top of page

Literary Theory 101: Challenging Gender Dynamics in Literature


This series examines literary criticism from all angles, examining numerous analytical frameworks, modes of interpretation, and constraints. It belongs to the degree in English Studies offered by the Complutense University of Madrid. Once the series comes to completion, the reader may be able to analyze the components that contribute to a text's literary character, such as coherence and literality, and will develop a critical approach toward contemporary literary theory. The reader of these articles might grasp the shifting paradigms of fiction analysis within this theoretical framework, establishing a link between the philosophy of language and the evolution of analytical methods in literary criticism. This series aims to offer an insight into the complex relationship between style and the cultural environment, historical factors that have shaped the idea of style as well as the changing literary canon. By examining the complex ways in which literature, language, and culture interact with one another, this series aims to help the readers develop their capacity for critical thinking and interpretation.

This Literary Theory 101 is divided into the following chapters:

  1. Literary Theory 101: Unveiling the Collective Subconscious in Myth Criticism

  2. Literary Theory 101: Challenging Gender Dynamics in Literature

  3. Literary Theory 101: Power Structures and Cultural Studies in Literary Analysis

  4. Literary Theory 101: Umberto Eco's Influence on Reader Response Criticism

  5. Literary Theory 101: Power Dynamics and Postcolonial Perspectives

  6. Literary Theory 101: Contemporary Ecocriticism

Challenging Gender Dynamics in Literature

This essay goes into the diverse realm of gender dynamics, power structures, and representations in literary texts, analyzing them via feminist critique and gender studies analytical lenses. The emphasis continues to be placed on the literary tradition of North America. Within this tradition, feminist literary criticism has found significant absorption in higher education and in some Spanish-speaking countries that have been influenced by it. Recognizing the necessity of understanding the social context of literary works, the emphasis remains on this tradition. This study criticizes repressive patriarchal systems and argues for a more equal society by reclaiming the literary contributions of women writers who are considered "proto-feminists" and pioneers of feminism. In addition, feminist studies extend beyond the literary canon since Golubov passionately fights for the reconstruction of women's history. She does this because she understands the significance of this understanding in terms of comprehending collective identities and societal structures. The influential gender theory of Judith Butler, which challenges the exclusive focus on women and highlights the culturally constructed character of gender, further deepens this conversation by bringing attention to the fact that gender is built. This revolutionary point of view advocates for the acknowledgment and celebration of multiple gender identities to foster a society that is more equal. It calls for a reevaluation of traditional assumptions about sex and gender.

This Bridge Called My Back: Radical Writings by Women of Color 1981 will be analyzed as a study case because it acts as a forceful catalyst by focusing light on the enormous impact of race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation on gender inequality. It does this by combining literary analyses and gender theory with the writings of women of color who wrote them. This anthology, which was written by feminists from the third world as well as women of color, unapologetically brings to light the challenges that women of color confront when attempting to navigate the demands of society while also declaring who they truly are. It encourages inclusivity and generates vital dialogues on gender dynamics that go beyond standard binaries by welcoming multiple points of view and fostering thorough listening and comprehension. Together, these interconnected findings drive the feminist discourse toward a deeper understanding of gender and societal structures. They also underscore the urgency of fighting oppressive systems and embracing intersectionality in the pursuit of genuine empowerment and long-lasting social change. This essay aims to foster a more cohesive and inclusive vision for the future by examining literature, gender theory, and the narratives of women of color. Such a vision envisions a world in which diverse voices are heard and respected, thereby dismantling power structures that have been in place for a long time and paving the way for a society that is more just and equitable.

