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张在新

John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Tyson on Feminism  

2009-02-27 18:10:53|  分类: +短篇小说第二课 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York: Garland, 1999.

81

       “Broadly defined, feminist criticism examines the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women.”

83

       “In most Hollywood films, even today, the camera eye (the point of view from which the film is shot) is male: the female characters, not the male, are the objects gazed upon by the camera and often eroticized as if a male eye were viewing them, as if the point of view of the ‘universal’ movie-goer were male.”

       “Perhaps the most chilling example of the damaging effects of this ‘habit of seeing’ is found in the world of modern medicine, where drugs prescribed for both sexes often have been tested on male subjects only. In other words, in laboratory tests to determine the safety of prescription drugs before marketing them, men’s responses frequently have been used to gather statistical data on the medications’ effectiveness and possible side-effects. As a result, women may experience unexpected side-effects while male users are unaffected. How could medical scientists not have anticipated this problem? Surely, the cultural habit of seeing male experience as universal played a role.”

83-4

       “I consider myself a recovering patriarchal woman. By patriarchal woman, I mean, of course, a woman who has internalized the norms and values of patriarchy, which can be defined, in short, as any culture that privileges men by promoting traditional gender roles. Traditional gender roles cast men as rational, strong, protective, and decisive; they cast women as emotional (irrational), weak, nurturing, and submissive. These gender roles have been used very successfully to justify such inequities, which still occur today, as excluding women from equal access [84] to leadership and decision-making positions (in the family as well as in politics, academia, and the corporate world), paying men higher wages than women for doing the same job (if women are even able to obtain the job), and convincing women that they are not fit for careers in such areas as mathematics and engineering. Many people today believe such inequities are a thing of the past because anti-discriminatory laws have been passed, such as the law that guarantees women equal pay for equal work. However, these laws are frequently side-stepped. For example, an employer can pay a woman less for performing the same work as a man (or more work than a man) simply by giving her a different job title. So women still are paid only about seventy cents for every dollar earned by men.”

84

       “Patriarchy is thus, by definition, sexist, which means it promotes the belief that women are innately inferior to men. This belief in the inborn inferiority of women is called biological essentialism because it is based on biological differences between the sexes that are considered part of our unchanging essence as men and women. A striking illustration is the word hysteria, which derives from the Greek word for womb (hystera) and refers to psychological disorders deemed peculiar to women and characterized by over-emotional, extremely irrational behavior. Feminists don’t deny the biological differences between men and women; in fact, many feminists celebrate those differences. But they don’t agree that such differences as physical size, shape, and body chemistry make men naturally superior to women; for example, more intelligent, more logical, more courageous, or better leaders. Feminism therefore distinguishes between the word sex, which refers to our biological constitution as female or male, and the word gender, which refers to our cultural programming as feminine or masculine, which are categories created by society rather than by nature.”

85

       “I call myself a patriarchal woman because I was socially programmed, as are most women and men, not to see the ways in which women are oppressed by traditional gender roles. I say that I’m recovering because I learned to recognize and resist that programming. For me, such recognition and resistance will always require effort—I’m recovering rather than recovered—not just because I internalized patriarchal programming years ago but because that program continues to assert itself in my world: in movies, television shows, books, magazines, and advertisements as well as in the attitudes of salespeople who think I can’t learn to operate a simple machine, repair technicians who assume I won’t know if they’ve done a shoddy job, and male drivers who believe I’m flattered by sexual offers shouted from passing cars (or, worse, who don’t give a moment’s thought to how I might feel or, worse yet, who hope I feel intimidated so that they can feel powerful). The point here is fairly simple: patriarchy continually exerts forces that undermine women’s self-confidence and assertiveness, then points to the absence of these qualities as proof that women are naturally, and therefore correctly, self-effacing and submissive.”

