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Critical Feminist Studies

meowwalex's picture

Love is Not a Bowl of Quinces

While "Lifting Bellies" was undoubtedly more a stream of consciousness text than the prose we are given in The Book of Salt, I think that there are places in The Book of Salt that seem like they could be imitating a stream of consciousness form. We are mostly given the story in first person, but at other points, there is a direct switch that Binh makes.

"Quinces are ripe, GertrudeStein, when there are the yellow of canary wings in midflight. They are ripe when their scent teases you with the snap of green apples and the perfumed embrace of coral roses. But even then quinces remain a fruit, hard and obstinate--unless, GertrudeStein, until they are simmered, coddled for hours above a low, steady flame....a color you can is not a bowl of quinces yellowing in a blue and white china bowl, seen but untouched."

The prose here is so aware of taste and scent and vision, and seems to pave the way for a conversation about how sexuality can be described -- and maybe best so-- when using terms of the five senses (This passage brought to mind Goblin Market in regards to the sense of taste/fruits). I think that it is interesting the way in which Truong has presented the main character -- we get to see what he is really thinking in a way that is a little disjointed sometimes.

meowwalex's picture

"Be Like Others"

After reading Najmabadi's essay concerning sex change operations in Iran, learning that it is considered a way to be able to be attracted to someone in the "right" form (becoming a woman if you are a man who loves a man, or a man if you are a woman who loves a woman), I began to search for more information about this and found that Iran is one of the world's largest centers for sex change operations.

I also found a film that was shown at Sundance in 2008 which is about this very same topic. I never knew this was such an active conversation and controversial aspects of life in Iran.

There is a chance to watch a few of the clips on the film's website, and one of the men who is about to undergo a sex-change operation is told by his mother that what he is feeling is just a "desire" and nothing more. The mother overall seems to be very worried about her son's operation, wanting him to conform or if not, just act the way that he does within the boundaries of their home. The fact that she calls what he has with his boyfriend and what he feels like inside as simply a "desire" to be something else or to get attention is astounding to me. What makes someone else able to identify that what you feel for someone else is purely desire, or is something that you are choosing to feel, so therefore can stop feeling that way all the same?

mbeale's picture

Recommendation--No! The Rape Documentary

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I came across this powerful documentary, No! The Rape Documentary, and I thought I'd share it with you all (and anyone else on the internet who might be interested.) It chronicles  the narratives of sexual assault and the subsequent perspectives on the issue through the formats of spoken word, interviews, and interpretive dance. Specifically however, it discussses the struggle of African American women to come to terms with their identity after rising from the coercive intents of slavery to reduce African captive women ancestors as reproductive machines as a part of a slave economy that literally hinged on the manufacturing of its unique labor force. Examining the civil rights ideology of "black solidarity," men and women from the Black Panthers, Black Islamic movement, and other prominent rights associated groups speak out about how straddling both worlds of being a woman and being Black at every moment risks being ostracized from either group completely. It's a completely eye opening watch and brings out a side of feminism many do not get the opportunity to hear. 

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MC's picture

Feminism and the "Four Great Teachers"

I think I enjoyed portions of Three Guineas, but there was something that really just bothered me about it.

Virginia Woolfe's description of the "four great teachers of the daughters of educated men" (emphasis mine) made me rather uncomfortable for a multitude of reasons. All four "teachers" have intimate associations with how women are controlled, and though Virginia Woolfe's definitions of each "teacher" are hardly the standard definitions for these words, seeing them connected to an essay on how women should act felt very off-putting.

sekang's picture

Why We Need Women's College.

Hi all :)

I was thinking about the question asked during the class today. "Would Virginia Woolf encourage you to go to Bryn Mawr?"

My answer is no. I think she will not because of various reasons that I will not list here but save them for class discussion later.

Anyways, to see what other people think of women's colleges, I put "why women's college?" on the search bar and read some articles about it.

This is an article written by the president of Mount Holyoke College in 2007. She mentions Virginia Woolf (for a sentence) and the article is about women's colleges. So I thought it was pretty relevant to us!

Good night!

