What do women want? Writing the female self
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- Master's theses (HF-IKS) 
Historically, the concept of woman has varied and changed in keeping with the ruling ideology of the time, and this has caused a number of challenges for women. This thesis is a study of how the narrative of the (female) self is expressed in writing and how women attempt to discover their own identity, in concord or in conflict with the dominant ideology in their contemporary society. Incorporating texts from three different centuries, it seeks to investigate whether the dominant ideology manifests itself in writing and if it is evident also in writings by women in our contemporary society. The textual framework is Florence Nightingale’s Cassandra (1929), followed by Virginia Woolf's A Room of One’s Own (1928) and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963). Finally, to compare these texts to our contemporary environment, the thesis will conduct an investigation of Caitlin Moran's How To Be a Woman (2011). Throughout the 150 years that comprise the time span between the main texts to be studied this thesis, the concept of woman has changed immensely. In the nineteenth century, the feminine ideal centred on the family, motherhood and respectability. Consequently, the ideal woman limited or non-existent responsibilities in relation to society as a whole had little or no connection to a functional or responsible role in society. Around the turn of the century, the early women rights movement had achieved important results and women were less restricted by the ideology of femininity found in the Victorian Period. However, the newfound freedom of women became a threat to men and there were still challenges to overcome. During the Second World War, women participated to a great extent within the workforce, however, when the soldiers returned from war, they wanted their jobs back. Thus, in the 1950s the emancipation of women stagnated and most women returned to the domestic sphere and resumed the role of wife and mother that resembled the Victorian ideal. Through the second wave of feminism, this ideal was challenged and in contemporary society the stereotypical role reserved for women is gradually dissolving and women are liberated and free to do what they want. Yet, while women are gaining ground within education, politics and the work force, there are still images of woman that cause concern. Most evident is the sexualized image that is vividly projected through the mass-media. This thesis investigates how Nightingale, Woolf, Friedan and Moran challenge the ideology in their respective societies and attempt to reformulate what it means to be a woman. This is why their texts provide an understanding of how ideology both affects women and is challenged by women’s writing.
Master's thesis in Literacy studies