What is the feminist perspective of "Girl"?

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teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In Kincaid's "Girl," the narrative perspective is that of a mother giving her daughter life lessons in how to grow up to be a respectable woman.  The lessons include a focus on domestic roles, sexuality, image, and personal identity.  From a feminist perspective, a reader could analyze the implied gender roles that the story suggests throughout the narrative.  Further, a reader could also explore the definitions of respectability that are suggested by the story In the final line of the story, the mother asks her daughter if she will really just turn out to be a woman whom the baker won't let near the bread, implying that only women who are socially respected will be allowed such graces. 

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The bulk of the advice offered by the speaker, presumably a mother to her daughter, has to do with social convention, propriety, and her sexuality.  The mother outlines the standards for behavior in ways that are both somewhat demeaning as well as conflicting.  The daughter is instructed regarding household responsibilities: laundry, setting the table, hemming, ironing, cooking, sweeping, and the like.  She is also given detailed instruction on "how to love a man" and what to do if that doesn't work.  There is no discussion of how to take care of herself (in a way that would be for herself and not simply to meet social expectations), how to love herself, what she ought to expect from a man, and so forth.  The needs of everyone around her are placed ahead of her own needs and wants, and the latter are never mentioned.  This "girl" is taught how to become self-effacing, how to dissolve her own identity and any sense of who she feels herself to be, in order to be socially appropriate.

Further, her mother frequently mentions her concern that the daughter is "bent on becoming" a "slut."  On the other hand, as I've already mentioned, she advises her daughter on "how to love a man" and what to do if that advice doesn't work.  In other words, she makes it seem as though the daughter should be both virginal and desirable, oblivious to her own sexuality and yet knowledgeable about the act of sex so that she can please her partner.  Such conflicting advice is confusing, certainly, and sexist too.  The daughter's pleasure should be as important as her partner's, but her mother never tells her how to achieve that pleasure or, even, that such a thing—her own sexual pleasure—can exist.   The mother's concern with policing her daughter's sexuality, and even behaviors that could be perceived as vaguely sexual (like squatting), indicates how women, their identities, and their pleasure are devalued in these characters' society.

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megaaa | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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jamica kincaid suffered a lot during her lif with her own mother so she feels some kind of oppression .the characters are unidentified as an attempet from kincaid to universalize her subject. As many girls face this kind of oppression nearly every day.so the feminist prospective is very clear in this literary word as jamaca wants to defend womenly wrights in her own way of portraing her own life as a littele girl who is oppressed by her own mother as all the orders are for maid not for an independent woman.