MC's picture

Week 1 Response

I found that our Thursday in-class group discussions were very interesting, and that the questions were a very intriguing look into our brains. I've realized that I would love to have this discussion again with classmates- not only those who were in my group or in the class, but with others as well. Initially the questions seemed relatively straight-forward, but once we were all sitting down and put thought and effort behind our answers they became signficantly more difficult. All of the questions were very broad, and required more than just a yes or no answer- even, and maybe most especially, the question "Are you a feminist?" Feminism has a complex history of not only different waves, but different circles of thought within those waves that makes it difficult to just say 'yes' or 'no'. Some branches of feminism also have a very uncomfortable history of being exclusionary towards non-white and non-cisfemale women, which adds another layer of complexity to identifying as a feminist. Listening to everyone's reasons behind saying 'yes' or 'no' was very insightful, and I feel could potentially cause someone to rethink their own explanations, and the forces in their lives that made them say 'yes' or 'no'. Attempting to create a definition for feminism, at least in that short amount of time, would have been very difficult, especially since it was so easy to spend a lot of time on the other questions.

Based on some students' comments online, I would be very interested in knowing what their definition of feminism is, or potentially their multitude of definitions.

michelle.lee's picture

Loss of Virginity or Withdrawal Symptoms?

While reading The Goblin Market, I had trouble deciding whether the poem was about the events surrounding a girl's first sexual experience or an encounter with addictive substances. I felt it easily went both ways.

But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.

Laura's whole personality has changed at this point in the poem either from sex or drug withdrawal. 

Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.

Again, this line is ambiguous and, I felt, could be interpreted both ways.  Laura could be experiencing a serious desire to have sex again or she could be desperatly wanting to fulfill her next drug fix. 

Either way, I saw The Goblin Market as a cautionary tale for all types of addictions.  Whether it be a sexual addiction or substance abuse, the general plot of The Goblin Market could be applied to all sorts of addictions. 

Perhaps sexual and drug addiction were a focus because they were prominent during the time the poem was written?



sekang's picture

Laura and Lizzie

When I read Goblin Market before the class discussion, I thought Laura and Lizzie were just normal sisters who look out for each other. I was actually set on the thought that they were sisters the whole time I was reading the poem. Things that Laura and Lizzie do, such as sleeping together and walking together, are activities that any sisters would do. As a younger sister, I have walked with my sister. Also, my sister and I have shared a room and slept in the same room when we were younger. As Laura looked out for Lizzie, I would looke out for my sister and protect my sister from "globins" as well.

After the class discussion, my thoughts about the relationship changed a bit. I think it is possible that Christina Rossetti was trying to portray a lesbian relationship between Lizzie and Laura. As mentioned during the discussion, the way Laura talked to Lizzie after the "Laura and Goblin incident" was pretty sensual.

In order to understand the poem better, it would be nice to discuss and estimate Laura and Lizzie's age. I also wonder why they don't have parents living in their house.

As mentioed below, I think it would be good to talk about Jeanie. I didn't completely understand the purpose that Jeanie served in this poem.


hwink's picture

Female Relationships in Goblin Market

To me, the most striking thing about Rosetti's "Goblin Market" was the relationship between the women.

The relationship between Laura and Lizzie is complicated and intriguing; they are described as sisters but there is innuendo of sexual relationship. "Golden head by golden head" they sleep beside one another. Lizzie risks everything to help Laura, and succeeds in saving her. Maybe lovers, maybe sisters, one is undoubtedly the savior of the other. And the concluding lines of the poem do not chastise Laura for her indiscretion, but rather dispense the wisdom that "there is no friend like a sister." Regardless of its ambiguous nature, the poem centers on the fact of their relationship.

One of the things we didn't really talk about in class was Jeanie, the woman who fell prey to the goblins in the way that Laura did. Only, presumably, Jeanie did not have a Lizzie. Laura reflects on Jeanie when she realizes she can no longer hear the goblins, and the poem reads,

"She thought of Jeanie in her grave,

 Who should have been a bride;

But who for joys brides hope to have

Fell sick and died"

bluebox's picture

The Goblin Market: Meet Singles Now!

I went to this class just to see what it would be like, because it fit in my schedule and I thought it might be interesting, but by the end of class I loved it and I'm so excited to learn what comes next.

My thoughts on Goblin Market seemed much different from everyone else's, but I was surprised that many people had pretty solid opinions on what it was about. Although I could just be seeing what I find familiar, I felt like it was telling a story of a woman who had an unhealthy relationship, and then regaining what she had lost.  It reminded me of the Twilight series (which is, in my opinion, a prime example of an unhealthy relationship) when Edward breaks up with Bella and she launches into a months-long bout of depression. Of course, Bella doesn't have a lesbian best friend to help her learn that she doesn't need a vampire (literal or literary) to use and abuse her in order to feel happy and satisfied in life.

It seemed to me like she was giving in to temptation, simply because you're not supposed to and you want to satisfy your curiosity. The concept of the "bad boy" has been sexy since at least 1865 and has evolved from goblins to the Fonz to Edward Cullen.

She needs to sort out her priorities.

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