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Gynocentrism

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Gynocentrism

Gynocentrism n. (Greek, γυνή, "female" - Latin centrum, "centred" ) refers to a dominant or exclusive focus on women in theory or practice; or to the advocacy of this.[1] Anything can be considered gynocentric (Adj.) when it is concerned exclusively with a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.[2]

Contents

  • Description 1
  • History 2
  • Etymology 3
  • Criticism 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Description

Feminist theorists have posited the need for gynocentrism whereby women's views, needs, and desires are given primacy as the lens through which social issues are analysed and addressed.[3]

Scholars Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson state that ideologically, the overriding focus of gynocentrism is to prioritize females hierarchically, and as a result may be interpreted as misandry (the hatred and prejudice towards men). Feminist calls for equality or even equity are often, according to them, a subterfuge for gynocentrism.[4]

Young and Nathanson define gynocentrism as a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around women, a cultural theme that they claim has become 'de rigueur' behind the scenes in law courts and government bureaucracies, which has supposedly resulted in systemic discrimination against men.[5] They further state that gynocentrism is a form of essentialism – as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women- to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women and the innate vices of men.[6]

Some authors make discriminations between types of gynocentrism, such as individual gynocentric acts and events (e.g. Mother's Day), and the more general concept of a gynocentric culture which refers to a larger collection of culture traits that have major significance in the way people’s lives were lived.[7]

History

Elements of gynocentric culture existing today are derived from practices originating in medieval society such as feudalism, chivalry and courtly love that continue to inform contemporary society in subtle ways.[8] Peter Wright refers to such gynocentric patters as constituting a "sexual feudalism," as attested by female writers like Lucrezia Marinella who in 1600 AD recounted that women of lower socioeconomic classes were treated as superiors by men who acted as servants or beasts born to serve them, or by Modesta Pozzo who in 1590 wrote, “don’t we see that men’s rightful task is to go out to work and wear themselves out trying to accumulate wealth, as though they were our factors or stewards, so that we can remain at home like the lady of the house directing their work and enjoying the profit of their labors? That, if you like, is the reason why men are naturally stronger and more robust than us — they need to be, so they can put up with the hard labor they must endure in our service.”[8]

Etymology

The term gynocentrism is derived from Ancient Greek, γυνή and κέντρον. Γυνή can be translated as woman or female,[9][10] but also as wife.[9][10] In Ancient Greek compounds with γυνή, the stem γυναικ- is normally used.[10] This stem can be spotted in the genitive case γυναικός,[9] and in the older form of the nominative case γύναιξ.[9] In Ancient Greek, no compounds are known to exist with γυνή that start with γυνο- or γυνω-.[10]

The Ancient Greek word κέντρον can be translated as sharp point,[10] sting (of bees and wasps),[10] point of a spear [10] and stationary point of a pair of compasses,[10] with the meaning centre of a circle related to the latter.[10] The meaning centre/middle point (of a circle) is preserved in the Latin word centrum,[11][12] a loanword from Ancient Greek.[11][12] The English word centre is derived from the Latin centrum.[13] The word κέντρον is derived from the verb κεντεῖν,[10][12] meaning to sting (of bees),[10] to prick,[10] to goad,[10] and to spur.[10] When trying to explain etymologically the term gynocentrism, it is important to consider the Ancient Greek κέντρον, with the signification middle point/centre, and not the more obvious Ancient Greek word κεντρισμός (mirroring -centrism).

Criticism

Some post-modern feminists such as Nancy Fraser question the assumption of a stable concept of 'woman' which underlies all gynocentrism.[14] Scholars Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young make a comparable claim that gynocentrism is a form of essentialism as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women, to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women. Nathanson and Young add that "This worldview is explicitly misandric too, because it not only ignores the needs and problems of men, but also attacks men."[6]

Christina Hoff Sommers has argued that gynocentrism is anti-intellectual and holds an antagonistic view of traditional scientific and creative disciplines, dismissing many important discoveries and artistic works as masculine. Sommers also writes that the presumption of objectivity ascribed to many gynocentrist theories has stifled feminist discourse and interpretation.[15]

Feminist writer Lynda Burns emphasises that gynocentrism calls for a celebration of women's positive differences – of women's history, myths, arts and music – as opposed to an assimilationist model privileging similarity to men.[16] However observed in practice, the preeminence of women associated with gynocentric narratives is often seen as absolute: interpersonally, culturally, historically, politically, or in broader contexts socially (i.e. popular entertainment). As such, it can shade into what Rosalind Coward called “womanism...a sort of popularized version of feminism which acclaims everything women do and disparages men”.[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary - Vers.4.0 (2009), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199563838
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2010
  3. ^ Nicholson, Linda J. The second wave: a reader in feminist theory Routledge, 1997 ISBN 978-0-415-91761-2 p.147-151
  4. ^ Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Legalizing Misandry, 2006 p.116
  5. ^ Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Legalizing Misandry, 2006 p.309
  6. ^ a b Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Sanctifying Misandry, 2010 p.58
  7. ^ Wright, Peter, Gynocentrism: From Feudalism to Modern Disney Princesses, 2014 p.8
  8. ^ a b Wright, Peter, 'The sexual-relations contract,' Chapter 7 in Gynocentrism: From Feudalism to Modern Disney Princesses, 2014 p.28
  9. ^ a b c d Kraus, L.A. (1844). Kritisch-etymologisches medicinisches Lexikon (Dritte Auflage). Göttingen: Verlag der Deuerlich- und Dieterichschen Buchhandlung.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Liddell, H.G. & Scott, R. (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  11. ^ a b Lewis, C.T. & Short, C. (1879). A Latin dictionary founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  12. ^ a b c Saalfeld, G.A.E.A. (1884). Tensaurus Italograecus. Ausführliches historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Griechischen Lehn- und Fremdwörter im Lateinischen. Wien: Druck und Verlag von Carl Gerold's Sohn, Buchhändler der Kaiserl. Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  13. ^ Klein, E. (1971). A comprehensive etymological dictionary of the English language. Dealing with the origin of words and their sense development thus illustration the history of civilization and culture. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science B.V.
  14. ^ Burns, p. 160-1
  15. ^ Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women (1994) p. 64-73
  16. ^ Lynda Burns, Feminist Alliances (2006) p. 153
  17. ^ Rosalind Coward, Sacred Cows (1999) p. 11

External links

  • Iris M. Young, 'Humanism, Gynocentrism and Feminist Politics'
  • Gynocentrism and its Cultural Origins
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