Posts tagged ‘gender’

September 2, 2014

When the daugther of the sea rises up to the air…

But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.

Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is a beautiful tale of love and sacrifice. I guess many will disagree with me but I always thought that there was something very empowering in the little mermaid’s struggle to be with her prince.

There is a tendency I observe in society that either puts women on a pedestal or debases them to the point of elimination. It is clear in either scenario that the woman is not considered a human-being, let alone one that is equal to the man. We are all familiar with the second scenario from the different kinds of violence all women suffer on a daily basis. But in the first scenario, the woman is claimed to be well-respected. This might be one of the greatest delusions of society. Women are loved, hated, praised, shamed, adored, etc. but they are not respected. Respect is reserved for man only. Those who claim great respect for women often merely regard them as a precious object to be admired, possessed and enjoyed. The woman is not even granted the benefit of the doubt that she might have an opinion and feelings of her own. Consequently, she is not given any choices. She doesn’t have a voice.

In the tale, the little mermaid saves the prince’s life in a storm that breaks out on the sea. How often do we come across a female assuming an active role and saving a male’s life in fiction? Later she decides to abandon her life under the sea to follow her heart. She strikes a deal with the sea witch to have legs in return for her beautiful voice. She is to suffer with each step she takes as she walks on land but she will be able to dance and glide more gracefully than anyone. So the minute she loses her voice, the tables are turned. Only the reader knows the lengths the little mermaid has gone to earn her prince’s love. The prince is enthralled by her beauty and overwhelmed by her devotion. But that’s it. It doesn’t occur to him to find out about her mind or her feelings.

But still it is refreshing to read a love story ending in tears (actually it doesn’t end with tears but I won’t get into the immortal soul bit) where the heroine gives up everything and yet can’t be with her prince rather than a love story with a happy ending where the hero gets to be with the princess who does nothing but exist like an empty shell.

November 1, 2012

Being a man in a man’s world

Mary Balogh’s More Than A Mistress just didn’t work for me. I don’t think I’ll read Mary Balogh anymore or I’ll have to be really desperate because I have Ferdinand’s story (No Man’s Mistress) too as this is a “two novels in one volume” book. Anyway, the plot wasn’t that interesting and her characters didn’t grow on me. You know the latter matters more for me. The conflict didn’t constitute a dilemma unlike in Sherry Thomas’ Private Arrangements. Jocelyn and Jane’s incessant bickering towards the end didn’t help me either. And I noticed that I don’t like Balogh’s Hollywood sort of endings where the hero and the heroine are surrounded by a crowd in awe of their love while they just beam at each other and in this case waltz and share a scandalous kiss in public. Also Balogh’s sensuality rate is Warm whereas I would prefer Hot, though in this case this is the least of my concerns.

The only bits I liked were the ones with Jocelyn and Jane’s den. It was adorable how they spent time in each other’s company in a very domestic way, which included reading Mansfield Park!!! Fictional characters reading real fiction! 9GAG had a meme for this but for TV series instead of books: “That awesome moment when you favorite series make a reference to your other favorite series” or something like that. Except here More Than A Mistress is certainly not my favorite piece of fiction.

Though it’s worthy to mention the books criticism of masculinity stripped off of any regard for human emotions. Jocelyn shares a private (a very private) memory with Jane. It is so horribly disgusting that I can’t bring myself to repeat it here. But anyway, this horrible scheme that was intended to turn him into a man when he was sixteen simply kills the human side of Jocelyn.

You are yourself. You were a sensitive, artistic, romantic boy, who had been repressed and was finally cruelly seduced. That is all, Jocelyn. You have allowed your life to be stunted by those events. But there is much life left to you. Forgive yourself.

After this Jocelyn finds himself weeping in Jane’s arms. Now, does that make him emasculated?

friend of mine, who’s from the US, once told me that he had a male friend who was an activist campaigning against society’s pressure on men to be emotionless. It was something I had never heard or considered before. I felt like I had discovered the atom or something. It was a revelation for me. And after that day I started pitying men for they are not so better off than women after all…

Just as society has certain demeaning expectations of women such as being quiet, not too clever, motherly, ladylike and passive, the same goes for men too. They are considered man if they have a good job, an obedient wife, a son and a commanding, strict posture which must at all times be devoid of any emotion. “Men don’t cry…” How many times a movie or book has included this particular line in every living language? Personally, I love men who cry which makes me even more partial to anime (*cough* Rose of Versailles *cough*) because it shows crying men while still managing to make female fans swoon over their virility.

And of course this post calls for this piece of news (click here for the English version) on a certain initiative entitled “We Are Not Men” which emerged after the rape and murder of the artist and peace promoter Pippa Bacca back in 2008. This particular initiative is still and will always be very memorable to me.