Conclusion Considering New Courses or Stoking Fire
What is clear in the narratives of middle-class women is that insofar as they reproduce these hegemonic codes, they also reconstitute their nationally based gender, class, and racial categories and heterosexual normativity. This process has been obscured by a scholarship that does not question the effects of these modernist categories in women’s lives. Although the scholarship has been largely directed at challenging the constraints in women’s lives, this has been at the cost of obscuring how categories of nationalisms, womanhood, sexuality, race, and class are mutually constitutive and reproduced in lived practice. These narratives help shed light on the ways in which lived practices help sustain the coherence of these categories. To that extent, these narratives also fill in the gaps in critical feminist scholarship that is focused on literary and abstract textual analyses. The narratives highlight
aspects of womanhood related to sexed bodies, heterosexuality, and gender roles-marriage and motherhood. These narratives establish the importance of not understanding gender as merely the cultural overlay upon the biological, dual-sexed body. On the contrary, the sexed body presents a fundamental means through which these women are subjected to hegemonic codes at crucial points in their lives. The seemingly unquestionable naturalness of the sexed body helps normalize and reinforce social mandates related to heterosexuality and womanhood. Instead of the use of force, this subjection relies on their consent and cooperation. But, women’s narratives also provide crucial insights into how these discourses may be disrupted. The mundane acts related to menstruation, sexual aggression, heterosexuality, marriage, and motherhood become political battlegrounds. Not only do these lived practices present ways of challenging the effects of normalization and regulation in women’s lives, but of undermining the stability of categories of womanhood, nationalism, race, sexuality, and class.