Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Kiran Desai “The Sermon in the Guava Tree”: harsh expectations for women

This short story was entertaining, I really did enjoy it! I did however, cringe at all of the statements made about women in it, especially the long list of what the ideal wife is. “This girl should keep her eyes lowered and, because she is embarrassed and shy, her head bowed, as well. Nobody wants a girl who stares people right in the face with big froggy eyes. She should be fair-complexioned, but if she is dark the dowry must include at least one of the following items: A television set, a refrigerator, a Godrej brand steel cupboard.” It rambles about all these things the bride must do, but the one thing he said that really made my jaw drop other than the fair complexion is “This girl should have passed all her examinations in the first division. But will listen respectfully as you lecture her on various subjects you yourself failed in secondary school.” This short story shows the personality and looks that a woman must have and surprisingly, most of these are similar to America’s expectations of women. Looking at the book as a whole, it shows the idea that women must be perfect, not too dark and not too light, must know things but still listen to men, even if they obviously do not know what they’re talking about. It's all about the woman being perfect, never about the man and how he's literally up in a tree, doing nothing. They’re still worried about the womans worth, and even if she was born with a darker complexion, the son’s family is expected to get more as if being darker-skinned makes a woman less valuable. It was a harsh reality to read, knowing that these impossible and ridiculous expectations are put on women all around the world. According to Paula Davis-Laack,

“We live in a world that teaches girls to judge their worth based on looks rather than abilities. In addition, girls get the mixed message that they should be themselves but be perfect too. “ Desai uses these drastic expectations to shed light on the problem of marriage, but also on the problem of how women are viewed. When talking about women, they’re either talking about them being overemotional, upset, or obsessing about clothing. The main thing Desai is getting at in this part of the short story though is that, what the boy does doesn't matter. The girl, however must be absolutely perfect or you basically have to beg to give her away to be married. According to Joe McCarthy, “Women who can’t pay an expected dowry price or who are unable to make additional payments in the future are often subject to harassment and abuse. Other times, husbands or in-laws throw acid on a woman or set her on fire.” Girls parents should not be prideful, but the boys should. “This, after all, is the boy’s family. They’re entitled to their sense of pride.” Desai did a great job in making my inner feminist feel anger towards the expectations about women in this. This shows a lot about how ridiculous and tedious our expectations of women are around the world. The only thing we can do to change it is become knowledgeable about these impossible standards and change them, let women be who they want to be.

Works Cited

Davis-Laack, Paula. “Will We Ever Let Girls Be Good Enough?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pressure-proof/201206/will-we-ever-let-girls-be-good-enough.

McCarthy, Joe. “9 Reasons Why Dowries Are Horrible for Women.” Global Citizen, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/8-reasons-dowries-are-bad-for-women/.

The Dolls Museum in Dublin by Eavan Boland: passive voices of women in history

Boland hits hard on the topic of women being passive voices in history. Her descriptions of the dolls hit hard with how many women probably felt during these times. One such example is, “The wounds are terrible. The paint is old. The cracks along the lips and on the cheeks cannot be fixed.” There are many metaphors in this, such as how lips being damaged or cracked typically mean forced silence. This represents how women’s perspective in history is a rare thing. According to Chiponda & Wassermann, “Apart from the differences in historical roles, the literature reviewed revealed that the representation of women and men in history textbooks is not nearly numerically equal, with women not represented as often as men in either text and illustrations.” Finding any writing from Greek women is almost impossible, except for Sappho. Another great example is, “The eyes are wide. They cannot address the helplessness which has lingered in the airless peace of each glass case: to have survived. To have been stronger than a moment. To be the hostages ignorance takes from time and ornament from destiny.” This hit me hard because, no matter what hardship women faced, they are still there, but are unable to tell the story of their lives. People come by to look at them only to value them on appearances, not knowing the damage they saw and survived! It has not been until recent times that women have been able to have their voices heard, but even that is a huge understatement. Regardless of our political beliefs right now, men are still making choices for women that women should be making. This all goes back to the idea that women’s voice, and the voice of minorities are silenced. Even the word minority brings on the idea that it’s the smaller voice, though that is far from the truth. Women both today and back then have been and are being silenced and expected to be perfect, which can be shown through the metaphor Boland uses, “Here they are. Cradled and cleaned, held close in the arms of their owners. Their cold hands clasped by warm hands, their faces memorized like perfect manners.” This goes back to the idea that women were basically a second rated human back then, they were owned and expected to be perfect. Part of being the perfect wife or woman was staying passive and silent, meaning their survival and their views of history were often silenced, especially their own part in helping bring the world to a better future. According to bibliographyonline, “ Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an American social activist and leading figure in the early women’s rights movement. She was a key figure in helping create the early women’s suffrage movements in the US. She was the principle author of Declaration of Sentiments in 1848.” It’s sad because she was not someone I learned about in class or in any history book ever, she helped change the world and yet we learn nothing about her in history classes. This shows that women are often silenced in history, even in the modern age.
Image result for dolls