1. Feminist Literary Critique as a Lens

Because of the fundamental character of the problems that are being investigated and the inquisitive character of the research questions that have been raised in Feminist literary criticism, it is essential to take a methodology that draws on multiple disciplines. Golubov states that literary text cannot be disentangled from the specific sociocultural environment in which it was formed, disseminated. As a result, feminist literary criticism not only investigates the agency of female characters but also aims to challenge established gender roles and cultural standards (Golubov, 2013, p.p 8-9). Despite the fact that feminist literary criticism is practiced on a global scale, the focus of Golubov´s study is inscribed in the North American literary tradition. This is due to the accelerated integration of feminist literary criticism into higher education institutions as well as its extensive dissemination within Spanish-speaking countries, which was made possible by translation efforts (Golubov, 2013, p.8). In Golubov´s view, the field of study known as literary theory was ignored or left out of the realm of literary theory works by women writers. Thus, feminist literary criticism reclaims the literary contributions made by these authors, who are frequently seen as the forerunners or pioneers of feminism. According to Golubov, they could be classified as "proto-feminists" (Golubov, 2013, p.p 9-10). Many literary traditions have pioneers who laid the foundation for feminism. In their lives and works, one can discern a powerful critique of the oppressive system known as patriarchy. This system perpetuates social structures and practices that enable men to discriminate against, subjugate, and exert dominance over women. In them, we witness a powerful defiance against their oppressive social circumstances as they consciously choose to reject conformity (Golubov, 2013, p.10). According to Golubov´s revision of feminist literary criticism, it emerged as a potent force at the core of the women's liberation movements, with profound academic roots, especially in the United States. She remarks that it began with a strong political impetus, transforming the act of reading into a means of fundamentally revolutionizing social relations (Golubov, 2013, p.p 18-19). Golubov sheds light on the fact that in addition to a focus on reinterpreting literature, there was a larger objective of reshaping the entire universe.

Figure 1: Gender. Romace. (Relation. Mossholder, 2018)

She highlights that by challenging traditional norms and perceptions entrenched in literary works, feminist criticism aimed to pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive society in which gender-based inequalities would be dismantled, and women's voices and experiences would be celebrated (Golubov, 2013, p.19). She argues that the institution of the family is widely accepted as a paradigmatic representation of female enslavement. This is due to the institution of the family playing a vital role in shaping gender identity during the process of socialization and perpetuating gendered labor divisions (Golubov, 2013, p.16). In stark contrast to the logical, competitive, and generally male-dominated public sphere, the home family was considered a sentimental and intimate shelter. Golubov observes that this was due to the fact that the public sphere was traditionally male-dominated. Unfortunately, society retained the biased ideas that women lacked the intellectual and moral qualities essential to participate in political affairs. Because of these beliefs, women were denied access to the same spaces and advantages as their male counterparts. Women from middle-class families faced severe obstacles, including a dearth of opportunities to obtain a conventional education and work that paid well. As a direct consequence of this, a significant number of them had no choice but to look for a financially beneficial marriage as the sole means by which they might raise their social and economic position. This structural inequity maintained a cycle of gender-based constraints, which prevented women from reaching their full potential in a variety of areas of life (Golubov, 2013, p.12). In conclusion, Golubov's examination of feminist literary criticism sheds light on the historical neglect of works by women authors within the domain of literary theory. By reclaiming the literary contributions of these authors and acknowledging them as "proto-feminists," feminist literary criticism recognizes their role as forerunners of feminism. This analysis of literary characters exposes a potent critique of the patriarchal system, which perpetuates gender-based inequalities and social structures that marginalize women. In addition, Golubov emphasizes the transformative power of feminist literary criticism, which arose as a potent force during women's liberation movements, challenging traditional norms and fundamentally transforming social relations. Not only did it seek to reinterpret literature but also to reshape society as a whole, striving for a more equitable and inclusive world that celebrates diverse gender identities.

