Five feminist quotes from literature that are still absolutely relevant today
From Austen to Angelou; five relevant feminist quotes
Feminism might seem like a new movement, given its recent surge, but some have been fighting for women for years. Here are five feminist quotes to prove it.
With the rise of social media giving a platform to women’s voices we can really see a more open discourse, and a bigger change in public opinion, regarding gender equality than ever before. However feminism isn’t a new phenomenon. Exploring back through the works of some extraordinary female authors, we can see that women have been engaged in the same fight for years. I have collected five feminist quotes from literature by five remarkable women. They are just as relevant to the modern feminist movement of today as they ever were.
1. Jane Austen, Persuasion (1816)
Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.
‘A social system in which power is held by men, through cultural norms and customs that favour men and withhold opportunity from women’ is how dictionary.com describes a patriarchal society. Austen, writing almost two centuries ago, manages to eloquently describe the subtleties of male privilege that we are all still struggling with today. Especially with regards to the corporate glass ceiling where the manifestations of the patriarchy in education and business still hold women back.
2. Angela Carter, The Tiger’s Bride (1979)
The tiger will never lie down with the lamb; he acknowledges no pact that is not reciprocal. The lamb must learn to run with the tigers.
Fiery and true, women could apply this quote to the feminist struggle throughout time. Back in 1903 the suffragettes created a movement to take the vote. In her subverted fairy tales Carter allows women to take back their sexuality, their power, their submission. So what do we learn? It’s still a man’s world so involve yourself. If you don’t you might be waiting a long time. Whether that be negotiating a higher salary at work, confronting colleagues or friends about everyday sexism, or putting yourself forward for a role. If they aren’t going to give it to you, take it.
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3. Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography (1928)
As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.
Woolf sounds like she is summing up the Bechdel test, but about sixty years earlier than the rest of us (it was first coined in 1985). The Bechdel test measures female bias in movies. To pass there must be at least two named female characters. Those characters must talk to each other, and the conversation must be about something other than a man. Pretty simple no? Why then in 2016 did a third of the top 50 films still fail to portray significant female discourse? Woolf’s quote echoes female depictions in the media today and can still act as an inspiration to make (interesting and meaningful) female voices heard.
4. Margaret Attwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Shameful, immodest. I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely.
Written three decades ago now and based in a dystopian society, this could just as well describe any woman today’s relationship with her own body. In a capitalist, fat shaming, beauty blogger world, despite the ‘body positivity’ movement we can’t deny that society still wants us to believe our bodies really do determine us completely. In a society where the narrators body is used and owned by men, her form and fertility determine her place in life. Arousing similar sentiment to that of the newly exposed culture of Harvey Weinstein and #Metoo (men feeling female bodies are theirs for the taking), she silently rejects society’s determination of her the only way she can. We can all empower ourselves. Look how many women are speaking out in the wake of #Metoo and should continue to do so. Let this quote remind women we are more than just our bodies.
5. Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman (Poem, 1995)
I’m a woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman. That’s me.
We could all doing with remembering this every now again. It’s as true today as it will ever be. Maya Angelou sums up perfectly how being empowered is the biggest freedom, mystery and power a woman can have. She doesn’t live up to society’s expectations and we shouldn’t have to either. Every woman is a phenomenal woman.
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Dates for the Diary
September 9th - Podcast recording Talkpush - Discussion recruitment for inclusive workplaces
September 21st - ENGIE Gender bias in Performance Assessment online
October 26th - Banque de Luxembourg Préjugés sexistes dans le processus de recrutment.
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