The written word has always been a tool for spreading awareness amongst the masses. Documenting human history and struggle in literature has led towards the improvement of a civilisation from the mistakes of their ancestors, and the development of ways of escaping the said struggles (Mark, 2009). One of those struggles has been the fight for equal rights for women, or feminism.
Feminism has been widely misunderstood throughout history, and still is to this date. That is what happens when systematic oppression is questioned or challenged (Lorenzo, 2014). Fighting the feminist fight didn’t occur only through protests by and large, but also through literature to make people question their ways — this happened either through autobiographies of women’s daily struggles or fictional work depicting the sad reality of the world with non-existent but very real characters.
This reflection of feminism in literature followed the waves of feminism that have erupted in society historically. During the more recent waves of feminism, depicted through the works of Mary Ellman (1968) and Kate Millet (1969) during the late 1960s, the marginalisation of women and demeaning treatment were depicted. However, this system was being questioned not just by female novelists. Books about the lives of women were being adapted into movies, such as Taming of the Shrew (1969) of the great author William Shakespeare. The play is centred around the abuse suffered by the play’s female character, Katherina — another sad depiction of reality.
In the late 1970s, multiple aspects in literature were being explored — for instance, Elaine Showalter’s A Literature of Their Own (1977) reflected the different phases of gynocentrism, while on the other hand, the ‘mad woman’ trope was being depicted and questioned since the 1880s, starting with Charlotte Bronte’s legendary Jane Eyre.
While male writers dominated the literature, by and large, writers such as Virginia Woolf had always been able to squeeze through to fame since the 1920s with their accurate depiction of women characters, which has always been a key issue. During the 1990s, nearing the millennium, a rise in female writers was seen (Howell, 2015) and appreciated for their portrayal of women characters with accuracy.
Even though struggles of women have been recorded in literature since the ‘1700s (Rivera, 2020), women have fellow feminists to thank to, for paving the way for women all around the world today. Without them, we wouldn’t be here and reaching heights of success their ancestors could only dream of.