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Feminism and the Autobiography

samuel.terry's picture

So I think I took a somewhat more abstract approach to answering the question “is the autobiography a feminist genre?” Those who answered in the affirmative seemed to do so because of the idea that the autobiography allow the narratives of women to be heard and facilitates agency in the telling of one’s own (her)story.  On the other hand, hesitation seemed to hinge on the question, is the autobiography really an avenue for those most silenced by gender oppression and/or other forms of marginalization and microaggression? The capacity to write and publish an autobiography assumes a certain amount of privilege;  therefore, is the autobiography only making prevalent a certain narrative (mainly that of educated, wealthy and predominately white women)? And accepting this is the case, does it not further obscure the stories of those with less access by monopolizing the discourse surrounding the experience of women? Thus, are autobiographies promoting a certain kind of feminism, one that doesn’t acknowledge intersectionality?   Valid assertions and a worthy vein of inquiry to be sure.  However, when I personally conceptualized the question I did so with the idea that both can be tools of interdisplinary disruption. Autobiographies traverse the boundaries between the personal and political, fact and fiction, sensational and literary, self perception and social representation, intent and impact, authenticity and identity. This sort of expolration is found in feminist theory as well as practice—the connection between the constructed self and the written self. Arguably, we participate in a sort of autobiography everyday as we conduct/construct ourselves in ways that make us readable to others through social models and collective understandings of normative behavior.

Check out: Cosslett, Tess, Celia Lury, and Penny Summerfield. Feminism and Autobiography: Texts, Theories, Methods. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.