Work Cited
Chiponda, Annie, & Wassermann, Johan. “Women in History Textbooks: What Message             Does This Send to the Youth?” Yesterday and Today, The South African Society             for History Teaching (SASHT),                           www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S2223-03862011000100006.
“Women Who Changed the World |  .” Biography Online, www.biographyonline.net/people/women-who-changed-world.html.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Heart Of Darkness: Racist or not?

This reading was the most challenging for me for many reasons. The question that's been on my mind this whole time though is what the point of this reading was. Why did Conrad write it? Of course, it shows why imperialism was awful, however the views on it being racist are mixed. Marlow states “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” I noticed that Marlow’s descriptions of white people versus black people are very important in order to answer this question. Marlow states “I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get up that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision.I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clear necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasol held in a big white hand. He was amazing and had a penholder behind his ear.” This is his idea of describing a white man, leaving the reader with the idea that this man is policed and responsible. In their culture, this can be seen as good. While his description of black people is different “Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps. Black rags were wound round their lions, and the short ends behind waggled to and fro like tails. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking.” This makes black people not only seem very different, but also depicts them like animals. Notice the symbolism of the collar and the rags looking like tails, which is intentional writing. Throughout the book Marlow describes the black people in the book as savage or other descriptors to mean animalistic. When their culture was simply different than his. This is what separates whether the reading was racist or not. It was racist because no matter what, it failed to realize the difference between cultures. Marlow is still stuck in a very black and white way of thinking. Them versus us, culturally wise. According to Stephanie Pappas, most people do actually have racist tendencies and a lot of these are actually because of the culture that one has grown up in. That however does not mean that someone can blame being racist on their culture. One has to take responsibility and change themself. Kurtz is not one to be glorified either, while he did start to interact more with the natives, he actually did become a savage. I do not mean savage in the way Marlow and the other white people were, I mean he used others for his gain and this tribe was just another way to gain what he wanted using force. Kurtz used his power over the tribe, because they thought he was a god to get what he wanted. That is what a savage is, not someone who has a different culture than you. This commonly even happens nowadays, thankfully most people don’t call others savages, but we do things like make little girls go home from school because they have their natural hair instead of spending tons of money or hours trying to get their hair into what white culture wants it to be. According to Marquaysa Battle, “Black girls are still being discriminated against for wearing their natural hair the way it grows from their heads. Not only are they asked to change their hair to fit mainstream standards, but they often have their education threatened when they refuse to conform.
From having their class sessions interrupted, to being threatened with suspension and expulsion, school officials can't seem to stop obsessing over black girls' hair.” The idea of different cultures not understanding each other is still a very common thing.  
Image result for racism 

Works cited
Battle, Marquaysa. “8 Times Schools Let Black Girls' Hair Interfere With Their Education.” Elite Daily, Elite Daily, 7 May 2019, www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/black-girls-natural-hair-racism-schools/1953497.
Pappas, Stephanie. “Culture Poisons Brain With Racism, Study Finds.” LiveScience, Purch, 2 Oct. 2011, www.livescience.com/16339-culture-racism.html.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

