (Williams, page 2).

In hurling the meat at Stella, Stanley states the sexual proprietorship he holds over her. Stella’s delight in catching Stanley’s meat signifies her sexual infatuation with him. As Berten explains, feminists argue that there is a relationship between sex and power over the male and female partners mirrors the distribution of power over males and females in society at large. In addition, a feminist critic might suggest that the uneven male-female power balance in Stella’s private relationship with Stanley is used by Tennessee William to represent the treatment of women in the public sphere in 1940s America. This uneven power balance is demonstrated when the audience is first introduced to Stella, who asks Stanley before he goes bowling, Can I come to watch? (page, 2).

Stella has to ask for his his permission here demonstrating that Stanley is the power holder. In particular, dominance is seen once again when Stanley is unable to prevent Mitch’s desertion of the game. His violent outbursts are desperate attempts to exert his dominance(Gender Roles in a Streetcar Named Desire. ). Stanley gives a loud whack of his hand on her thigh. (page, 35) it becomes apparent that his threatening words are not enough, and he begins using violence as a physical means of controlling Stella and frightening Blanche, showing a moment of masculine bonding. Stanley is also physically dominant over Stella, as shown when he strikes her which is conveyed by the stage directions there is the sound of a blow. Following the poker night, she is made powerful when she retreats to Eunice’s Flat. However, she returns to disempowerment when she leaves Eunice’s flat and Stanley bears her into the dark flat’. Stella’s decision to go back to Stanley was not a choice, but rather on the fact that she must. This enforces the dominant belief that women are unable to support themselves, emotionally and financially(Mpofu, Shantelle). During the last scene when Blanche is being taken away by a doctor. This was an extremely emotional time for Stella seeing her sister taken to an asylum meaning she really needs someone to comfort her. But instead of Stanley comforting her, he was being insensitive by kneeling down beside her and reaching under her blouse.

The idea of him reaching under blouse cries out I am the one who needs you now focus your intentions on me she is gone showing that his desires come first and shall not be disrupted by his wife(A Streetcar Named Desire: Short Essay.). In brief, in the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Stella symbolizes the majority of the woman in her society that abided by their expected gender role and were oppressed and dominated by males.In the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Blanche is portrayed as a woman who doesn’t abide by the expected gender-role in their society; this is shown through the use of symbolism and irony. For instance, in the first scene she is dressed in white, which symbolizes purity and innocence. She is seen as a moth-like creature, delicate, refined, and sensitive. She can’t stand a vulgar remark or a vulgar action(A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche DuBois,). While pretending to be feminine and weak, Blanche is really sharp and predatory which is admired by feminists as she combats traditional Southern Belle stereotypes. This is also evident, when she revealed about how she became a prostitute at the Flamingo Hotel, all for the sake of pursuing her own desires. By Blanche opting to prostitution for her own good, feminists would support this part of her character as she is not being controlled by someone else, but is being led by her own morals.

To enumerate, Blanche’s name itself is very ironic because it means white, which stands for purity, and because of her promiscuity and past actions, it doesn’t apply to her. .. It’s a French name. It means woods and Blanche means white, so the two together mean white woods (page, 33). At the end of the play, as she leaves with the doctor, she says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”(page, 107) Thus, Blanche’s life ends in the hands of the strange doctor. She was too delicate, too sensitive, too refined, and too beautiful to live in the realistic world. Blanche’s life symbolized her illusions. However, her illusions had no place in the Kowalski world and when the illusions were destroyed, Blanche was also destroyed. In brief, in the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Blanche is portrayed as a woman who doesn’t abide by the expected gender-role in their society and goes by her own morals and desires.

In conclusion, Stella is portrayed as a little girl who lives around in Stanley’s world and conforms the expected gender role in their society; this is shown through symbolism and imagery. Stella staying with Stanley is not her choice, but rather on the fact that she must, due to depending on him for providing, ect Whilst Blanche doesn’t follow the expected gender role, this is shown through symbolism and irony. Blanche can be viewed as the tragic heroine, for whom the audience feels sympathy. In fact, Blanche’s ultimate downfall is a result of Stanley’s cruelty and lack of understanding for human fragility. A feminist critic could interpret the play as demonstrating Tennessee Williams view that the mechanism of patriarchy in American society in the 1940s made it difficult for women to survive independently. Overall, Stella accepting Stanley’s behavior shows that she doesn’t try to defy the gender stereotypes of being helpless and dependent and instead accepts them, while Blanche continues to defy them. My opinion, is that both women and men should not only have equal rights but also be treated equally. I believe that without feminism a woman is an abject.

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The Term Feminism: Meaning and History. (2019, Aug 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-term-feminism-meaning-and-history-essay

The Term Feminism: Meaning and History

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