Thus a fascinating passage in the Zohar , the most important medieval mystical work, relates that the halls of the afterlife are presided over by women who gave birth to or aided great men. Many of these Orthodox responsa address not only the legality of such innovations, but also the social ramifications of change. Jewish History. In the Middle Ages, a Jewish woman's social well-being was considered important, but her life was strictly guided by Jewish law.
A bunch of women in the nineteenth century did all they could do to raise 30, pounds, no frills, thank you very much.
Majority of men in Middle East survey believe a woman's place is in the home
None of them had any money. She finds out that hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of men have written books about women: on the inferiority of women, the moral sensitivity of women, the lack of physical strength of women, on and on and on. She lists them as items in the library catalog which actually are there [laughs] in the library catalog—all of them, of course, getting themselves expressed in these hundreds and hundreds of books about women by men.
So it is in that chapter. Then later in the twentieth century, women writers get a little bit more scope for their activity, and as she passes all of this in review, we continue to get her reflections on the state of literary possibility for women in literary history. There are a number of ways in which feminist critics feel that Virginia Woolf is misguided or needs to be supplemented, and this is one of them. I just want to point out a few of the ways in which it does. Now this sense of the unfolding of things, it seems to me, is already fully present in Woolf.
All of this is very much in the tradition of that first phase of feminist criticism that Showalter identifies with Ellmann and Millett and others of that generation. You find Woolf already on page —just actually below the passage about class and gender that I read before—you find her touching on this madwoman theme long before Gilbert and Gubar.
She says:. When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, [and then of course she adds] and even of a very remarkable man who had a mother….
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There, in other words, one strongly suspects that there is a person whose creativity has been oppressed and unfortunately channeled in unsocial or antisocial directions. It still exists in Showalter. George Eliot committed atrocities with it that beggar description. Jane Austen looked at it and laughed at it and devised a perfectly natural, shapely sentence proper for her own use and never departed from it. Some of you may know the work of Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous.
Women write not just with their heads and their phalluses but with their whole bodies.
Showalter then says this is a phase supplanted by a feminist moment in the history of the novel in which novels like the late work of Mrs. Gaskell, for example, and other such novels become tendentious, and the place and role of women becomes the dominant theme of novels of this kind. This history of the novel is very similar to what Showalter is doing with her sense of the history of recent feminist criticism.
It is precisely this characterization of women that has enabled and engendered patriarchy. This is where the theoretical problem arises. His descriptions are revealing. First, women are allowed to speak out as victims and as martyrs — usually to preface their own death. But even this rather bitter opportunity to speak could itself be removed. One story in the Metamorphoses tells of the rape of the young princess Philomela. In order to prevent any Lucretia-style denunciation, the rapist quite simply cuts her tongue out.
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The second exception is more familiar. Occasionally women could legitimately rise up to speak — to defend their homes, their children, their husbands or the interests of other women.
So in the third of the three examples of female oratory discussed by that Roman anthologist, the woman — Hortensia by name — gets away with it because she is acting explicitly as the spokesperson for the women of Rome, after they have been subject to a special wealth tax to fund a dubious war effort.
There is more to all this than meets the eye, however. Ancient women were obviously not likely to raise their voices in a political sphere in which they had no formal stake. Public speech was a — if not the — defining attribute of maleness.
Overview: Women in Traditional Jewish Sources | My Jewish Learning
A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman. We find repeated stress throughout ancient literature on the authority of the deep male voice. As one ancient scientific treatise explicitly put it, a low-pitched voice indicated manly courage, a high-pitched voice female cowardice. Would not that seem terrible and harder to bear than any plague? What I want to underline here is that this is not the peculiar ideology of some distant culture. Distant in time it may be.
But this is the tradition of gendered speaking — and the theorising of gendered speaking — of which we are still, directly or more often indirectly, the heirs. There are all kinds of variant and competing influences on us, and our political system has happily overthrown many of the gendered certainties of antiquity. Yet it remains the fact that our own traditions of debate and public speaking, their conventions and rules, still lie very much in the shadow of the classical world.
The modern techniques of rhetoric and persuasion formulated in the Renaissance were drawn explicitly from ancient speeches and handbooks. And gender is obviously an important part of that mix. Women who claim a public voice get treated as freakish androgynes, like Maesia who defended herself in the Forum.