E.M. Forster, “The Other Boat”:A Story of Two Men Who Deserved Better

This story of two gay men made me wonder how people in 2019 would react. For something that was made in the 1900s it's about a gay interracial couple, which is something we often don’t often see in today's media. Throughout the passage I couldn't help but go back and forth throughout the reading to realize that Forster is doing a lot of foreshadowing in this book. “‘A very holy man had once told him that what nearly destroys may bring strength and can be summoned in the house of revenge.’” “‘I’ve no use for revenge’ Lionel said.” Eventually though, when he is bitten by his lover it is stated that it was sweet vengeance that Lionel was doing to the men he fought though it was actually his lover. There are many more examples of irony and foreshadowing throughout the passage. The example that is most important is, what changed Lionel to want revenge? Why was he suddenly so angry with the wounds inflicted on him by others? There are two options. First, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD could be an obvious cause of this. PTSD is very common in soldiers no matter the age. Someone who is not reading this passage very in-depth could think of this as PTSD. According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in the Vietnam War, a total of 30% veterans had PTSD at one point in their lifetime. It wouldn’t be out of the question that he might actually have it. The second idea is that whoever comes back is not actually Lionel. He has now accepted his place with the other white people. He didn’t feel passionately anymore and only thought about other people's feelings. This confliction can be caused by knowing a relationship with Cocoanut would make his life hard, but he would be living an authentic life that he wanted. Going the easy route can lead to more conflict within oneself. According to Doctor Leon Seltzer “So, within life’s untidy framework, you’re frequently obliged to choose between what hasn’t been making you happy—or may even be making you miserable but, nonetheless, is safe and free from anxiety—and what might lead to far greater satisfaction and well-being, but is hardly a sure thing. In consequence, what you may have gotten used to, however frustrating and unfulfilling, must wage battle with what might be better for you, but isn’t without worrisome uncertainties.”  So while Lionel likes Cocoanut, he does not. Lionel would never need revenge, but this new man does. This can be proven by what he says when he goes back to Cocoanut. “‘When you come back to the cabin you will not be you. Cocoa had said: ‘and was it so?’” This explains why he is doing these things, and we as the audience could even see this other person popping out when he makes racist comments about his lover to the other white people. Afterwards, he feels horrible. It is obvious that Lionel is a very conflicted person inside, maybe even troubled with what he wants, and when it comes to be a moment where what he wants matters, he makes the wrong choice. Cocoanut lived the way he wanted though, and that's probably what made him content with his choices. Even when he was dead he went against the norms of that society.  Many would and will say that their deaths mean freedom for both of them, however I disagree. Not every LGBTQ+  relationship that ends with death means freedom. The interpretation is valid, but I would argue that this is very much a tragedy. When talking about Romeo and Juliet often people call is a tragedy. Just as this story was. Even in 2019 people kill themselves because they are forced to not be authentic themselves. This is not freedom, this is a cage that always ends in death. If love always ends with death then it is not freedom. Freedom means choices, not tragic death. 
Image result for lgbtq

Works Cited
“National Center for PTSD.” PTSD, 24 July 2018, www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_veterans.asp.
Seltzer , Leon. “What Causes You Inner Turmoil?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,

 www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201504/what-causes-you-inner-            turmoil.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Misery of War: Glory of Women by Sassoon

