Vindication as an Example of Anglo-American Feminism

The ‘women’s movement’ of the 1960s was not, of course, the start of feminism. Rather, it was a renewal of an old tradition of thought and action already possessing its classic books which had diagnosed the problem of women’s inequality in society, and (in some cases) proposed solutions. These books include Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the rights of women (1792), which discusses male writers like Milton, Pope, and Rousseau;   Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929), which vividly portrays the unequal treatment given to women seeking education and alternatives to marriage and motherhood; and Simone de Beauvoirs The Second Sex (1949), which has an important section on the portrayal of women in the novels of D.H. Lawrence.1

A major division within feminist criticism has concerned disagreement about the amount and type of theory that should feature in it. What is usually called the ‘Anglo-American’ version of feminism has tended to be more sceptical about recent critical theory, and more cautious in using it, than have the ‘French’ feminists, who have adopted and adapted a great deal of (mainly) post-structuralist   and psychoanalytic criticism as the basis of much of their work. Toril moi was the first to distinguish between these two schools of criticism in her book Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (1985). The basic tenet of so called Anglo-American feminist criticism lies in their presupposition that sex, that is biologically determined differentiates between individual and some roles are constructed by the society for the individuals and these performances in turn are different or expected to be different in different sexes. Feminist critics strike here. The root cause of all female oppression is this gender binary which thrust upon women different various codes and behaviours, defined to be feminine, and throws them out of the mainstream flow of the society into a marginalised position.

Mary Wollstonecraft,s position in history...