Sunday, July 01, 2012

A Guest Post by Anna: A Feminist Literary Canon, Part Four: 1950-1966

Echidne's Note:  This series will continue in August.  For earlier posts in this series, go back to Part Three which links to the first two posts.

Valerie Saiving Goldstein (1921-1992) was a feminist theologian. She is best known for "The Human Situation: A Feminine View"  (1960), in which she criticized the Christian focus on pride as a sin, noting that many women struggle much more with feelings of self-doubt. She noted that much of Christian theology was written by men and based on male experience, and might not apply to women, and that women would have to write out their own theology. Her essay had a strong influence on other feminist theologians. Mary Daly for example, cited her in her own book The Church and the Second Sex, while Judith Plaskow, a Jewish theologian, both published a dissertation on Saiving's essay (entitled “Sex, Sin and Grace: Women’s Experience and the Theologies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich”) and reproduced the 1960 article in her own anthology Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion.

"The Human Situation: A Feminine View” can be read in its entirety here

Betty Friedan (February 4, 1921 - February 4, 2006) was a leading feminist activist. Her best-known written book is The Feminine Mystique (1963), which is widely credited with sparking the beginning of the second-wave feminist movement in the United States.

In it she criticized the fact that women were encouraged to see housewifery as a career, and declared that women needed a purpose in life separate from their children and husbands. She also praised what we would now consider the first wave of feminism, which won the vote for women, and decried how popular culture had made feminism seem ridiculous and cold-hearted, or alternately insisted that all battles for women had been won.

The Feminine Mystique was extremely influential in the feminist movement, although it was criticized by later waves of feminism for its focus on upper-class housewives to the exclusion of the problems of other women. Still, the fact that most women were not fulfilled by full-time housework and should not be ashamed of their career dreams was a true and important point.  The Feminine Mystique  is also criticized for its homophobia – Friedan believed that homosexuality was at least in part caused by overbearing mothers – but it should be noted that this was an entirely mainstream idea at the time.

Friedan is also noted for co-writing"The National Organization for Women's Statement of Purpose" (1966) with feminist and civil rights activist Pauli Murray (1910-1985). Murray and Friedan both helped found the organization and Friedan was its first president. "The National Organization for Women's Statement of Purpose" is notable for its idealism; it declared that the goal of the National Organization for Women was “to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men,” and elaborated that women should have equal rights and responsibilities with men in all fields.

Chapter 1 of  The Feminine Mystique  can be read in its entirety here.

Chapter 2 of  The Feminine Mystique  can be read in its entirety here.

The“National Organization for Women's Statement of Purpose” can be read in its entirety here.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1960-1970s) The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee emerged from a series of student meetings held by civil rights activist Ella Baker in 1960. The “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Position Paper: Women in the Movement” (1964), was written and submitted anonymously at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meeting in Waveland, Mississippi. It denounced the sexism of the Committee and called for the civil rights movement to “start the slow process of changing values and ideas so that all of us gradually come to understand that this is no more a man's world than it is a white world.”

The “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Position Paper: Women in the Movement” can be read in its entirety here.

Casey Hayden (born Sandra Cason) and Mary King (birthdate unknown, both still alive) are left-wing activists. Their most noted feminist writing is “Sex and Caste – A Kind of Memo” (1965) which was based on their experiences as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee volunteers. It is widely regarded as one of the first documents of the emerging second-wave feminist movement. In it they described and denounced the sexism of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was common in left-wing movements at the time, and woke many women up to the fact that while they were ostensibly working for freedom and justice, they themselves were being oppressed.
“Sex and Caste – A Kind of Memo” can be read in its entirety here.