This whole sonnet is very ironic, even making this a sonnet is ironic. Sonnets are typically connected with love. This one has something to do with bad love, but not anything to do with actual love. This is the toxic love of nationalism, not love for someone else, nor was it in a positive light. This poem is very accusing, the first line saying “You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave, or wounded in a mentionable place.” This sets up the idea of you, and us. You being people, not just women that glorify the idea of men being heros of war, while us is the soldiers fighting. throughout the sonnet, the idea of men in the army being a decoration for women, and how in love with the idea women are that men are out there fighting. Yet Sassoon still keeps that idea that war is disgraceful and is not something to glorify. “You worship decorations; you believe that chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.” The sonnet seems to show the positive feelings that women felt from the war, glorifying the horror that happens on the battlefield, but then seems to bring them back to the reality of what war is actually like. The last line being the most powerful line in this sonnet. “O German mother dreaming by the fire, while you are knitting socks to send your son his face is trodden deeper in the mud.” This shows the two sides of what is happening currently in the sonnet. On the women's side, it is pleasant and glorifying those men fighting the ‘good’ fight. For the men though, it is brutal and awful. The son in the mud could easily be interpreted as dead, and this can mean that the glory and effort women are putting forth is not saving these men’s lives. They are all suffering and no one’s there to help them. When I read that last line I was deeply disturbed, it gives you a sense of sadness and maybe even hopelessness. Sassoon is trying to make people feel how the men feel, and did pretty well to do that. Showing both sides of the war, and showing that men and kids are dying. According to Michael Scott “World War One was one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of the human race, in which over 16 million people died. The total number of both civilian and military casualties is estimated at around 37 million people. Glorifying people killing each other is a main core problem, it makes women complicit with the war. It is also interesting to mention that in the sonnet we assume that it is about British women, and then at the end it switches to German mothers. This is suppose to show the contrast between glorizing war for British women versus the German mother who does not seem to be glorifying the men, she just assumably misses her son who is probably or will end up dead. According to Griffiths, “the sudden turn to the presentation of a German mother at home is surprising for the reader, after the focus on the insensitivity and moral complicity of British women in the war. In some ways she is presented more sympathetically than British women: her “dreaming”, because not elaborated on, doesn’t seem as immediately corrupt as that of British women.” As stated previously, it brings everyone back to reality that war is not a goal, it is not something to glorify. At the end of the day, both ends end up having people die who have families and lives. It was and never should be something to romanticize.    
Image result for soldier world war 1

Work Cited
Griffiths, G. M. “Glory of Women – Siegfried Sassoon.” Move Him Into The Sun, 13 Nov. 2011, movehimintothesun.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/glory-of-women-siegfried-sassoon/.
“How Many People Died in WW1?” History, 15 Nov. 2018, www.historyonthenet.com/how-many-people-died-in-ww1.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Psychology? Manly Friendship?

When reading this, I couldn’t help but constantly think about a few things. The first thing I thought of was desire, and how that played a role in Jekyll. Desire is what led him to make the potion and drink it.”I knew well that I risked death; for any drug that so potently controlled and shook the very fortress of identity. But the temptation of a discovery long since prepare my tincture.” Desire was the core problem that caused this situation. There is more to the story than just man versus nature, this passage is discussing the problem with too much desire. Many things in this story talk about Jekyll being the good and Hyde being the bad, at the end though I was left with the thought that all humans are both good and bad. Those two things naturally belong to people, and it's how we act and how much bad we let out that matters. Trying to change that as Jekyll did caused imbalance, and often when people do more bad things they are even more tempted to do worse. This could be why Hyde eventually took over Jekyll. “The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed.” This is because he spent all his life being a pretty good man, but that bad side will get stronger the more you let it out. It makes sense that the fear that is written into this passage was one of man versus nature. It’s that fear that we all have some secret, or some bad side of us that is just asking to come out. It's like when someone wins something instead of you, we all have that feeling of despise towards that person, and feeding it would make it worse. This is exactly what Jekyll did. “I could enter on that of Edward Hyde without pecuniary loss. And thus fortified, as I supposed, on every side, I began to profit by the strange immunities of my position.” In this case, internally, he has been both man and nature all along. Feeding that nature caused him to become so much worse, to the point of murdering someone. According to Gregory Jantz who has written many books on this subject states “What is damaging is the denial of one aspect of our personality when we are functioning under another. When we're calm, we cannot deny we get angry. When we're happy, we cannot deny we get sad. When we're patient, we cannot deny we get impatient. When we deny certain aspects of our personality is taken to the extreme, we experience fragmentation.”
 What is very interesting though is the lack of women in this passage. I spent a great deal of time thinking about this. There are many points to this reading, but one I hadn’t picked up until recently is the interesting bond between men. Mr. Utterson seems like a very concerned friend who only wanted the best for Jekyll, going as far as damaging Jekyll’s property to make sure he was ok. Mr. Utterson uses that code of silence that connects men to make sure that Jekyll stays out of danger when he finds out that Jekyll doesn’t want anything to do with Mr. Hyde anymore. Friendships like this between men are important to see, even now in 2019. According to Timothy Wegner, “The amount of hidden social pressure that exists on how a man should interact and be in friendship may be one of the primary sources in why many young and old men do not have deep relationships with other men.” So seeing this is great representation for male friendship. Often nowadays we don’t see that level of care of men with other men, and I was delighted to realize how sweet they were to each other.
Image result for dr jekyll and mr hyde
Work Cited
“Jekyll In Public, Hyde at Home? Our Fragmented Selves.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201307/jekyll-in-public-hyde-home-our-fragmented-selves.
Wenger, Timothy. “Male Friendships, Their Importance, and How to Develop Them.” The Man Effect, The Man Effect, 29 Apr. 2018, themaneffect.com/thejourney/male-friendships-their-importance-and-how-to-develop-them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