2. Regarding Gender as a Social Construct

Golubov argues that it is essential for feminism to reconstruct a history of women because doing so enables us to gain a better understanding of the formation of significant collective identities. This, in return, helps to strengthen the framework of cultural and material practices that have structured a great number of societies throughout history and that continue to structure a great number of societies even today (Golubov, 2013, p.10). Golubov recognizes the significance of a dilemma that Judith Butler's influential theory of gender poses. In a feminist context, Judith Butler's influential theory of gender casts light on a crucial issue regarding feminism's central focus on women. Butler observes astutely that using "women" as the central motif of feminism presents a challenge. This is primarily due to the influence of normative standards, which have historically been associated with a limited and exclusive conception of femininity. In Judith Butler's groundbreaking work, Gender Trouble 1990, the powerful influence of early feminist ideologies becomes apparent as they permeate various literary traditions. These literary figures demonstrate a critical and post-critical perspective on what is now acknowledged as patriarchy - a multifaceted system of social structures and traditions in which men enforce discrimination, subjugation, and control over women. In addition, Judith Butler's seminal work on gender theory offers valuable insights into the construction of gender and its relationship to sex. Her critique of the binary conception of sex and the performative nature of gender highlights the role of cultural invention and societal norms in shaping these concepts. These historical figures courageously challenge the oppressive shackles of their assigned social roles, fearlessly defying the confinements imposed by societal norms. Butler investigates the historical creation of the concept of sex as a binary system and poses important concerns regarding the concept's political and social ramifications throughout the course of history. Butler methodically examines the prevalent notion of sex as an inherent and fixed binary option while also questioning whether or not this construct has ever served particular political or social objectives in the past (Butler, 1990, p.11).

Butler engages with the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir in her writing. She acknowledges De Beauvoir's seminal work, The Second Sex 1979, which she regards as one of the cornerstones of feminist theory because it examines the historical and contemporary experiences of women in patriarchal societies in detail. Highly influenced by this, Butler utilizes de Beauvoir's notion of "becoming a woman" to construct her own theory of gender performativity. De Beauvoir famously stated, "A woman is not born, but rather made" (De Beauvoir, 1979). This concept challenges the notion that gender is a fixed and inherent aspect of being, arguing instead that it is socially constructed and acquired through cultural practices and norms (Butler, 1990, pp. 11-12). Thus, Butler challenges the traditional belief that gender disparities are solely the result of biological differences and consequently challenges the notion that women are inherently inferior to males. She observes Beauvoir´s approach toward gender roles in society, especially her idea that when a woman attempts to express herself outside of her traditional gender role, she is frequently criticized and accused of emulating masculine behaviors: “Man is defined as a human being and woman is defined as a female. Whenever she tries to behave as a human being, she is accused of trying to emulate the male” (Beauvoir, 1979). By engaging with de Beauvoir's work, Butler contributes to the ongoing discussion within feminism regarding the nature of gender and how it is constructed and reinforced in society. This perspective challenges traditional conceptions of gender, which are typically based on essentialist assumptions that equate gender with biological sex. Consequently, our take on the whole world and how we perceive ourselves in relation to it are intricately intertwined with the way we perform and exhibit our gender: “The body is not a thing, it is a situation: it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project” (De Beauvoir, 1979). In this quote by Simone de Beauvoir, she argues that the body is not a fixed or immutable entity but rather a dynamic "situation."

Figure 2: Simone de Beauvoir, ca.1954-1960. (Freund, n.d)

