Professor Shares Feminist Views and Theories


In 1919 women struggled and suffered to earn their right to vote, and for centuries many women have fought for equality in this country. Thursday, Toril Moi spoke to an audience of mostly young female students about "The Body in Feminist Theory."

Moi is a professor of literature and romance studies at Duke University. She has also written several novels and essays on feminism.

"When you are born a woman in the world you discover various things that just aren't fair and are unjust," Moi said. "I'm originally from Norway where the representation of woman in politics has long been much higher than here in America."

She talked about a time when she was in class and would make a comment and the teacher would act like she didn't even say anything. Then a male student would say the same thing a few minutes later and the teacher would say, "Oh, that's right."

Moi tried to explain the difference between sex, gender and the body from a feministic and intellectual way.

"It is difficult to understand, and life really is complex," Moi said.

"I long for simplicity and clarity, but I do find that most of the things that people have spent years debating, that there is a reason for that, and it's because it's not that clear and easy." The speech basically broke down to a point where Moi says sex is seen as nature and gender as culture manifested as nurture.

"The traditional feminist distinction is that gender is social, historical and the political norms for being a man or a woman, where sex is seen as the biology of the body," Moi said.

As far as the body goes, Moi said the first reason you are discriminated is because people look at your body and recognize you as a woman.

She later said the body is not all we need to be interested in and that's not all "she" is, it's not how "she" is defined.

"It's not the body or the biology that creates gender differences; it's the ideology and society," Moi said.

Moi's stance on the issue of sex, body and gender is complex and seemed to open the eyes of some at the lecture.

"I enjoyed (her speech) and thought it was very interesting," said Christine Callahan, junior in English. "I think she had a lot of good thoughtsI like her thoughts about sex, gender, and the body. I never really thought about them being different."

Moi was the grand finale in the English Department's Research Culture Committee series, "Crises and Developments in English Studies."

"We wanted to help the faculty be able to do better research so that we can be better teachers," said Paula Backscheider, professor of restoration and eighteenth-century literature, feminist criticism and cultural studies. "We also want to be able to educate our students on what's happening all over the world."

Backscheider was also in charge of putting on this event and bringing in Moi.

"She is just a wonderful woman," Backscheider said. "She is just so brilliant and we are fortunate to have her speak in our series."

Backscheider and Moi are both pleased with the progress this society has seen, but are also disappointed with many aspects of our society. Backscheider said that a female that graduates with the same degree as a man will make eighty-seven cents to the man's dollar.

She also said that the graduation rate of woman is greater than men, but there are still less woman in jobs of authority.

"I really believe that if you are cable of being clearer on a problem," Moi said. "And that way you can think more clearly about it and find out what the real problems are."

Moi said she was please with the warm welcome from the students and faculty at the Hotel at Auburn.

"I think it's lovely to be at Auburn," Moi said. "I've never been here before and I'm grateful to be invited. I thought the turnout was wonderful. So many people came on a beautiful spring day."

Related Stories

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Plainsman.