European History (Gender History) Essay

Published: 2019-12-24 22:41:25
1281 words
5 pages
printer Print
essay essay

Category: Story

Type of paper: Essay

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Hey! We can write a custom essay for you.

All possible types of assignments. Written by academics

The history of feminism has developed into a major field in recent years. Scholars from many disciplines and writers in many countries explore the ways in which womens oppression has been represented, discussed, and resisted in the past few centuries. In Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, Burton characterizes her book as a history of discourse. Antoinette Burton has revealed the intensity, the extent, the duration, and the complexity of the concern to understand significant but neglected historical extent of the relationship between feminism and imperialism.

Until quite recently, feminist discussion and debate was seen fragmentary. In her work, Burton argues that it is possible to construct a more or less continuous history of British feminism, recognizing imperial feminist ideologies. Antoinette Burton developed an immense interest in the relationship between feminism and imperialism. Burton discusses the endorsement of the racism and imperialist ideals by many white feminists, and the assumption by British feminists of their own particular version of the white mans burden. This interest in the history of feminism and the sense of its expansiveness has come from a number of different fields.

The writer explored the ideas, lives, and activities of feminist writers and activists. The novels of Fanny Burney, Mary Hays, Jane Austen and George Eliot, and the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, have thus been encompassed within recent discussions of the history of feminism alongside the novels of Sarah Grand, Olive Schreiner and Virginia Woolf. The feminist underpinnings, or the implications for feminism of a range of political, social, and philanthropic ideas and activities have also been examined and explored. Burton stressed the need to recognize the relationship between changing ideas about the womens role.

Burtons book has served not only to expand but also to transform the history of feminism. It made clear both its immense scope and its complexity. On the one hand, it is now clear that feminist ideas and debates have existed and been elaborated more or less constantly over the last two centuries. On the other hand, the question of feminism itself of what it means and what it encompasses has become much more complex. Once feminism meant a concern with gaining equal political and legal rights for women. In Burtons book, feminism is now seen as at best a small part of what the term covers.

In recent literature far more emphasis has been placed on feminist concerns with the sexual oppression of women. They were described as objects of male desire rather than as sexual subjects seeking to articulate and express their own desires. Interrogating the meaning of sexual difference and exploring what it means to be and to live as a woman are major writers interests. The book establishes a variety of new challenges for anyone seeking to explore feminist ideas and debates. This is not only because of the changing frameworks.

It is also because of changes and new developments which have been brought to the study of history from literary theory and from cultural studies. The shift away from authorial intention towards meaning or readings in discussing literary texts has had a significant impact on thinking about feminism. Antoinette Burton writes about mid-Victorian feminism. She argues that as mid-Victorian feminism was specific in its class base and worked with social and sexual ideals derived from that class, so too it was very specific in its sense of both national and imperial identity.

Like Mary Wollstonecraft, many mid-Victorian feminists possessed a powerful sense of themselves, not so much as British, but as English women. This period saw the advent of a new form of imperial feminism. The general sense of the superiority of the West, in terms of the status of its women-which was so central for Mary Wollstonecraft and caused a particular form of feminist orientalism gave way to a specific concern with the status of Indian women.

These women were seen as being in particular need and were regarded as the special responsibility of their more enlightened and more fortunate English sisters (29). The close relationship between feminism and philanthropy in the mid-nineteenth century established the framework through which feminism expanded to include imperial projects and ideals. The rate and the importance of imperial expansion in the mid-nineteenth century made the needs of the colonies significant. This occurred almost as soon as the widespread involvement of women in philanthropy came to be accepted.

As Antoinette Burton has argued, our magnificent colonies became the natural ground for the practice of British womens philanthropy, offering a whole new range of avenues which provided relief from the constraints on their reform activities at home. Philanthropic work within the colonies also became a source of collective national pride (17). Following on concern about the education of Indian women, British feminists planned a scheme with send trained British lady teachers to India to preside over a number of girls schools.

Feminists enthusiasm was effective in raising money, and in interesting British women both at home and in India in the reform of girls schooling. After an initial emphasis on sending British women to India, scholarships were provided to train Indian women as teachers as well. The concern about education was followed by one about womens health. There also was concern about the need for the provision of women doctors to Indian women who would not countenance male doctors. Here too, money was raised both in Britain and in India to provide training, initially for British women, but also for Indian women to become doctors.

As Antoinette Burton points out, there was throughout all of this some recognition of the abilities and the achievements of specific Indian women. But overall, the schemes directed towards India were seen as ones necessarily begun and mainly carried out by British women on behalf of their less educated and passively suffering Indian sisters. The whole question of British women in India in the nineteenth century has become the subject of increasing discourse. On the one hand, it is clear that the significant numbers of British women who became immensely concerned about the condition of Indian women should to be revised.

These women worked, sometimes quite effectively, to keep alive in the public mind their needs and interests. On the other hand, some of these women came to know and appreciate Indian women, and to make themselves mouthpieces for the goals that Indian women set. Other women both in India and in Britain assumed that their own high level of education and development made them the ones best suited to know what Indian women needed. In general, Antoinette Burton argued that the aims and objectives sought by feminists in Britain set the framework for womens emancipation everywhere.

British feminists regarded themselves as experts on India after a visit. Their campaigns simply involved the application of British programs to the Indian situation. The British feminists who learned about these missionary struggles could only be strengthened in their own sense of moral and racial superiority. That consciousness, as Antoinette Burton has demonstrated in the context of India, contributed significantly to the domestic culture of imperialism. Unfortunately, feminists who responded by embracing imperialism tended to propagate generalized images of backward and oppressed Oriental womanhood.

Burton has emphasized the dangers for British feminism in the assumption that a supposedly superior elite among women could speak for the less privileged and fortunate (210). In particular, the desire to emancipate women could easily become a desire to control them. Ultimately, for Burton, each new venture served more fully as a means for British feminists to show their own fitness for political rights and responsibilities through their preparedness and capacity to take on their own particular imperial burden.

Warning! This essay is not original. Get 100% unique essay within 45 seconds!


We can write your paper just for 11.99$

i want to copy...

This essay has been submitted by a student and contain not unique content

People also read