Butler's view echoes De Beauvoir´s assertion that the body is a type of dynamic situation. She contends that the fundamental concept of "sex," because it is a cultural construction, is one that should be open to investigation and debate. By doing so, Butler is advocating for a nuanced and critical investigation of the concept, examining its roots as well as the power dynamics that have been responsible for shaping it. She wants to highlight how the idea of "sex" has been entwined with gender, which further reinforces the inflexible standards and expectations around femininity and masculinity by unraveling the historical roots of this binary understanding. To do this, she will unravel the historical underpinnings of this binary understanding (Butler, 1990, p.p 10-11). It is clear, when viewed through the lens of Butler's perspective that the establishment of "sex" as a unique category that is inextricably related to gender is not an objective reality but rather the result of cultural invention. This knowledge encourages the fight to dismantle the oppressive institutions that are rooted in these constructs, and it calls for a reevaluation of traditional beliefs concerning sex and gender. Butler scrutinizes critically the notion that gender meanings are rigidly imprinted on bodies based on anatomical differences, depicting these bodies as passive recipients of cultural norms over which they have no control. Like the outmoded "biology is destiny" theory, this perspective perpetuates the notion that one's gender is predetermined and unchangeable: “On some accounts, the notion that gender meanings inscribed on anatomically differentiated bodies, where those bodies are understood as passive recipients of an inexorable cultural law” (Butler, 1990, p.11). Butler contends that extending representation only to those who conform to these normative norms ignores and perpetuates the exclusion of those who do not fit these predefined roles. The concept of "women" as a unitary and unproblematic identity is frequently used to promote solidarity. However, in feminist discourse, a division arises due to the distinction between sex and gender. Originally intended to challenge the notion that biology determines fate, the sex-gender distinction contends that while sex may appear to be biologically fixed, gender is culturally constructed and is therefore not causally determined by sex (Butler, 1990, p.8). Butler argues that exclusion shapes gendered subjects, resulting in the marginalization of those who do not conform to traditional notions of femininity (Butler, 1990, p.12).

Therefore, a feminist analysis must be sensitive to the spectrum of gender experiences, adopting an inclusive approach that celebrates identities beyond the binary framework. According to this perspective, gender is a complex and diverse array of sex interpretations (Butler, 1990, p.8). According to Butler's theory of gender performativity, the distinction between sex and gender threatens the coherence and unity of the subject. Instead of emphasizing biology, Butler's approach emphasizes the impact of culture and social practices on our understanding and performance of gender in daily life (Butler, 1990, pp. 11-12). According to her theory of gender, gender is not something we possess inherently, but rather a series of repeated actions and behaviors performed in accordance with societal norms and expectations. These gender performances become so engrained that they create the illusion of a fixed and stable gender identity. The body as "our sketch of our project" is consistent with Butler's emphasis on the performative character of gender. Our bodies become the canvas upon which we act out and express our gender identity, molding and reshaping it through our interactions with the world (Butler, 1990, p. 34) .

Figure 3: Woman In Beige T-Shirt Sitting In Brown Wooden Chair. (Slowikowska, 2020)

Butler's engagement with Simone de Beauvoir's ideas contributes to a deeper understanding of gender performativity and its defiance against rigid societal conventions. Both Golubov and Butler emphasize the significance of reconstructing women's history and challenging traditional norms in order to create a more inclusive and equal society. Their perspectives contribute to the ongoing evolution of feminist theory by advocating for a greater understanding of gender dynamics and the recognition of diverse experiences that transcend traditional gender binaries. The book Bodies that Matter 1993 by Butler is an important extension of her earlier groundbreaking work that has been brought for consideration. Her analysis of gender identity and performativity is taken to further levels of investigation in this book, which builds upon the core ideas she presented in her previous work. Utilizing post-structuralist and feminist theory, she defends her position and critiques the socially constructed binary notion of sex. Butler emphasizes the exclusion of intersex individuals and those with diverse body experiences. By doing so, she challenges the traditional gender binary by recognizing the complex and diverse realities of individuals outside of the confines of a fixed social framework. Butler's core argument in this work revolves around the social construction of bodies through language, culture, and discourse. Due to the inability of these political terms to definitively and exhaustively establish the precise identity they strive to define, the struggle continues.

The political terms that are meant to establish a sure or coherent identity are troubled by this failure of discursive performativity to finally and fully establish the identity to which it refers. Iterability underscores the non-self identical status of such terms; the constitutive outside means that identity always requires precisely that which it cannot abide (Butler, 1993, p.140).

