The feministic cultural theory deals with the essence of woman nature and its role in society. Moreover, the aim of the feministic movement is to improve the lives of women and establish their equality in the society. The cultural feminism developed from the radical feminism that focuses on the differences between man and woman in terms of biology, the issue of the patriarchy.
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At the same time, it formed under the influence of the social feminism that focuses the attention on the woman’s private life and uniqueness of every woman. In order to support and explain these ideas, the feministic cultural theory makes use of various methods and concepts. The feministic cultural theory can be discussed from the perspectives of structuralism or post-structuralism.
These theories build the premises of the ideology of feministic culture and present several forms in which the issue can be explained and understood. Structuralism explains it from the point of view of binary opposition (male-female), thus, it deals more with the radical feminism. On the contrary, post structuralism is opposite to such an assumption and uses the concept of deconstruction in order to explain the relations and the position of women in the society.
Consequently, it refers to the social feminism to some extend. These two approaches to the feministic culture theory are used in works of Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex (structuralism approach based on the radical feminism) and Angela McRobbie The Aftermath of Feminism (post-structuralism approach based on the social feminism). These days, the post-structuralism theories are more acceptable in the feministic cultural theory than structuralistic ones.
Post-structuralism denies the structuralistic theories of the structure. It appeals to the terms of “deconstruction” and “rhizoma”. Structuralism is based on the logic of language structure. From the point of view of structuralism, the human society should be analyzed as a system with a “center” around which the components of the structure are organized. Moreover, it suggests the binary opposition in terms of which all the elements of the structure are presented in the opposition.
For example, good/bad, male/female. Such approach does not give a possibility to analyze all aspects of a social system and human relationships inside this system. It leads to a conclusion that the role of a woman in the society cannot be analyzed only from the point of view of “opposition” as there are also several aspects of woman’s life and her responsibilities that should not be compared to the man’s ones. On the contrary, post-structuralism reveals the notions of “multiplicity”, “subject” or “self” and “deconstruction”.
In his lection, Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences Jacques Derrida claims, “it has always been thought that the center, which is by definition unique, constituted that very thing within a structure which while governing the structure, escapes structurality” (2005, p. 352). With these words, he supports the idea that society cannot be analyzed as a structure.
To support this idea, Deleuze and Guattari explain the notion “multiplicity” in their work A Thousand Plateaus. In chapter One or several wolves?, they write, “ the proper name can be nothing more than an extreme case of the common noun, containing its already domesticated multiplicity within itself and linking it to a being or object posited as unique” (2004, p. 31).
Thus, the society is a multiple phenomenon that should be analyzed using the main principle of post-structuralism, “deconstruction”. The same approach can also be applied to the feminist culture theory and its analysis.
In works of Simone de Beavoir and Angela McRobbie, one can see two different approaches to the feministic culture theory, structuralism and post-structuralism. Simone De Beavoir reveals the principle of binary opposition opposing men to women. She assumes that woman should be free and independent of man.
The author says that woman sometimes abjures her feminity and that the young girl is convinced that she has limited capacities because parents and teachers concede that the girl’s level is lower than the boy’s (de Beaoveur, 1998, p. 699). Thus, the author builds her arguments on opposition of a male and female. It is a major principle of the structuralism. Furthermore, she acclaims that woman in the modern society is still opposed to a man and treated as “the other sex”. The author provides the idea that:
In order to be a complete individual, on an equality with man, woman must have access to the masculine world as does the male to the feminine world, she must have access to the other. (de Beaoveur, 1998, p. 684).
As an opposition to this approach, Angela McRobbei relies on the principles of post-structuralism. She analyses the “post-feministic feminity”. The author does not oppose women to men, on the contrary, she takes a woman as a whole and uses the technique of “deconstruction” to define her position in society. She outlines new basics of feministic culture theory, such as “empowerment”, “choice” and “gender equality”.
The author explores different aspects of woman’s life while exploring glossy magazines, TV shows and famous films, such as “Bridget Jones”. “There is a feminist desire invoked as she is encouraged to take up some freedoms in these images, to be in the city, to be alone, to be self-contained, to be in some emancipated scenario, and this connects with possibilities for gender equality” (McRobbie, 2009, p. 104).
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Thus, one can see that such an approach to the woman in society is based on the post-structuralism theories. The way the author discusses a woman as an individual who has her own unique treats that should be developed, coincides with the post-structuralistic approach to the exploring of a certain issue.
However, the post-structuralism theories are met with certain skepticism nowadays, we can still assume that such approach to the interpretation of the feminist cultural theory is more relevant than structuralism as it gives a possibility to analyze the position of woman in the society from different perspectives.
Moreover, it is more tolerant and does not reveal opposing of men and women. Consequently, the post-modernism principles as “deconstruction”, for example, provide modern humanists and scientists with new ways of understanding of the feministic culture exploring woman as a central figure and not comparing it with man.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that different principles and approaches are at stake in the structuralist and post-structuralist distinction for the feminist cultural theory. Structuralism reveals the binary opposition and post-structuralism uses the deconstruction as the means of analysis of the feministic culture theory.
De Beauvoir, Simone, translated by H. M. Parshley. (1998) The Second Sex. New York, Vintage Books.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix, Guattari. (2004) A Thousand Plateaus : capitalism and schizophrenia. Chippenham, Wiltshire, Antony Rowe.
Derrida, Jacques. (2005) Writing and Differences: Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. Tailor and Francis e-Library, 2005
McRobbie, Angela. (2009) The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Changes. London, SAGE Publications Ltd.