writing a response about an art reading

DescriptionRunning head: READING RESPONSE
Reading Response
Student’s Name
Professor’s name
Reading Response
In the reading by Gilman, the author attempts to demonstrate how women, especially
black women, were viewed in the 19th century by society and how this perception affected their
lived experiences as portrayed through the various forms of art of that time (Gilman, n.d.).
Through the reading, one can see numerous forms of art, ranging from Olympia (Gilman, n.d., p.
77) by Manet to The Servant (Gilman, n.d., p. 81) by Byros. One thing common across all of
these paintings is the female form, sexuality, and perception. Another common thing across
much of the artwork presented is the varied perception between different kinds of women
ranging from the upstanding societal woman, and the prostitute, to the black woman. The reading
prompts the reader to examine how modern ideals of feminism have evolved over time since the
19th century to the current form of the movement as discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.
As already discussed in the previous paragraph, one thing that is outstanding in the
reading, as well as in several of the photographs presented by the author, is that there was a
discrepancy in how the black woman was viewed versus the white woman. In the 19th century,
the former was viewed as a primitive form that could only be well understood by examining his
sexual features which were deemed primitive as well. On the other hand, the white woman was
deemed as the epitome of beauty, at least female beauty unless she was a prostitute in which case
she was deemed as a sexual object closer to the black woman but still above her. This is a
positive indicator of how feminism has evolved over time.
Initially, the feminist movement focussed predominantly on the white woman as she was
seen as a priority and was also among the early initiators of the movement. However, over time,
the movement evolved to focus increasingly on the rights of the black woman and other
minorities as well. The champions of feminism came to understand that the black woman was
indeed not just a sum of her parts as had been envisioned in the 19th century, and that she was a
person whose moral value was equal to that of any other human being. This is why when one
reads feminist literature/ or examines it in contemporary society, he or she can see that it shifted
towards the protection of black female rights in an attempt to combat the dehumanization of
black people and women in terms of their sexuality and human dignity (Bridewell, 2016).
Therefore, this battle can be seen as a direct response to the counterproductive culture initiated in
the 19th century which demeaned the black woman over the white woman and other people in
In addition to this, it can also be seen that the feminist movement not only evolved to
cater to the lowest women in society, and still advocates for this, but it also has gone to great
lengths to treat every woman equally as much as feasible. Therefore, in the reading, it can be
seen that in the 19th century, women were classified based on categories such as the upstanding
women, the white women, the prostitutes, and the black women at the bottom. The modern
feminist movement has worked to try and deconstruct that kind of system by fighting for the
rights of every woman regardless of how she is viewed in society. That helps explain why recent
feminist scholars and activists advocate for the decriminalization of prostitution and support
movements such as Black Lives Matter (Bridewell, 2016). Their vigor in support of these issues
in society stems from the fact that they do recognize that elements of the early 19th-century
system that have persisted in some forms to the current day were actually detrimental to women
and it was important to alter them so that the rights of every woman, regardless of her state/
class, were recognised. In fact, it can be argued that the feminist movement has struggled and
strived to dismantle the hierarchical view of women which saw some being treated better than
others. The movement holds the view that discrimination against any woman amounts to the
undermining of its position on the defense of women’s rights. This view is in direct opposition to
those depicted, and criticized, in this reading and which were held by some of the prominent
scholars of the 19th century.
In conclusion, the exposition given in the reading with aim of examining the place of a
woman in society in the 19th century is a correct one. The author is correct in bringing out such
topics so that they can inspire and prompt the fight for rights across the gender spectrum. The
reading, in its exposition and criticism, is also important in demonstrating just how far women’s
rights have come and evolved from early society to the contemporary one.
Bridewell, A. T. (2016). Black Lives Matter: Why Black Feminism? First-Gen Voices: Creative
and Critical Narratives on the First-Generation College Experience, 5(1).
Gilman, S. L. (n.d.). The hottentot and the prostitute toward an iconography of female sexuality
(pp. 76–108).

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