The passage illuminates the complexities of using political terms to forge a consistent and enduring identity. To provide a distinct sense of self, these terms contend with the limitations of language's performative capacity. Emphasizing the concept of iterability openly reveals their fluidity, indicating that their meaning is context-dependent and, therefore, subject to change. This resistance to a fixed essence makes establishing identity through their application difficult. In addition, the concept of the constitutive outside asserts that external influences beyond the words themselves play a crucial role in identity formation, necessitating the incorporation of elements that may challenge the desired identity. Throughout the entirety of the book, Butler draws from a variety of philosophical and literary sources to examine the mechanisms of power at work in the formation and control of gender and sexuality. She argues that gender identity is not dictated by biology (Butler, 1990, p. 8. The work of Butler sheds light on the illusion that stable gender identities exist and paves the way for challenging traditional gender norms and pushing for a more open-minded and fluid definition of gender in society. This is accomplished by highlighting the illusory nature of stable gender identities:

To prescribe an exclusive identification for a multiply constituted subject, as every subject is, is to enforce a reduction and a paralysis, and some feminist positions, including my own, have problematically prioritized gender as the identificatory site of political mobilization at the expense of race or sexuality or class or geopolitical positioning/displacement. (Butler, 1993, p.78)

In the quote above, she admits that some feminist positions, including her own, have made gender the principal site of political mobilization. While gender is unquestionably an essential aspect of identity and a central focus of feminist activism, the quote suggests that focusing solely on gender identification may lead to the diminution and paralysis of other equally essential aspects of a person's identity. Given that, every individual is comprised of multiple intersecting factors, such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and geopolitical position, prescribing an exclusive identifier for them could pose a problem. As stated in the preceding paragraph, Judith Butler is known for her emphasis on the performative nature of gender. By focusing solely on gender, other factors such as race, sexual orientation, social class, and geopolitical position or displacement may be overshadowed or neglected. This limitation can be problematic because it does not adequately address the complexity and intersectionality of the experiences and struggles of individuals. It suggests that by narrowly concentrating on a single identity marker, there is a risk of overlooking the interconnected and overlapping forms of oppression and marginalization that individuals may experience due to various aspects of their identity. This could be interpreted as a call to expand the inclusiveness and intersectionality of feminist activism and social justice movements. Instead of focusing merely on gender, it promotes recognizing and addressing the interconnectedness of multiple identity markers and social contexts. Adopting this methodology can result in a deeper understanding of individual experiences and a more effective strategy for addressing systemic inequalities and advocating for social change.

Figure 4: Feminist. (Theodore, 2019)

To wrap up this section it is key to bring to attention that Butler´s work has had a significant impact on feminist theory and opened up new avenues for comprehending and challenging gender norms and expectations. Feminist scholars and activists must actively challenge the limited comprehension of femininity and gender as defined by societal norms in light of Butler's ideas. By doing so, they can cultivate an environment that empowers and validates all gender expressions, shattering outmoded stereotypes and fostering genuine gender equality and acceptance. As a movement, feminism should aspire to be more intersectional and intersectional in recognizing the unique struggles faced by individuals at the intersections of race, class, sexual orientation, and other identities, amplifying their voices, and working toward a more just and inclusive society for all.

3. Case Study

The powerful affirmation of the impact of "race," ethnicity, culture, socio-economic background, and sexual orientation on exclusion from conventional gender standards was provided by the book This Bridge Called My Back: Radical Writings by Women of Color, which was released in 1981. The objective of the anthology, which was written by feminists from the third world and women of color from the United States, was to shed light on the subtle connections that exist between different social classifications, which result in gender inequality within the context of the social hierarchy. It delved into the difficult struggles that were encountered by women of color, who frequently had to conceal or alter portions of their own selves in order to adhere to the conventions of societal expectations. Gloria Anzaldúa, along with co-editor Cherrie Moraga, co-edited the groundbreaking anthology to give a voice to women of color and address the multiple forms of oppression they confronted themselves. Anzaldúa's desire to challenge the dominant narratives that frequently erased or marginalized the experiences of women of color in feminism, academia, and society led to the publication of this book in 1981. All these pieces investigated the difficulties encountered when attempting to navigate numerous layers of identity while simultaneously pursuing self-determination and empowerment amid oppressive societal structures. Along with other feminist and postmodern authors, Anzaldúa brought attention to the lack of privileged areas for women, particularly women of color. This part of the anthology went into depth about the difficulties and contradictions that were experienced by women of color as they attempted to assert their genuine selves inside a culture that expected conformity.

