submission

by Andrea Elizabeth

finished chapter three of Echo and Narcissus. Previous post. If women’s voices have been sometimes effectively silenced, then speaking is not exactly essential to life as women have survived and found happiness. I think feminists get confused when they find burka’d women giggling with each other behind their hands. And slaves finding time to dance and sing. And prisoners telling jokes. Life must not depend on free choices. At least not free choice of exterior circumstance.

Another aspect of female silence is passive acquiescence to male authority. Sadie finally gives in to Davidson and converts to Christianity. Here’s Ms. Lawrence’s commentary:

“At every step, the woman’s speech is reified, sound, image, and narrative joining forces to make her speak her own “weakness” and “passivity”—to make her give voice to her own exclusion. The synchronized long take, at first so equitable, encompasses Sadie within a man’s world—one she can struggle against, but with which she must ultimately come to terms.

In Rain , the transcendent voice is explicitly male. The “voice of God” effect associated with the voice-over is linked directly to a male spokesman for God and religion, through a standardized prayer (to the Father). Sadie’s refusal of Davidson’s language is again limited, not only by her later acceptance of it, but by her ultimate acquiescence to O’Hara’s language and to marriage. “Her” language of vulgar metaphor and carnivalesque disdain is portrayed as ineffectual and self-defeating. However as Sadie’s existence is one with her resistance, when her verbal resistance is taken from her by the text’s undermining of her language, any concept of Sadie’s true “self” seems helplessly idealistic.”

Female submission to the authoritarian male is vilified here. I am reminded of St. Silouan referring to his own soul as female. Even men submitting to God is put in feminine to masculine terms. Surrender in Sadie’s context is associated with mindlessness, imprisonment, and the overcoming of individual personhood and identity. I do not agree that Sadie’s initial conversion was of this nature. Yes, Davidson’s voice (in the 1953 version that I saw) is hypnotic, but it could also be categorized as soothing and peace inducing. She was running from her past, which meant that it was unpleasant. She was not sold on her life which is why she was “available”. If a person rejects their own life to this extent, what authentic voice do they have? None except a negative confession.

 Now what to do when the converter falls worse than she did? And her new savior becomes the secular middle class, generously accepting marriage proposer. One could see how she would reject religion right after she had accepted it. May God have mercy on her soul.

I understand these atheist arguments, but I’ve always been more like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Perhaps this is because I do not totally vilify submission. Isn’t there pleasure and peace in being awed, for instance? Awe is a submissive posture. I do think I have trouble submitting to maleness in general, though. I will be awed by accomplishment, but I can’t completely surrender to a fallen person. Too risky. I surrender when I’m convinced that their particular point in that moment is right and good.

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