The purpose: To identify women as a class of their own in the wake of government and social persecution by creating a cultural and artistic sphere for expression.
Citing several important female authors from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, this groundbreaking lecture argued that women authors had been continually placed at a disadvantage in England, and that those given even the most minimal opportunity to write succeeded in producing some of the most pivotal works in the canon. However, Woolf sought to do more than just provide women with “a room of one’s own” and “five hundred a year”. Woolf sought artistic independence, free from the biased judgement and male adjudication.
One of the foundational feminist texts is also one of the most famous historicist works of all time. Not only does she argue that language has been constructed to belittle women, but that most historical accounts of France place a greater emphasis on the masculine story than the female one. De Beauvoir’s work is so important because it prompted whole institutions to challenge our ontological understanding of the world from the ground up. It also exposed how so many societies, including her own, were built upon this model of subjection.
Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble challenges the notion that femininity and masculinity come from within by suggesting that both genders existed only by virtue of their public performance. Using drag queens as an example, Butler shows how, through mere repetition, the concept of gender can exist independent of the body. Her work transcends gender lines, but it is also an important feminist document; she argues that the ideal feminism will not conform to the identity already created by pop culture. Rather, a woman’s identity will be based on an unadulterated representation of their basic desires.
Its message is not exactly feminist, but Top Girls’ pressing concern for the state of women in “post-feminist”, Thatcher-era England is so strong that it is still considered one of the best plays written by a British woman in the past three decades. About a pen-pushing career woman who must confront her less successful, impoverished sister, the play suggests that the ongoing class struggle will create a rift no activism can mend. Top Girls also includes a now-famous dinner scene including some of history’s most famous women, a biting satire of the idealized “corporate” woman of the 1980’s.