The anthology made an important contribution to the development of feminist theory by including a variety of perspectives. As a result, it aided in the development of a deeper understanding of gender dynamics that went beyond the confines of traditional binaries. It renders the experiences of underrepresented populations, emphasizing their triumphs and struggles while inspiring readers to embrace their real selves and act toward meaningful social change. In addition, it showcased the accomplishments of the people that were underrepresented. As a result, the anthology served as a potent instrument in the promotion of inclusivity and the pushing for advancement in feminist debate as well as cultural ideas of gender. Not only did this confrontation revolutionize feminist theory, but it also spurred a transformation of various feminist approaches, resulting in a substantial revision of mainstream gender theory. Anzaldúa intended to elevate the voices of women of color and highlight the significance of their contributions to feminist and social justice movements by compiling a wide variety of essays, poetry, and artwork from women of color. The book became a seminal text in feminist theory, ethnic studies, and queer theory, inspiring future generations of activists and academics to recognize the significance of intersectionality and inclusivity in their efforts to create a more equitable and just world. In the second part of the book, the author investigates how women from the Third World develop a unique feminist political theory that is derived from their racial, cultural, and personal experiences. It places an emphasis on specificity, as well as the psychological freedom that is associated with gender.

Figure 5: That's Her Business (2021)

The goal of gender theory is to bring about fundamental changes in contemporary society. Refusing to draw a line between gender identity and sexual orientation turns into a powerful symbol, showing the need for women of color to actively participate in more significant gender discourse and urging feminists to embrace an intersectional point of view. This highlights the necessity for women of color to actively participate in more significant gender discourse. One of the most destructive methods of disempowering women and members of minority groups is to let them to communicate freely but not genuinely listen to what it is that they have to say. This is one of the most detrimental ways of disempowering women and members of minority groups. This is one of the most covert methods of exerting power over a person. The authors and artists that contributed to "This Bridge" depict the struggle of women against many forms of oppression in its entirety. Anzaldúa has held this view ever since she was a child:

En boca cerrada no entran moscas. "Flies don't enter a closed mouth" is a saying I kept hearing when I was a child. Ser habladora was to be a gossip and a liar, to talk too much. Muchachitas bien criadas, well-bred girls don't answer back. Es una falta de respeto to talk back to one's mother or father. I remember one of the sins I'd recite to the priest in the confession box the few times I went to confession: talking back to my mother, hablar pa' 'trás, repelar. Hocicona, repelona, chismosa, having a big mouth, questioning, carrying tales are all signs of being mal criada. In my culture they are all words that are derogatory if applied to women--I've never heard them applied to men (Anzaldúa, 1987, p.76).

From a fiercely feminist perspective, "En boca cerrada no entran moscas" exemplifies the profoundly entrenched patriarchy's efforts throughout history to silence and subjugate women. This outdated proverb is a potent instrument of oppression, indoctrinating young females to suppress their voices, passions, and aspirations. By labeling women as, "habladora," "hocicona," and "chismosa," society perpetuates a toxic narrative that attempts to diminish the brilliance and fortitude of outspoken women, dismissing their intelligence and assertiveness as undesirable characteristics. Furthermore, the persistent imposition of being "muchachitas bien criadas" removes them of their autonomy, enforcing servitude and blind obedience to male authority. We must vehemently resist and dismantle these oppressive structures to forge a new reality, one in which the power of women's voices resonates unapologetically, in which questioning and speaking back are celebrated as acts of empowerment, and in which all individuals, regardless of gender, are liberated to realize their full potential and shape a world of true equality and justice. In Anzaldúa´s view, to realize true equality and justice, it is imperative that we fiercely oppose these oppressive systems and work to bring them down. She encourages the creation of a new reality in which the power of women's voices resounds unapologetically, in which questioning and speaking back are celebrated as acts of empowerment, and in which all individuals, irrespective of gender, are liberated to realize their full potential and shape a world that embraces the strength and diversity of its people. She even herself was shocked at hearing two women of distinct Hispanic backgrounds use the word nosotras, it demonstrated to her the extent to which the dominant language norms frequently erase or diminish the presence of women. This passage by Gloria Anzaldúa demonstrates how language's inherent power dynamics can perpetuate gender inequality and erode female identity. Nosotros is the plural form of "we" in Spanish, regardless of whether the group is composed of males, females, or a blend of genders. This linguistic practice effectively erases and negates women's distinct presence by subsuming their identity under the masculine plural:

