This a collection of essays about women, by women, which examine the production of femininity within a patriarchal society. The essays show that characteristics generally considered to be ‘feminine’ are in fact cultural constructions within a patriarchal order. The patriarchal culture is taken by us to be a system of meanings, as well as power relations, which pervades our view of women at both a conscious and an unconscious level.
The symbolism of the rituals, myths, art works and polemics examined in the essays is related to the ways women are psychically constructed and constrained by the dominant heterosexual order. The Mother, the Witch, the Whore, the Pure Woman, the Amazon and the Free Woman are considered and the contributors make extensive use of original source material to give force to the argument that the stereotypic view of a feminine woman as naturally and inevitably weak, passive and powerless is one that can be seriously challenged.
Notes on contributors. Introduction. Part 1. Sexuality and the Body 1. The Mother and the Hospital: an unfortunate fit between the woman’s internal world and some hospital practices Dana Breen 2. The Witch and her Devils: an exploration of the relationship between femininity and illness Susan Lipschitz 3. The Whore in Peru: the splitting of women into good and bad and the isolation of the prostitute Katherine Arnold Part 2. Representations of Women 4. Tess: The Making of a Pure Woman Mary Jacobus 5. The City’s Achievements: the patriotic Amazonomachy and ancient Athens Mandy Merck 6. The Woman-Power: religious heresy and feminism in early English socialism Barbara Taylor. Index.