Saturday 4 December 2021 ,
Saturday 4 December 2021 ,
Latest News
27 November, 2020 06:58:08 PM
Print

In search of a transcendental feminist vantage point

Our point of dissatisfaction on ongoing feminist enterprise may already be crystal clear to all of us. However, beside the trends we observed, there remains another trend of thought which is highly ignored by the feminists.
Meer Mushfique Mahmood
In search of a transcendental feminist vantage point

The 2007 Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Doris Lessing, crowned as the ‘epicist of the female experience’ (nobelprize.org) by the Nobel Awarding Committee, on August 13, 2001, in her speech at Edinburgh's Consignia Theatre said:

"I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed," she told the audience.

"The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no-one protests.

"We have many wonderful, clever, powerful women everywhere, but what is happening to men?

"Why did this have to be at the cost of men?" (news.bbc.co.uk)

Doris Lessing, thus, defended men against what she called the "unthinking and automatic rubbishing" by feminists (news.bbc.co.uk). But Doris Lessing is not the only thinker who did this. A growing community of thinkers is being marked with similar concern. We see, to ‘fight back’ (news.bbc.co.uk) of which Lessing was concerned, besides feminist scholarly enterprises, male counter enterprise has already started its journey. ‘At Wagner College in New York, a new discipline named Male Studies has been launched receiving the support of many well-known scholars, including Lionel Tiger, Ph.D., Rutgers University's Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology, and Christina Hoff Sommers, Ph.D., author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men’ (forbes.com). Besides all innocent grounds resulting birth of new discipline, people love to take it as a reaction against feminist scholarship. Professor Tiger explains, ''A lot of feminist argument is just irritating'' and other reasons why believers say we need this new academic discipline. The culprit, said Tiger, is feminism: “a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon.”  (insidehighered.com). So, ‘Male studies’ proponents’ “combative tone towards feminism and women’s studies” (insidehighered.com) is very much clear to us. Now, Edward M. Stephens MD, Founder of the Foundation for Male Studies, expressed his worry regarding human race thus:                   

“Essential to the survival of the species is the mutual success of both men and women, yet the goal of equal partnership has been lost in the longstanding battle of the sexes. The noble dream of gender equality appears to have fallen victim to an ever-expanding gender divide.” (malestudies.org)

We, of course, like Edward M. Stephens, cannot want ‘ever expanding gender divide’.

The ‘ever expanding gender divide’ of which Stephen is worried would be observed looking at the path the caravan of feminist critical trend has already travelled. Going to observe the ‘longstanding battle of the sexes’ creating hindrances ‘to carry the human species forward as equal partners’ (malestudies.org), we would look with utter astonishment at the Lesbian/Gay Critical School. Lesbianism thought as ‘the most complete form of feminism’ opened up conflict with heterosexual feminists (Barry: 141) Adrienne Rich gave birth of the notion ‘lesbian continuum’, which “designates a wide variety of female behavior, running, for instance, informal mutual help networks set up by women…., finally, to sexual relationships” “condemning female heterosexuality as a betrayal of women and their interests, with the implication that women can only achieve integrity through lesbianism” (Barry: 142).

And, next, there comes the alarming most arena of feminism signifying continuous wide expanding gender divide with the advent of ‘queer’ theory. “Queer theory rather than being ‘women centered’, like the lesbian feminism, rejects female separatism and instead sees an identity of political and social interests with gay men” (Barry: 143). According to Diana Fuss, as quoted by Peter Barry, this is ‘sexual safety’ and relief from ‘male domination’ (Barry: 144) which caused this affinity among believers of ‘libertarian lesbianism’ and gay people. So, this shows the final separation between males and females leaving all hope to live together hand to hand and making life possible on the earth. This is very much threatening to the survival of the species of which Edward M. Stephens M D is concerned. Here, surely, ‘the noble dream of gender equality appears to have fallen victim to an ever-expanding gender divide’ (malestudies.org). And, the question comes how far we can celebrate this process of creating continuous wounds in the heart of the human race.