The first time I heard two women, a Puerto Rican and a Cuban, say the word "nosotras," I was shocked. I had not known the word existed. Chicanas use nosotros whether we're male or female. We are robbed of our female being by the masculine plural. Language is a male discourse (Anzaldúa, 1987, p.76).

Figure 6: I will overcome the tradition of silence. (Avenant, 2022)

Anzaldúa's observation that Chicanas use nosotros for both genders illustrates the inherent bias in language, in which the masculine experience is assumed to be the norm and women are rendered invisible or relegated to the background. This erasure denies women recognition of their uniqueness and reinforces a patriarchal perspective that prioritizes and centers male experiences. Besides, the statement: "Language is a male discourse" highlights how historically, societal structures and cultural norms have privileged male perspectives, including language usage. The construction and application of words can reflect and perpetuate gender hierarchies, resulting in the marginalization and subordination of women's voices and experiences. Hence, Anzaldúa constantly states that it is essential to challenge and transform language so that it is more inclusive, recognizing and validating the unique experiences and identities of women. Efforts to establish gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language can assist in escaping the constraints of traditional linguistic norms and foster a society in which all genders are seen, heard, and valued equally. Through such deliberate linguistic changes, we can pave the way for a more just and equitable world, one in which women are no longer constrained or deprived of their female identity by language's inherently male-centric discourse. As has been brought to attention in this section, the contributors of the aforementioned anthology are women of color who identify as radical and share their viewpoints, experiences, and problems throughout the book. The anthology acts as a platform for their perspectives, opposing mainstream narratives that seek to marginalize women of color, including undocumented immigrants (also known "las mojadas"). The writers, via their words, bring attention to the fact that these women confront not only sexual aggression but also a physical inability to defend themselves (Anzaldúa, 1987, p.p 34-35). They work together to challenge patriarchal norms, advance the rights of immigrants, and cultivate a society that is more caring and welcoming to those who are different from it:

La mojada, la mujer indocumentada, is doubly threatened in this country. Not only does she have to contend with sexual violence, but like all women, she is prey to a sense of physical helplessness. As a refugee, she leaves the familiar and safe homeground to venture into unknown and possibly dangerous terrain. (Anzaldúa, 1987, p.p 34-35)

The quote above by Anzaldúa showcases the double threat that undocumented immigrant women face in a new country: sexual violence and physical helplessness. The intersection of gender and immigration status exacerbates their vulnerability, denying them access to justice and support (Anzaldúa, 1987, p.33). This intentional linguistic shift is essential for addressing the dual threat encountered by "la mojada" - sexual violence and physical helplessness exacerbated by the intersection of gender and immigration status, which denies them access to justice and support. Anzaldúa remarks that to address these issues, it is necessary to challenge patriarchal norms, advocate for immigrant rights, and create a society that is more inclusive (Anzaldúa, 1987, p.p 34-35). Hence, from a feminist perspective, it is essential to challenge and transform language to be more inclusive, recognizing and validating the unique experiences and identities of women. A society that is compassionate and egalitarian, in which people of all genders and immigrants are respected equally, can be created by making efforts toward gender-inclusive language and confronting patriarchal conventions. (Anzaldúa, 1987, p.p 34-35). The feminist viewpoint of Anzaldúa asks for fundamental changes to be made in society, including the adoption of gender-inclusive terminology, the challenge of patriarchal conventions, and the advocacy for immigrant rights. She draws attention to the repressive power of language, which, by erasing women's distinct presence, fosters discourse that is male-centric. Her anthology intends to address and destroy mainstream stereotypes that marginalize women, particularly undocumented immigrants, by offering a forum for women of color to share their experiences and perspectives. Creating a culture that is compassionate, egalitarian, and appreciates people of all genders and immigration statuses equally can be accomplished through efforts toward gender-inclusive vocabulary and inclusive activism.

