More on feminism

by Andrea Elizabeth

The last part of Chapter 2 (see context here) of Amy Lawrence’s Echo and Narcissus deals with the silent version of the story of Maugham’s Sadie Thompson. Oddly, this version gives Sadie a bit more of a voice than Maugham did:

“After Sadie receives the letter from the governor telling her she must return to San Francisco, she and O’Hara run into Reverend Davidson (here “Mr.” Davidson as described above). Sadie, furious, begins to curse him and tell him off. In the story Sadie becomes so frustrated, “she gave an inarticulate cry of rage and flung out of the room” (Maugham 1967, p. 439). In the play, this confrontation becomes a major scene, with thirteen dialogue exchanges covering three pages. The silent film maintains the position and prominence of the scene while retaining only four lines of dialogue in a scene that runs for about three minutes. This is all the more striking because one of the subjects of the scene is language itself, specifically Sadie’s “bad” language, or profanity.”

In this film, Sadie’s confrontation is forceful, and Davidson retreats physically, but does not retreat behind the scenes with the officials to get her deported. He does not want to deal with her. I think the feminists like that Sadie has her say more fully, which is given to her by the play adapters mentioned in a previous post. But they think the message is mixed by O’Hara eventually putting his hand over her mouth and dragging her away. This reduces her confrontation to the comic.

Side note – earlier I read in this book, maybe my initial reading of chapter 5, that women’s voices (up to the 1950’s) were popular and accepted when they were singing. This reminds me of how popular black entertainers were during the 1920’s. And how Nat King Cole was later one of the most popular recording voices, but the tv networks pulled his show because they couldn’t get companies to sponsor it with commercials. They’re fine as entertainment acts, but not as authoritative hosts, apparently.

Back to feminism being a sexist term. The problem is oppression, intimidation, and control. This can happen to anyone. I think perhaps this occurs when there is a glorification of the alpha male. And perhaps this glorification is aided and abetted by “God alone” theology, survival of the fittest, and Platonic idealism.

The first presupposes God as a fearsome tyrant who will toast anyone who defies him. It may especially be adopted by white men who consider themselves God’s proxy representative. White, because of the way western civilization ascended and dominated. Or maybe more the Norse/Germanic survival of the fittest. I’m not saying that’s nothing. But Eastern theology has a more humble God who is all powerful, but not as opportunistic about it. The Western mindset is “because I can” – until I can’t anymore. The Eastern is more about “what do you need?”. I wonder if Platonic idealism, brought northwest by the conquering Romans/Greek tempered brutal Norse survival of the fittest? Ideas vs. strength were able to win out through the ascendancy of rhetoric. This brought about a more reasoned hegemony of what is good for the community, which was still believed to be male dominance.

Still, the presuppositions beginning in the play adaptatin of Rain, is that Sadie Thompson’s problems will be solved if she marries someone kind of like her, but who has honorable middle-class marriage in mind. She chooses O’Hara as a way to avoid deportation to jail for prostitution, not because she loves him. This is a middle solution, but not the highest one. Love is not nothing. Addiction to attention, or even a feminine hegemony exploiting the desires of men, is not instantly solved by marriage. If it does, it is because she has been so convinced that she will not survive if she strays again. This is fear. Again, I don’t deny the utilitarian power of fear amongst lower functioning people. To say that some types of people are only capable of being managed this way because of low functionability is the issue I have, and is why I think feminism is too sexist a term. Stunted growth and stunting means don’t just happen to women or people of a certain color. This can be somewhat applied to childrearing too.

I think feminists go wrong when they try to win on a man’s predetermined playing field. They can develop hegemonic language that seeks to dominate and control as well. They can become bullies and opportunists too. It’s kind of funny and satisfying when Batman says, “so that’s how that feels”. But two wrongs don’t make a right. And maybe it’s an effective/utilitarian teaching tool, but still. It shouldn’t be glorified for more than it is: the strong exploiting the (perhaps situationally) vulnerable. It’s a fallen system. And maybe it’s all we have until we someday grow past it. Maybe in heaven. But I don’t see modernism with it’s loosening of some of the established hegemonies as completely corrupt.

But should the male-dominated priesthood be overturned? An argument for “no” could be that men do represent God and women mankind; and God, however self-effacing and generously kenotic in sparing nothing of his deity from us, still deserves pre-eminence and honor. But should the priest consider himself as nothing but a placeholder in comparison with his “flock”? Maybe he is the chosen vessel, but can’t grace emanate from lowly sheep too? I wonder if the priesthood is the only justifiable “men only” club left.

Still, it makes me sad that newly baptized women are left outside the alter, and any male person and boy baby is allowed in. This isn’t isn’t done to announce who is qualified to the priesthood or even alter servers, because perhaps some of the men aren’t eligible either. And it makes me sad that women aren’t allowed on Mt. Athos. I’m not convinced this is justified nor that it isn’t based on ancient discrimination. But picketing and making a stink is obnoxious, so I don’t stay up late at night trying to reverse it. Nor do I think salvation is dependent on visiting those two places.

I wont go into utilitarian and anatomic reasons and differences in the male and female essence that can predispose men and women to certain territories. It is sort of like racial profiling and saves time and energy when certain tendencies are largely enough, if not universally, true. Individual mileage may, and probably will vary, however.