Constructing Woman’s Speech, Sound Film, Rain (1932)
by Andrea Elizabeth
Halfway through chapter 3 of Echo and Narcissus (click here for the previous post in this series). Woman as disruption is the new item of negative stereotypes. This is displayed by a native woman clumsily falling in the mud, proper women fiddling through their purses for their passports, and then speaking in high, confused voices. Sadie, the prostitute, is introduced as stylishly distracting. I’ll interject that she is introduced as alpha, and actually wins the first battle with the competing alpha, puritan Davidson. But then his wife states afterward that she pities her for the coming reprisal.
Again, I think the blaming of a patriarchal system misses the boat. This implies that every man is automatically dominant (whether by innate superiority or privilege) over every woman. There are not only notable exceptions throughout history, such as the Queen of Sheba, Queen Elizabeth, Madam Curie, etc, but everyday examples of rejected men and sought after women who may be pestered by them. It is true that a patriarchal system may foster and groom men, and that women may have to work harder than the men to unseat them, if that be the goal. What I object to is an oversimplistic stance of 100% victimization, self-pity and vilification.
Hierarchies exist everywhere. There are power struggles and capitulations in every variable in life. There are weak men and strong women, superior male cooks to superior female engineers, superior women planners to superior male tailors. Granted that this is more common now than when people played more into stereotypes. But hierarchies do not only exist between men and women. Aside: black people have missed some points by neglecting that racism occurs to other groups too. It happens also between adults and children. Yes there is a more defined hierarchy of responsible rolls here, but children do have valid points to be made and listened to. It happens between people and animals, alpha animals to beta animals, and people and nature.
Traditionally beta people and things have been taught to surrender their identities to the alpha. This is indeed tyrannical. Sadie wields her power mercilessly over “the boys”. Davidson is determined to unseat her, and he eventually does, but then can’t live with himself because it was through unPuritanical sexual means, not because it was against her will. Men get their way through brute force, women through tempting men. Another aside: I didn’t really like how the Deuterocanonical Judith seduced the evil tyrannical king. Brute force is easier and can overcome a person’s will more quickly than the time it takes to seduce, if that was truly against the person’s will. But you could say that Davidson was under Sadie’s power from the first glance. It just didn’t go the way she would have chosen. This speaks more to their conflicting attitudes about sex. His Puritanical vilification of it, and her exploitation of it. There is an excuse made that it is all some women had to resort to. Her only power. This may also be due to past patriarchal prejudices.
But past peoples viewed other races, animals, and the lands the same way: as pesky, less-than, expendable resources to be completely dominated by the strong. I think it was Derrida who sought to truly upend this system. Each thing has equal value. But he had to get rid of God, I suppose, in order to remove anything innately superior. Maybe he had to get rid of the tyrannical, Puritanical western God, and he didn’t know the Eastern, kindler, gentler, humbler, more self-effacing God. The one who didn’t regard equality with his own self as something to be grasped. Who became man so that man could become god.