85-6

       “To cite a similar example of patriarchal programming, little girls have been (and some still are) told early in their educational careers that they can’t do math. If not told so explicitly in words (by parents, teachers, or friends), they are told so by the body language, tone of voice, and facial expression of adults and peers. Because it is often assumed that little girls can’t do math and, furthermore, that their deficiency doesn’t really matter because most of them won’t need math in later life, girls are not called upon by the teacher as frequently as boys to perform mathematical operations. In fact, girls are often ‘rewarded’ for failing at math: they receive ready sympathy, coddling, and other debilitating though enticing payoffs for being feminine. If girls manage to do well in math despite these obstacles, they are considered exceptions to the rule (which, from a child’s point of view, usually means they are considered ‘freaks’). In short, girls are programmed to fail. Then the patriarchal mind-set points to girls’ lower test scores in math and their failure to become math majors as proof that they are biologically ill-suited to mathematical studies, which, given the close relationship between math and logic, suggests that females [86] are less logical than males. In other words, patriarchy creates the failure which it then uses to justify its assumptions about women.”

86

       “Because I’m a recovering patriarchal woman, I am also very aware of the ways in which patriarchal gender roles are destructive for men as well as women. For example, because traditional gender roles dictate that men are supposed to be strong (physically powerful and emotional stoic), they are not supposed to cry because crying is considered a sign of weakness, a sign that one has been overpowered by one’s emotions. For similar reasons, it is considered unmanly for men to show fear or pain or to express their sympathy for other men. Expressing sympathy (or any loving feeling) for other men is especially taboo because patriarchy assumes that only the most mute and stoic (or boisterous and boyish) forms of male bonding are free of homosexual overtones. In addition, men are not permitted to fail at anything they try because failure in any domain implies failure in one’s manhood.”

       “Failure to provide adequate economic support for one’s family is considered the most humiliating failure a man can experience because it means that he has failed at what is considered his biological role as provider. The imperative for men to succeed economically has become an extremely pressurized situation in contemporary America because the degree of success men are expected to achieve keeps increasing: to be a ‘real’ man in this day and age one must have a more expensive house and car than one’s father, siblings, and friends, and one must send one’s children to a more expensive school. If men can’t achieve the unrealistic economic goals set for them in contemporary America, then they must increase the signs of their manhood in some other area: they must be the most sexually active (or make others believe that they are) or be able to hold the most liquor or display the most anger. It is not surprising, in this context, that anger and other violent emotions are the only emotions permitted, even encouraged, in men, for anger is a very effective means of blocking out fear and pain, which are not permitted, and anger usually produces the kind of aggressive behaviors associated with manhood.”

86-7

       “I want readers of both genders to see that, even when we think we’re talking about men, we’re also talking about women because, in a patriarchy, everything that concerns men usually implies something (usually negative) about women. For example, it is important to note that all the behaviors described in the preceding [87] two paragraphs—behaviors forbidden to men—are considered ‘womanish,’ that is, inferior, beneath the dignity of manhood.” Men, and even boys, who cry are called ‘sissies.’ Sissy sounds very much like sister, and it means ‘cowardly’ or ‘feminine,’ two words which, in this context, are synonyms. Clearly, one of the most devastating verbal attacks to which a man can be subjected is to be compared to a woman. Thus, being a ‘real’ man in patriarchal culture requires that one hold feminine qualities in contempt. Homosexuality is included on the list of ‘feminine’ behaviors, at least for American men, because despite the plentiful example of very masculine homosexual men, the American stereotype of the homosexual male is an extremely feminine one. This phenomenon implies that whenever patriarchy wants to undermine a behavior, it portrays that behavior as feminine. It is important to note, too, that the patriarchal concept of femininity—which is linked to frailty, modesty, and timidity—disempowers women in the real world: it is not feminine to succeed in business, to be extremely intelligent, to earn big bucks, to have strong opinions, to have a healthy appetite (for anything), or to assert one’s rights.”

