Feminist literature: what it is, its origin, characteristics and representative works


What is feminist literature?

Although we can speak of transcendental texts with a feminist approach throughout history, we are also talking about a relatively recent term that seeks to bring together all these types of texts. In principle, these are texts that question and offer a critical look at the role of women in society. In addition to this, feminism will be alive in the experience of the woman who writes in the face of a literary world that had prioritized and limited creation for the male sex.

What is feminist literature

Thus, we can point out that they are works in which feminism, as a social proposal and ideology, seeks to improve the quality of life of women, crossed by a social equality that has been assaulted by exclusion, oppression and machismo. In short, we speak of a type of literature committed to the values of feminism and that exposes the problems of a society that complicates them.

Origin of feminist literature

During the 1990s, we began to speak more frequently of women’s literature, in particular to refer to works that had been written by women and that, in particular, were aimed at a female audience. In spite of a literary field in which the presence of men occupies the most extensive publishing spaces, the fact is that the dominant reading public was female.

This evidence caused publishers to start giving space to female authors who had created in their works a totally different panorama, this time with a female point of view in which their protagonists were also women. However, stereotypes were an element that remained in the development. This is how “feminist literature” emerged, under which important emerging works written by Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Stephanie Meyer, among others, can be found.

Most important characteristics of feminist literature

Trying to define an artistic expression with a quest deeply linked to the social, political, economic and cultural vindication of women was a rather complex work that, in fact, is still ongoing. However, it is possible to identify some distinctive features that can help us to better understand this type of literature:

Purpose of the works

One of the main features of this type of literature has to do with the search to either raise awareness of the panorama, or to express the arguments that feminism has. In this way, the message of the work stands out more strongly. In this way, essential aspects of an unjust society are presented, macho characters that also tend to reduce the role of women. However, this is only one of the elements, as many authors differ with this type of “labels”, with which they have been referred to.

Direct or indirect presence

It is possible to identify a large number of literary works in which feminism is present, some directly and others indirectly. However, in literature, it does not always occupy the central plot but, through a thorough review, it is possible to find those indications where questioning and reflection are present.

Varied themes

Through their stories, the authors who have been classified within feminist literature, have stood out for their varied themes in their works. Thus making clear the message through stories in which death, life, society, intimacy, time, etc. are developed.

Literature as resistance

Another of the most important advances and strengths that feminism has had through literature, has been to become a key tool to propose strategies that allow resistance to the patriarchy in order to eliminate the domination that, in literature, had been marked throughout its historical development.

Feminist literature works

Feminist literature works

Among the main works of feminist literature are present some such as: The Hours by Laura Brown, A Room of One’s Own written by Virginia Woolf, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, The Captivities of Women: Motherswives, Nuns, Whores, Prisoners and Madwomen by María Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos, The Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Citizen by Olympe de Gouge, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Artwood, Disobedient Mama by Esther Vivas, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, A Life Written by Simone Veil, My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst, The Door by Magda Szab, A Woman with Attributes by Lillian Hellman, King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes, among others.

Likewise, it is necessary to emphasize some of its female authors whose works have also been recognized, as well as their careers throughout its evolution as a type of literature, and who have become important references for its development. Among them we find: Olympe de Gouges, Virginia Woolf, Amelia Valcárcel, Laura Esquivel, Isabel Allende, Stephanie Meyer, María Dueñas, Simone de Beauvoir, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Doris Lessin, Celia Amorós, María Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos, among other important figures.

And so we end a substantial journey through a type of literature that continues to lay its own foundations from a contextual, historical and cultural process with the increase of women writers and their own recognition. Remember that if you want to know about other types of literature, movements, avant-garde and more, you can find all this information in our section dedicated to the literary world.