Radical Women in Literature: Advancing Progressive Aims or Reinforcing Harmful Beliefs? Public Deposited

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  • August 22, 2022
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  • Olivia Kersten
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Dr. Karen Tucker
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Abstract
  • Radical women in literature risk reinforcing sexist and racist notions because of their violence and unconventional actions. But their potential to advance progressive aims can both empower the reader and positively impact feminist movements. Han Kang's Yeong-hye (The Vegetarian) and Gillian Flynn’s Amy Dunne (Gone Girl) are two contemporary examples of radical women. They use self-harm, gender norm subversions, and violence against others to reassert their autonomy and freedom in a society that confines them. Though their actions can make us uncomfortable, the egregious oppression they face should unsettle us more. In terms of their relationship to the #MeToo movement, Yeong-hye and Amy have different capacities as feminist figures. While Amy is limited by her misogynistic tendencies that include false abuse claims and mistreatment of women, Yeong-hye exhibits a greater capability to enlighten the reader to global oppression, symbolized through her relationship with her sister. The ability to advance feminist aims is critical for the #MeToo movement. If Amy’s risks outweigh her benefits, then her actions can reinforce harmful beliefs about liberated women. In contrast, Yeong-hye’s enlightenment of the reader not only raises awareness about oppression, but also raises support for feminist movements.
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