“Maids, not you my mind doth change” by Michael Field (K. Bradley & E. Cooper):A Poem about Gender Roles

This poem has a lot of sapphic feeling to it, which is what the two authors were going for. I find it interesting how they state their feelings about men. They state “Men I defy, allure, estrange, prostrate, make bond or free” (Lines 2-3) This shows the role reversal they have for men. In most heterosexual relationships in the Victorian era the man was the dominating person. The relationship was dependent on him and often the woman was taught to be ‘helpless’ without him. According to victorian-era, “The patriarchal system was the norm and women usually led a more secluded, private life. Men, on the other hand, possessed all kinds of freedom. The man was naturally the head of the family and the guardian of family members.” These lines show the opposite though. They defy men, they manipulate men, and they turn the men to the submissive side of the relationship. They do this without changing their own gender to man, they are still women and they are dominant. In this poem, there is a lot of contrast from heterosexual relationships to lesbian relationships. When talking about women, the authors make you feel soft and sweet. “To you I sing my love’s refrain; between us is no thought of pain, peril, satiety.” (Lines 5-7) This shows that when two women are together, they are truly free, they have no feelings of pain or peril. With heterosexual relationships though, Bradley and Cooper state that “Soon odth a lover’s patience tire, but ye to mainfold desire can yield response, ye know.” (lines 8-10) In the Victorian era, it seems that women were trapped to become married to men because the law made it impossible for women to make any money independently. Olga Zeltser states “Because society prevented women from making their own living, there was an inescapable dependence upon men’s income.” This seems to show the struggle of loving another woman in a society that does not agree with that. It shows that the love of two women in this world they created is loving and soft, while the love of a man and a woman isn’t so loving as it’s filled with sexual desire and the idea of falling out of love. To these women, a lesbian relationship seems so much better because they like each other and they are as free as can be. There is no dominating figure. This brings on the idea that love is much more than roles and who works or who cooks, it’s a deep feeling of freedom when you are together. This deepens the question of how love was perceived back in the victorian times. There were heterosexual couples that loved each other, but how many people got married to each other because they thought that getting married was the correct thing to do? Would they have considered that to be love back then? I would argue that comparing that kind of love to love in 2019, that kind of love isn’t actually love. It is just filling a role that needed to be filled and is seen as doing your ‘duty’. Love is much deeper than duty, and that’s what the poem is ultimately about. Both women adore each other and see love as love, and letting go of the heterosexual ideals that had been forced upon them let them have that freedom. The freedom to love the person you really do love.
Image result for sapphic arts

Work Cited
“Gender Roles of Victorian Era for Men and Women.” Victorian Era Life in England. Victorians Society & Daily Life, victorian-era.org/gender-roles-of-victorian-era.html.
Zeltser, Olga. “Victorian Women: The Gender of Oppression .” Historical Analysis: Women as               the "the Sex" During the Victorian Era,                                                                                    webpage.pace.edu/nreagin/tempmotherhood/fall2003/3/HisPage.html.