Monday, February 19, 2007

When Was A Feminist Revolt Possible?

I have been thinking about what sort of historical conditions need to be in place for the revolt of a woman, or women, to be recognized as such? When we talk about feminist revolts or women who defied convention (patriarchy), we often assume that all would comprehend their "revolt" as in fact a defiance of patriarchal rule. It seems more likely that for centuries women could've defied their oppression, singly or collectively, and yet no one, particularly the men, had a conceptual scheme that made possible the recognition that a woman (or women) would be capable of critique, revolt or challenge.

This question/idea came to me, oddly, in a dream. I kept thinking of how many women must have taken a stand, at least individually, against cruel sexist treatment through the ages, and yet, their action were unintelligible. It seems that only after the Enlightenment, and centuries after, could a woman articulate her criticisms of patriarchy and be taken seriously as a critic. I think of the way in which Cady Stanton and Anthony rhetorically framed their Declaration of Sentiments: the had to use the very language of the Declaration of Independence to even be comprehensible.

So, what was necessary for a feminist revolt to be possible, I mean, intelligible?