4. Conclusion

This essay has examined three concepts that are interrelated: the significance of feminist literary criticism; the applicability of Butler's theories to feminist literary theory, and a case study illustrating the efficacy of feminist criticism and gender studies in the process of studying literary texts. Understanding the societal background of literary works and challenging preconceived notions about gender roles and conventions is made significantly easier through the application of literary criticism. A complete examination of the intricacies of gender dynamics and power structures within literary texts requires a methodology that draws on a number of different academic disciplines. Butler's influential theories have had a substantial impact on feminist literary theory. By calling into question the binary conception of sex and underlining the performative character of gender, Butler's theories have contributed considerably to the development of feminist literary theory. Her body of work raises questions about essentialist assumptions and pushes for an understanding of gender identities that is more inclusive. Feminist scholars can create a more compassionate and intersectional approach to demolishing harmful stereotypes and fostering genuine equality if they take Butler's ideas and incorporate them into their work. The case study shows how feminist literature may provide a platform for marginalized voices, such as those of women of color, to communicate their experiences and challenge the expectations that society has placed on them. It places a strong emphasis on attentive listening as well as genuine conversation as a means to advance understanding and inclusivity within the realm of feminist discourse.

Figure 7: Human rights. (Papetti, n.d)

This article has sought to identify and combat prejudices that marginalize and portray women and other gender identities incorrectly. To accept the fluidity and diversity of human experiences and identities, feminist thinkers and activists can advance a more inclusive and liberating understanding of gender by adopting Butler's theories. This will allow them to work toward a more inclusive and liberating understanding of gender. We may come closer to a society that embraces and celebrates the complexity of human beings by deconstructing the binary notion of sex and acknowledging the cultural context in which it exists. This will allow us to dismantle damaging stereotypes and promote genuine equality and respect for all individuals. This kind of feminist approach not only contests the pre-existing power structures but also paves the way for methods that are more all-encompassing and compassionate in their approach to resolving the specific difficulties that persons across the gender spectrum are confronted with. In general, feminist literary criticism has the potential to transform the literary canon and build a culture that is more equal and inclusive when it is led by Butler's theories and magnified via the contributions of a varied range of perspectives. Literary criticism that takes a feminist perspective seeks to promote significant social change and a deeper understanding of the complexity of human identity by questioning accepted cultural standards and highlighting the variety of ways in which people experience gender. Feminist literary criticism continues to develop and pave the way for a society that is more just and compassionate thanks to continual investigation and conversation within the field.

Bibliographic References

Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. First Edition, San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Luke Book Company.

Beauvoir, S. (1974). The Second Sex. Translated by H.M Parshley. New York: Vintage Books.

Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (2004). Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge.

Chodorow, N. J. (1999). The Reproduction of Mothering. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Goluvob, N. (2012). La Crítica Literaria Feminista Una Introducción Práctica. Coyoacán: UNAM.

Moraga, C., & Anzaldúa, G. (2015). This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color. Fourth edition. Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) Press.

Gaviria Stewart, E., Cuadrado Guirado, I., & López Sáez, M. (2013). Introducción a la Psicología Social. Segunda edición. Madrid: Sanz y Torres.

Rebolledo, T. D. & Rivero, E. S. (1993). INFINITE DIVISIONS An Anthology of Chicana Literature. Arizona: The University of Arizona Press.

Visual Sources


Author Photo

Daniela Sandoval

Arcadia _ Logo.png


Arcadia, has many categories starting from Literature to Science. If you liked this article and would like to read more, you can subscribe from below or click the bar and discover unique more experiences in our articles in many categories

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
bottom of page