The Influence of Poststructuralism on Feminism

With the arrival of Poststructuralism on the critical scene, Feminism emerged as more eclectic and expanded its horizons to merge into the realms of other contemporary theories, thus giving rise to a plethora of rampant and dynamically developing areas such as cyberfeminism, ecofeminism, postcolonial, black feminism/womanism, cultural/radical feminism, liberal feminisms, materialist/neo-marxist feminism and so on. As per the postmodernist/poststructuralist ethos,. gender came to be regarded as a construct, hybrid, non-purist and as performed, and gender also came to be discussed along the lines of class, subjectivity, sexuality, representation, and language.With the poststructuralist belief in constructionism, feminity or gender is understood not as a process of Being, but Becoming. French philosophers and critics such as Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigary developed a notion of women’s writing that is a product of female body, beyond logic, fighting in an anarchic realm against authority,  and being immune to social conditioning. They postulated and practiced a fluid, non-linear, elliptical, part mythic, mystic writing that is partly autobiographic, partly fictional, and upsets the notions of form, narrative, order and organisation.

Combining the ideas of poststructuralism and psychoanalysis, the French feminists claimed that discourse is phallogocentric, centred and organised throughout by implicit recourse to the phallus, as its supposed “logos”, prime signifier and power source. Phallogocentrism manifests itself in language not just in its vocabulary and syntax but also through its rigid rules of logic, fixed classifications and oppositions and its criteria for what is traditionally considered to be valid evidence and objective knowledge. It is to evade such categorisations and to escape the possibility of being appropriated into the phallogocentrc language that they posited the existence of ecriture feminine/ semiotic language.

The poststructuralist feminist Judith Butler conceived the idea of gender as performance, or the result of reiterated acting, and proposed the term Gender Performativity in her book Gender Trouble (1990). Gayatri Spivak has articulated the relationship between feminism, poststructuralism and the discourse of postcoloniality, examining a number of Western practices central to colonization and imperialism, associated with the process of Othering.

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2 replies

  1. Your writings are so very helpful I could learn from your writeup what ai couldn’t from the textbook and it helped me understand so well. The fact that you organise the topic pointwise makes it more easy to learn. I just wanna thank you. Keep writing 🙂

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