Sunday, May 13, 2012

Shakespeare and Misogyny

          Throughout history, men have felt the need and compulsion to keep women in a state of obedience and expectations. In the modern age, women have proven to be just as qualified as men in many aspects of life, but traces of misogyny still remain despite the progress that has been made. During Shakespeare's time, the mocking and lack of respect for women was much more prevalent than it is in the twenty-first century. Both of Shakespeare's plays Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew provide clear examples of misogyny during Shakespeare's time period. After reading through these two plays, it's interesting to think  about how much society has changed for women and in some ways hasn't.

          During the play of Hamlet, one particular scene illustrates the contempt and frustration men seemed to have had towards women in Shakespeare's time. In the beginning of Hamlet, it is quite well known by most characters that Hamlet and Ophelia are involved in an intimate relationship. After the Hamlet encounters the ghost of his late father, he purposely begins to act crazy and contemplates the purpose of life and humanity in general. Being worried for him, Ophelia seeks out Hamlet and questions his odd change in behavior, but is only rewarded with a harsh lashing of words. "God hath given you one face and you make yourselves another. You jig, you amble, and you lisp, you nickname God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance"(Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1, Lines 137-140). This outburst clearly defines the true feelings that Hamlet and arguably Shakespeare had towards women along with the rest of society at that time. Even in the bible(which was taken much more seriously then than it is now) it was clearly stated what roles women were supposed to live by.

          Compared to Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew focuses much more on the expectations of women in Shakespeare's society. The story focuses primarily on a hot tempered and ferocious woman named Katherine whose attitude and behavior is ultimately subdued by her future husband Pertuchio. In many ways, Katherine represents all the qualities that women were not supposed to have during Shakespeare's time while her sister Bianca is modest, quiet, and delicate flower all women were expected to be. After a variety of harsh and unorthodox methods, Pertuchio is able to tame the shrew known as Katherine into a satisfactory and submissive state. "She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, my household stuff, my field, my barn, my horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing"(The Taming of the Shrew, Act 3 Scene 3, Lines 101-103). The mind set that women are little more than property to their husband or any man is made quite clear by Pertuchio. A women with Katherine's attitude and spirit had no place during Shakespeare's time and had only two options: become tamed or die miserable, old, and alone.

          While it's clear that there was a high level of misogyny in Shakespeare's time, there are still clear traces of it in our society as well. One of the most obvious examples is how women are portrayed by the mainstream media. In today's day and age, women tend to be exploited as sex symbols and society has taken a greater value to a woman's appearance than how intelligent or well meaning they are. However, there have been some massive improvements within the last fifty years in America at least. Women are now able to live independently without dependence on anyone and can hold high positions in the government as well as run multi-million dollar companies. It's a mixed bag, but misogyny is nowhere near as prevalent in our time than it was in Shakespeare's.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sunthesizing Genocides and Understanding Them

          It seems that whenever there has been mass murders of groups of people throughout history, all seem to follow the same patterns or steps. The core of why these genocides happen in the first place seems to be after years of disputes and tensions between two or multiple groups. The differences could be about nationality, religious beliefs, political stipulations, or social backgrounds. Genocides that have happened in Darfur, Serbia, China, and various other places around the world are strikingly similar to the underlying causes of the Holocaust during World War II. Like the Nazis, the governments who were in power post Holocaust genocides used strikingly similar methods and propaganda to build support for their causes. I think it's safe to say that humanity has not learned enough from the Holocaust to prevent future genocides or even stop them before it's too late.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Rwandan Genocide

          Despite the harsh lessons humanity has learned from the Holocaust, the world has remained an excessively dangerous place to live. The mass murder of an entire ethnic group has continued in various places such as Serbia, Darfur, Rwanda, and other chaotic nations. The catastrophe began in 1994 and revolved around the never ending strife between Rwanda's Hutu majority and Tutsi minority. Once the killings came to an end, 800,000 Rwandans had been killed in the span of 100 days.

          Years before the Rwandan genocide took place, tensions between the Hutus and Tutsi had been building up for decades. During Rwanda's time as a colony for Belgium,  the Belgians used identity cards to separate the different ethnic groups and considered the Tutsis superior over the Hutus. Under Belgium's colonization, the Tutsis were favored for better education, living standards, and more lucrative job opportunities. Rwanda's society would remain in this state until 1962 when Rwanda claimed its independence from Belgium and leaving a Tutsi minority ruling over the Hutu majority. With all the years of resentment and disdain towards the Tutsis built up, the Hutus immediately took power and blamed the Tutsi for all the misfortunes that would plague Rwanda in the years to follow. In a way, this situation is similar to the Nazis using the Jews as scapegoats for the Germany's humiliation and woes after World War I.

