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ndegeorge's picture

Imperialism and Feminism

<>I'd like to start by saying that I agree with Elizabeth319 that it was therapeutic to break up into small groups to begin discussing Spivak. The text was difficult and it was refreshing to get our thoughts out there without having to worry about being eloquent in front of the whole class. I also think it helped fuel the class discussion later on.

<>I think we decided at the end of class that the point of Spivak's essay was that feminism itself has become imperialistic. However, I don't think that I would have ever reached that conclusion on my own. I have studied Orientalism in the past and hoped that it would help me here, but it only made my understanding of the text more convoluted. You can use the theory when talking about feminism because women are often viewed by men as the "other" (the second sex). Spivak extends that to say that Bertha Mason was Jane Eyre's "other." However I think they are both the "other" to men. Spivak's interpretation is a modern construction that is divisive and not necessarily helpful to reaching a better understanding of feminism.

This may be a tangent but I know that particularly within the British Empire, women (both white and of color) were very often used as a means to an end. For example, widow-sacrifice or the rape of white women by natives often incited conflict. But if I recall, it was not usually a concern for women's rights so much as a way for the British to dehumanize the natives involved. When the British could establish the natives as the "savage other," then they justified their dominance over them.

I haven't read Jane Eyre but I don't buy that Bertha is the physical manifestation of Jane's inner turmoil. I would do a traditional feminist reading of the imperial context and say that in a man's world, the two women are pitted against each other. In the end one must be destroyed for the other to be happy and man retains his hegemonic power. That's as much as I have figured out. Caliban and Ariel could also be representative of this model but I've no idea how to fit Frankenstein in. Or child-bearing and soul-making for that matter. Hopefully we can continue this discussion in class.

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