Our point of dissatisfaction on ongoing feminist enterprise may already be crystal clear to all of us. However, beside the trends we observed, there remains another trend of thought which is highly ignored by the feminists. And that is related to the names J. S. Mill, Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing. All of them desired for friendly and respectful correlation and coexistence between the opposite sexes instead of polemic practices. And, in spite of that, they were severely criticized by other feminist activists. Mill is criticized because of his liberal feminism and his universalist view of human life (Szapuvá: 2006). Virginia Woolf is criticized by Elaine Showalter for having androgynous vantage point. Doris Lessing, by Helen Wilkinson, is criticized for speaking something obsolete (news.bbc.co.uk). But, we are to rethink whether their perspectives are criticized and ignored or not. A close scrutinizing would make clear how much effective they are at the time of alarming ever widening gender divide.

Next, Virginia Woolf in her “A Room of One's Own” (1929) established her views which are very similar to Mill “with a strong female sensibility and criticism” (Oppermann: 1994). Woolf, having outlook similar to Mill, was criticized by Elaine Showalter, as quoted by Toril Moi, because of maintaining ‘full balance and command of an emotional range that includes male and female elements. Again, according to Showalter, Woolf expressed feminist conflict from a transcended vantage point. Woolf is criticized by Showalter because of her attempt to link feminism to pacifism. Toril Moi in her book Sexual/Textual Politics did not merely mention Showalter’s position on Woolf’s approach. She criticized Showalter and credited Woolf for ‘deconstructing the death-dealing binary oppositions of masculinity and femininity’. So, we with our utter satisfaction mark that Woolf ‘deconstructed the death-dealing binary oppositions of masculinity and femininity besides ‘maintaining full balance and command of an emotional range that includes male and female elements’ from a ‘transcended vantage point’ which is very similar to Mill’s position. And, this is what we may crave for when ‘ever expanding gender divide (malestudies.org)’is alarming us not to be able ‘to carry the human species forward as equal partners (malestudies.org)’.

Now, if we look at Doris Lessing, we see she is crowned as the ‘epicist of the female experience’ (nobelprize.org) by the Nobel Awarding Committee. She is the writer whose ‘fame rests heavily on The Golden Notebook, a book that broke ground in expressing women’s dissatisfaction with the gender roles of the time’. It ‘made many men feel guilty about their gender at the same time it seemed to advocate for women’ (womensissues.about.com). Then, we would undoubtedly find her as a feminist, though, she herself disagrees with it. Lessing disagrees to call her a feminist because of her direct regret to ongoing feminist enterprises resulting ‘unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men’ (nytimes.com). So, to answer the question what type of feminist she might be called, we have to answer it following Dr. Niaz Zaman ‘she is ‘not-a-men-bashing-feminist’ (thedailystar.net). However, this ‘epicist of the female experience (nobelprize.org)’ is compared by Elaine Showalter with Virginia Woolf for merging the ‘feminine ego’ into a greater collective consciousness’. But, we know whenever we want to shun ‘ever expanding gender divide (malestudies.org)’, we have to link our ideas with a greater collective consciousness and what is done by Doris Lessing.       

Now, as our concerned figures are highly criticized by different critics, we may think for a theoretical basis which may guide us to uphold that vantage point both as a critic and a creative writer. And, in this writing, this specific standpoint is being referred to as Transcendental Vantage Point, as this seems that the word ‘transcendence’ is the operating word. We may think of pertaining to the insights of Transpersonal Psychology because of its concerns similarity.

We see, according to D. H. Lajoie & S. I. Shapiro, “Transpersonal psychology is concerned with the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness (Hartelius et al.: 2007)” of which J. S. Mill, Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing were concerned. Again, Glenn Hartelius, Mariana Caplan, and Mary Anne Rardin, in their article Transpersonal Psychology: Defining the Past, Divining the Future wrote:

“As beyond-ego aspects of human experience become understood, a view emerges in which human individuals are integrally interconnected with much larger contexts.” (Hartelius et al.: 2007)

So, transpersonal psychological insight validates Doris Lessing’s position.

So, the desire to pertain to the insights of transpersonal psychology as a feminist critic, and, simultaneously, J. S. Mill, Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing’s standpoint as feminist are not something unworthy at all. This is one of the crying needs of the present time to embrace the views of J. S. Mill, Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing when, using W. B. Yeats’ phrase we can say, ‘things are fallen apart’ because of gender divides. 

The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English, Asian University of Bangladesh

Comments

Video
More Opinion Stories

Copyright © All right reserved.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Disclaimer & Privacy Policy
....................................................
About Us
....................................................
Contact Us
....................................................
Advertisement
....................................................
Subscription

Powered by : Frog Hosting