87-8

       About fairy tales like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Cinderella”: “In all three tales, a beautiful, sweet young girl (for females must be beautiful, sweet, and young if they are to [88] be worthy of romantic admiration) is rescued (for she is incapable of rescuing herself) form a dire situation by a dashing young man who carries her off to marry him and live happily ever after. The plot thus implies that marriage to the right man is a guarantee of happiness and the proper reward for a right-minded young woman. In tall three tales, the main female characters are stereotyped as either ‘good girls’ (gentle, submissive, virginal, angelic) or ‘bad girls’ (violent, aggressive, worldly, monstrous). These characterizations imply that if a woman does not accept her patriarchal gender role, then the only role left her is that of a monster. In all three tales, the ‘bad girls’—the wicked queen in ‘Snow White,’ the wicked fairy in ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and the wicked stepmother and stepsisters in ‘Cinderella’—are also vain, petty, and jealous, infuriated because they are not as beautiful as the main character or, in the case of the wicked fairy, because she wasn’t invited to a royal celebration. Such motivations imply that even when women are evil, their concerns are trivial. In two of the stories, the young maiden is awakened from a death-like slumber by the potent (after all, it brings her to life) kiss of the would-be lover. This ending implies that the proper patriarchal young woman is sexually dormant until ‘awakened’ by the man who claims her. We could analyze these tales further, and we could analyze additional tales, but the point here is to see how pervasive patriarchal ideology is and how it can program us without our knowledge or consent.”

89

       “According to a patriarchal ideology in full force through the 1950s, versions of which are still with us today, ‘bad girls’ violate patriarchal sexual norms in some way: they’re sexually forward in appearance or behavior, or they have multiple sexual partners. Men sleep with ‘bad girls,’ but they don’t marry them. ‘Bad girls’ are used and then discarded because they don’t deserve better, and they probably don’t even expect better. They’re not good enough to bear a man’s name or his legitimate children. That role is appropriate only for a properly submissive ‘good girl.’ The ‘good girl’ is rewarded for her ‘good’ behavior by being placed on a pedestal by patriarchal culture. To her are attributed all the virtues associated with patriarchal femininity and domesticity: she’s modest, unassuming, self-sacrificing, and nurturing. She has no needs of her own, for she is completely satisfied by serving her family. At times, she may be sad about the problems of others, and she frequently worries about those in her care—but she is never angry. For Victorian culture in England she was the ‘angel in the house.’ She made the house a safe haven for her husband, where he could spiritually fortify himself before resuming the daily struggles of the workplace, and for her children, where they could receive the moral guidance needed to eventually assume their own traditional roles in the adult world.”

       “What’s wrong with being placed on a pedestal? For one thing, pedestals are small and leave a woman very little room to do anything but fulfill the prescribed role. For example, to remain on her Victorian pedestal, the ‘good girl’ had to remain uninterested in sexual activity, except for the purpose of legitimate procreation, because it was believed unnatural for women to have sexual desire. In fact, ‘good’ women were expected to find sex frightening or disgusting. For another thing, pedestals are shaky. One can easily fall off a pedestal, and when a woman does, she is often punished. At best, she suffers self-recrimination for her inadequacy or ‘unnaturalness.’ At worst, she suffers physical punishment from the community or from her husband, which until relatively recently was encouraged by law and custom and which is still too often tacitly condoned by an ineffectual or complicity justice system.”

89-90

       “In upwardly mobile middle-class American culture today, the woman on the pedestal is the woman who successfully juggles a career and a family, which means she looks great at the office and over the breakfast table, [90] and she’s never too tired after work to fix dinner, clean house, attend to all her children’s needs, and please her husband in bed. In other words, patriarchal gender roles have not been eliminated by modern women’s entrance into the male-dominated workplace, even if some of those women now hold what used to be traditionally male jobs. For many of those same women are still bound by patriarchal gender roles in the home, which they must now fulfill in addition to their career goals.”

90  

       “Furthermore, the persistence of repressive attitudes toward women’s sexuality is still visible in our language today. For example, we use the negative word slut to describe a woman who sleeps with a number of men while we use the positive word stud to describe a man who sleeps with a number of women. And though women’s fashions have radically changed since the nineteenth century, the most ‘feminine’ clothing still promotes patriarchal ideology. For example, the extremely tight corsets worn by nineteenth-century women prevented them from getting enough oxygen to be physically active or to experience emotion without getting ‘the vapors’; shortness of breath or slight fits of fainting, which were considered very feminine and proved that women were too fragile and emotional to participate in a man’s world. Analogously, one of the most ‘feminine’ styles of clothing for today’s woman is the tight skirt and high heels, which create a kind of ‘feminine’ walk (while precluding running) symbolically akin both to the restrained physical capability imposed by nineteenth-century women’s clothing and to the male sexual access to women’s bodies such attire allows.”

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