Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Optimist Reformer by Jill Rudd, Val Gough

By Jill Rudd, Val Gough

Even though she is now most sensible referred to as a author of novels and brief tales, Gilman was once identified to her contemporaries as an suggest of reform on social, fiscal and spiritual fronts. those essays search to remind the reader that the most objective of her writing used to be reform.

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He concluded, however, that ‘‘the epithets she casually used in her articles and the attitudes informing her 1908 article on blacks cannot be explained away or rationalized. Nor can her failure to address any of the issues pertinent to the economic and social conditions of black women, or the racist policies of the largest women’s organizations’’ (7). Although I agree with Ceplair that most of Gilman’s references to race are not what one would hope for in a social reformer, I believe that this aspect of her work is worth attending to, because much of it illustrates the basic premises of her theory of social evolution.

So that work defines us in fact by our gender, whereas men’s work does not define them primarily by their gender. Moving on again from this at the end of her life, Gilman addressed the question of ideology and its role in perpetuating what she believed was the primary inequity: gender subordination through the examination of religion. Let me now look briefly at a few of Gilman’s ideas that especially interest me. First, Gilman’s notion of collectivism, Bellamy nationalism, or socialism pervades all of her thinking.

By its stress on blind obedience and self-sacrifice, by its focus on death rather than birth, and by its concern with the individual’s life in the hereafter rather than the community’s life in subsequent generations. Gilman was not without a spiritual sense, as any reading of her work makes clear. ’’ For that notion she had little respect. ’’ Relying on emotion is a way women have been kept enslaved because emotions, feelings, are no less learned than any of our other socialized learning. We ‘‘fall in love’’ with the kind of person we are socialized to believe is the kind of person we should love – and we are often wrong.

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