Enmeshing Class, Gender, and Ethnicity of “Family” in Selected Fiction by Women Writers

Sri Mulyani

Abstract

In a Marxist framework, class struggle is prioritized while gender struggle is only secondary. This debate on class over gender priority and vice versa has dominated Anglo-American critical scholarship. Meanwhile, in Asia, Mao Zedong claims that China’s Cultural Revolution has freed women from both class and Confucian patriarchal domination. His claim, however, is far from the truth since Chinese women still have to fight for their equality. Likewise, there are still ongoing struggles for women’s rights and equality in today’s Western societies. This article argues that various revolutionary social changes in Eastern or Western contexts imply a hierarchical relation where women would fall into the bottom of the hierarchy. Women of different classes and ethnic backgrounds experience multiple subordinations differently under patriarchal domination. These multiple subjugations of women can also be seen in the smallest unit of society such as “family.” However, at the same time, “family” can also become a locus of women’s liberation from those oppressions. Henceforth, “family” can function as an arena of power struggles. This article argues that women’s experiences and struggles against patriarchal and capitalist oppressions are deeply entangled with their class, gender, and ethnicity. Moreover, the very same class, gender, and ethnic groups also create further divisions that ultimately bring women to the lowest rank and under different forms of subordinations, as portrayed in the selected women writers’ fiction in this article.

Keywords

minority literature; feminist aesthetics; intersectionality; patriarchy; capitalism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2020.03504