Sexual Power: Feminism and the Family in America

Sexual Power: Feminism and the Family in America

Sexual Power: Feminism and the Family in America

Sexual Power: Feminism and the Family in America

Synopsis

Since the early 1970s, scholars have argued, defined, and refined a wide range of interpretations of American women's lives. Despite the richness of the recent literature, few interpretations sufficiently credit women's family and sexual experiences for the emergence of feminism and the construction of pro-family agendas. Thus, Johnston's approach offers an opportunity to view the history of feminism and the family from a fresh perspective. Much of the literature on feminism has focused on women's oppression and victimization, rather than on the power that women historically have exerted. Johnston's interpretation of American feminism differs from previous works because she argues that the gradual growth of feminist consciousness lies not simply in oppression or feelings of victimization, but paradoxically in a growing sense of empowerment of women as wives and mothers. Johnston explores critical questions concerning American women's sexual lives. How have women's empowering experiences in the family shaped,feminist consciousness and action? How have feminists confronted family issues? How have women exerted sexual power? How was it contained within the limits of patriarchal society at times, while at other times it fueled the fires of feminist rebellion? How have gender and class issues affected domestic politics and feminism?

Excerpt

One word more I should like to add, as I may not again speak or write on this subject. I should like to say to the men and women of the generations which will come after--"You will look back at us with astonishment! You will wonder at passionate struggles that accomplished so little: at the, to you, obvious paths to attain our ends which we did not take; at the intolerable evils before which it will seem to you we sat down passive; at the great truths staring us in the face, which we failed to see; at the truths we grasped at, but could never quite get our fingers round. You will marvel at the labour that ended in so little; but, what you will never know is how it was thinking of you and for you, that we struggled as we did and accomplished the little which we have done; that it was in the thought of your larger realisation and fuller life that we found consolation for the futilities of our own."

Olive 1911 Schreiner

Portholes of ships arriving in the New World from Europe, windows of rude huts first built by the colonists, lead windows brought from England for the homes of the prosperous, windows of southern plantation houses, windows of the slave quarters, oilcloth windows of sod houses on the frontier, urban slum windows, apartment windows, and windows of suburban houses--all of these are the actual windows through which women have looked out at the world. Windows are important in women's lives: protective windows in the maternity ward where the newborns can be seen, familiar kitchen windows where women have stood for hundreds of years washing dishes and looking out at the world, glittering department store windows promising material fulfillment, road-soiled car windows through which they have watched their husbands catching planes and trains, stained-glass windows of churches, small-paned school windows, grimy factory windows, and recently, windows of law schools, medical schools, and board rooms.

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