This book studies a distinctive brand of women's rights that emerged out of the Victorian Secularist movement, and looks at the lives and work of a number of female activists, whose renunciation of religion shaped their struggle for emancipation. Anti-religious or secular ideas were fundamental to the development of feminist thought, but have, until now, been almost entirely passed over in the historiography of the Victorian and Edwardian women's movement. In uncovering an important tradition of freethinking feminism, the book reveals an ongoing radical and free love current connecting Owenite feminism with the more ‘respectable’ post-1850 women's movement and the ‘New Women’ of the early twentieth century.
The Secularist movement was home to a
distinctively Freethinking brand of feminism, which viewed Christianity as
the primary cause of women’s oppression. Freethought ideology prompted
a re-definition of womanhood which could lead to far reaching and radical
suggestions for transforming woman’s role in society.
Secularists’ renunciation of religion necessarily entailed a rejection
of the notion of
This book generates a critical framework through which to interrogate the way in which religious feminists have employed women's literature in their texts. This is in order that both the way we read literature and the literature we read might be subject to scrutiny, and that new reading practices be developed. Having both the critical and constructive agenda, this is a book in two parts. The first part locates the study of the use of women's writing by religious feminists in a much wider frame than has previously been attempted. In the past individual religious feminists have been criticised, often publicly and loudly, for the use they have made of particular literary texts. Having critically surveyed previously unacknowledged constraints under which religious feminists read women's literature, the second part of the book explores how the work of women poststructuralist thinkers and theorists can enrich the reading practices. It offers alternative models for an engagement between literature and theology. Julia Kristeva is best known within the academy for her unorthodox application of Lacanian theory to contemporary culture. Her work challenges religious feminists to reassess the utilitarian approaches to literary texts and enquire into whether these might have a more powerful political role when their status as literature is recognised and affirmed. The book elucidates Luce Irigaray's thinking on sexual difference and also demonstrates its significance for feminist religious readers.
Feminism is one of the most recent ideologies to emerge, although its
origins can be traced far back into history. We examine its historical
roots and identify and discuss the different forms of feminism that have
developed over the last two centuries. We then link feminism with other
ideologies and conclude with a critique and assessment of feminism in
the modern world
First wave feminism involved a fierce
battle of ideas over religion – a battle which was itself crucial in
the creation of modern understandings of religion and secularisation.
Freethought was thus a significant current in the women’s movement,
existing alongside and in competition with the Christian values that
dominated it. The Woman Question became a key ground upon which Christians
Bradlaugh were tried for the publication of Charles Knowlton’s birth
control pamphlet, Fruits of Philosophy. Their highly publicised trial
saw the re-emergence of many of the same tensions and arguments in the
Secularist movement that had arisen over the publication of Drysdale’s
Elements. The relationship between Neo-Malthusianism and feminism was
not a straightforward one, and it was their support for birth control
-feminists, Christians and
Freethinkers battled over who had women’s best interests at heart. Such
contests were fundamental to the development of feminist thought in England, but
have been almost entirely passed over in the historiography of the women’s
movement. This book examines these debates and offers the first ever in-depth study of
‘Freethinking feminism’ – a distinctive brand of women’s
rights discourse that emerged out of the Secularist movement during
Feminist theologians are not alone in their eager appropriation of literary
resources. Feminism is a peculiarly literary movement and many of the intellectual
and political leaders of the women’s struggle have been celebrated writers (e.g.
Mary Wollstonecraft, Alexandra Kollontai, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf).
These women found in literature an accessible space in which it was possible to
critique contemporary practice and engage in the imaginative construction of
alternative worlds. Works of literature written by women thus form an important
everyday violence women suffer than in a theoretical critique of cultural forms.
The work of Kathleen Sands (1994), however, carries the engagement of feminist
theology with women’s writing into a new epoch in which a cautious engagement with critical theory is brought into dialogue with the liberative traditions
of religious feminism.
Sands’s intention in approaching women’s literature is to illuminate her
thesis that theology has established its power through a denial of the realities of
human suffering and the theodical questions such suffering raises. For her the
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The end(s) of feminism(s)?
From Madonna to Ally McBeal
Defining terms: the feminine, feminist, postmodern feminism
In an overview of the field since the 1970s, the editors of Feminist
Television Criticism state that ‘feminist television criticism has not
adequately conceptualised its own meanings for feminism, but
instead has mirrored the “common sense” meanings of feminism
that circulate in both popular and academic cultures’. As they indicate, this