Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Feminism in the Postmodernist Age

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Feminism in the Postmodernist Age

Article excerpt

The author identifies feminism as a product of Modernism, which in turn she sees as having its roots in the Enlightenment. She notes that Postmodernism rejects the universalities assumed by Modernism, and concludes that in the Postmodern age feminists will accept the fact that while women around the world share certain common interests, their aspirations will necessarily vary in accordance with ethnic, cultural and regional environments.

Key Words: Feminism; Patriarchy; The Enlightenment; Modernism: Postmodernism; Universalism; Ethnic, Cultural and regional diversity.

The task of fashioning a postmodernist feminism seems an impossible one when taken at face value. This is particularly so when one recognizes the fact that postmodernism and feminism appear to have conflicting objectives.

The task of fashioning a postmodernist feminism seems an impossible one when taken at face value. This is particularly so when one recognizes the fact that postmodernism and feminism appear to have conflicting objectives.

The postmodernist argument has issued a number of challenges: to the idea that we can continue to think, write and speak of culture as representing a continuous progress; to the idea that humanity is proceeding towards a telos of 'emancipation' and 'self-realization'; and to the idea that we can invoke a universal subjectivity in speaking about the human condition.2 Yet these are the hallmark concepts of modernism. Postmodernism is thus a critique of modernity, and of the Enlightenment from which modernism derives. For example, it has been thought that human beings are possessed of a stable, coherent, rational self, and that rationality applied in the pursuit of science and knowledge will deliver truth.3 Postmodernism disputes the notions of self, knowledge and truth. Also, it distances itself from the Enlightenment, which sought to enthrone reason in place of religiosity, superstition, mythology, and mysticism.

By contrast, the goals of the Enlightenment seem in line with some of the main objectives of feminism, among which is the promotion of a state of affairs in which women can expect no less from society than men in the way of material and moral support. Feminists are of the view that this aim can be achieved by rejecting the traditional roles imposed on women by religion and custom. Yet, despite the common goals of feminism and of modernity, I see areas where postmodernism and feminism converge, and this paper will assess the extent to which a new postmodernist feminism may emerge.

The Idea of Postmodernism

For the purpose of this paper, the idea of postmodernism will he categorized under three subheadings. These are postmodernism as a critique of modernity, postmodernism as an aversion towards modernity's universalism, and postmodernism as a completion of the incomplete project of modernity.

Postmodernism as a Critique of Modernity

There is always the problem of how far back one can date modernity, but most historians of literature date it hack to the 17th century, which was also referred to as the Enlightenment. As a period in cultural history, modernism usually denotes advanced or avant-garde European and American art and thought, though it has also been used to describe more general social conditions and attitudes.4 Before this period medieval European thought was dominated by the church, which tolerated some superstition and myth hut which suppressed much independent rational enquiry, regarding almost any intellectual activity outside the church as a challenge to its authority. The task of the Enlightenment philosophers was to emancipate the people from religion, myth and superstition, through the instrument of reason, separated from emotion and will.

However, the Enlightenment project was viewed as an aesthetic project, the self-conscious endeavour of a group of innovators to further certain values and achieve recognition.5 It promised the emancipation of the individual through the cultivation of reason; they therefore turned reason into the only form of knowledge and everything was turned into abstract formality. …

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