          The event that finally triggered the widespread of violence was assassination of former Rwandan president Habyarimana who was a Hutu. As always in Rwanada, the Tutsi were blamed for the incident. The current presdient of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was blamed for the killing due to his previous involvement in the rebel Tutsi group known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Immediately after the assassination, much of the Hutu began to hunt down the Tutsi who they felt were responsible for the death of president Habyarimana. The Hutus in political power used the radio to broadcast anti-Tutsi propoganda and encouraged the Hutu majority to participate in genocide. Much like the Nazis, the Hutu run government used hatred and fear to manipulate the majority of Rwandans into serving their own agenda.

          During the genocide in Rwanda, the international community was completely aware of the slaughter, but failed to take action to end the bloodshed. The more powerful nations of the world refused to acknowledge that there was a genocide happening in Rwanda and stalled for weeks in fear of having to intervene. Even though footage of the carnage had been leaked all over the world, the major powers of the world still chose not to help the dwindling Tutsi.  Particularly, American politicians refused to even use the "g-word" and avoided any talks involving the genocide in Rwanda. This is strangely similar to how countries outside of Europe during World War II knew about the Nazis' extermination of the Jews, but chose not to help at first.

          In a few ways, the genocide in Rwanda is comparable to the Holocaust. Both genocides involved the extermination of minorities and political parties that used fear and propaganda to win the majority over to their agendas. At the same time, while 800,000 is a staggering number of victims, but not as atrocious as over six million victims. Regardless of the numbers, humanity has obviously not learned enough from the Holocaust to prevent the genocides that have happened after its legacy.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Church and State

          Intolerance, scrutiny, and theocratic society all run rampant in The Crucible by Arthur Miller. In retaliation to the outrageous accusations of people being communists without any evidence, Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy was the figurehead of the Red Scare at its height. Similar to McCarthy and his followers, Miller expresses his distain towards McCarthy's fear mongering by using the setting of Salem, Massachusetts during the early 1600s to show that McCarthy's hunt for communists were no different than the witch hunts committed back more than three centuries ago. After reading through The Crucible, I was able to pull more ideas on how to make comparisons to the Church's rule in the past while also borrowing some characteristics from certain characters.
          During the time period of The Crucible, the Church spread its influence in all aspects of life and everyone was deemed either in support or against the Church. A completely black and white outlook with no room for grey areas. If you obeyed all the rules and established a good name for yourself, then your chances of going to heaven seemed that much more likely. Since religious laws were also society's laws, any who dabbled in scandalous behavior such as dancing or other forms of entertainment were looked down on and considered a bond with the devil. "You must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time-we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world."(Act III, The Crucible, Arthur Miller). Like the Church, the Librarium views the world in the same black and white mindset. Any peasants who are openly against the Librarium are condemned to death and labeled a threat to the world's stability like how the Church would hang those who did not support the Church or its beliefs. The Librarium uses the Wings of Justice to conduct witch hunts of their own and considered the Librarium's most lethal and loyal force.
          In The Crucible, John Proctor is the protagonist and serves as the voice against the Church and ultimately the iron grip it holds society in. As the play progresses and the witch trials escalate and it becomes more apparent to Proctor and the audience that all of these trials are groundless and illogical, Proctor starts seeing how flawed the system is and in the end rebels against it. It comes to a turning point when Proctor loses all faith in the Church when they accept the word of the manipulative and insane antagonist Abigail Williams. "Show honor now, show them a stony heart and sink them with it!"(Act IV,  The Crucible, Arthur Miller). Once the protagonist of my story joins the Wings of Justice and is forced to kill innocent people, he starts realizing just how unfair and controlling the Librarium is in terms of magic and denying the peasants and ordinary citizens of the world to learn how to use it. Roland, my protagonist, ultimately  rebels against the Librarium and organizes a standing army to fight them.
          News of the devil making its way into Salem reaches the surrounding towns and cities which brings the attention of those who have experience in dealing with witch trials, specifically Judge Danforth. Over the course of the play, Danforth becomes the ruling authority of the court in Salem and represent the Church's theocratic principles and authority. While he is by no means an idiotic man, Danforth would rather keep his well respected name rather than admit the trials as a sham and makes it clear that there can never be a middle ground in the Church's society. "Do you take it upon yourself to determine what this court shall believe and what it shall set aside?....This is the highest court of the supreme government of this province, do you know?"(Act III, The Crucible, Arthur Miller). The Librarium has no concern with the millions of refugees that scatter the entire world. All they really want is to try and find the most intelligent of these peasants and convert them to the Librarium's cause. The enthrallment of power and knowledge has been enough for the Librarium to have these recruits abandon contact with their families and friends. If they don't, the other option is death.
          The Crucible is exceptionally insightful play that has helped me gather new ideas and circumstances as I continue to work on my own story. I would recommend The Crucible to anyone interested in authoritarian governments or other oppressive regimes. This along with my other mentor texts can only benefit my final product!