So Stylish: Keep it Kooky
When something is queer, it seems odd. When something is stylish, it seems right. Together, what makes for a queer style? Gender roles establish normative attitudes and behaviors. Girls wear pink and boys wear blue—this is how we decipher. Progressively, socially accepted personas are pressured unto society.
Therefore, when people deliberately disturb conventions, the ensuing personas and performances tend to perplex those who are out of touch with certain means of expression.
To illustrate, let’s look at two cases contracted by social norms. First, imagine lesbian haircuts. Now, imagine drag queens. Undoubtedly, if you know what these terms mean, you can paint a fair picture; in other words, lesbian haircuts are as predictable as outrageous drag queens. In light of this, think of all the defined classifications imposed upon society—these supposed “acceptations” and “abnormalities”.
Above all, language defines labels; in turn, these definitions offer specific, customized understandings. If we misconstrue expressions or lack a language to communicate, unknown anomalies are deemed uncomfortable and, for some, even threatening. Nevertheless, language gives us the power to change the terms and influence expression. Collectively, we are responsible for our way with words—we must be wise with how words are interpreted. Even so, instead of dictating what is acceptable or not, let us look to the individual represented by the language their labeled by.
Really, who are we to judge?
On a lighter note, here’s someone who manages queer style beautifully:
Heaven be to all who heal. Peace and love, for hearts to feel.
Our life is only as happy as our heart and head. Keep all at peace. Let the chaos cease. Kiss the sweetness of sweet things said. Without happiness, our dreams are dead.
Will our lives be better tomorrow? How arbitrary! Of course, if we live to see it! The truth is, we will never know. And so, let time tick away, with our hope of other days to stay. Will our eyes open, from our silent slumber? Why yes, there is the hope they may. For this, let not your one life stray.
The Modern Woman
Within history, a multitude of movements have surfaced and influenced society. One in particular was that of Queen Victoria; she reigned the longest term in English History, from 1837 until her death in 1901. During the Victorian Age, the British Empire was at its summit—it conquered about a quarter of the world’s land.
Markets in industry, trade, science, and technology were making vast improvements and intensifying swiftly. In the face of this prosperity, however, factory workers and farm hands lived in dreadful penury; as a result, many people came to feel that traditional values could no longer conduct their lives. Directing one’s attention to Victorian writers, one recognizes how these authors analyzed the loss of faith in customary ideals (White 320-321). Because of the tumultuous change in Britain, public opinion was diversifying continuously.
During the later Victorian period, literature began to break off into an avant-garde movement known as Realism. Realism is the attempt to depict life as it is by examining daily activities and gaining awareness for one’s circumstances. The genre promotes an upheaval against literature that idealizes life (Lipking 171). One author in particular, Thomas Hardy, began nascent into this category and created venerable compositions in both prose and poetry.
Within his work, as an author, there’s a consistent attempt to introduce that which is remarkable or ground-breaking to that which is the accepted norm; Hardy’s fiction is created by his yearning to challenge (Boumelha 28). Characters in realistic fiction tend to be less extraordinary; most deal with everyday events and believable people. These characters often excite recognition because of society’s increasing want for a realistic understanding of social problems (Lipking 171-172).
Focusing on his classic novel, Jude the Obscure, one can clearly recognize how Hardy was struggling to cross the bridge between Victorianism to Realism; this is best portrayed by his work’s characterizations, more specifically, those of Arabella Donn and Susanna Bridehead. Hardy’s purpose in writing this book was to use these women as representations of the definitive modern woman. Within the story, both these women are lovers of the main character, Jude Fawely. He loves both women because each has aspects which are mysterious because they differ from the stereotypical woman. The image of the “perfect” woman still rested in the minds of the majority. Since Hardy was attempting to break conventions by creating these two characters that embodied the modern woman, people were shocked and responded critically.
Generally, women were seen as creatures who should be submissive to the men they answer to. “…love of home, children, and domestic duties are the only passions [women] feel.” (Picard 265). Double standards are what instituted this idea of male preeminence; even though “biological differences play a part in forming gender roles, those differences are amplified by cultural and environmental influences.” (Blum 25). Consequently, men of the Victorian period were used to women who conformed to the ideas of men, Hardy’s recognition of the qualities of the modern women were unparalleled.
“The modern woman sees herself as a unique individual first and foremost−family, friends, success and career fulfillment are all byproducts of knowing oneself first.” (Dillon 1). The modern woman is one who is not afraid to break barriers because autonomy is the priority; now although Hardy had to produce two characters in order to accomplish this, his purpose was to establish the constructs of the modern woman in regards to the spirit and mind, which is Sue, and the body and behavior, which is Arabella.
Truly, because both women are representative of the “New Woman”, several aspects of their characters are affected, such as their appearance, expectations, and relationships. In addition, because both women hold different traits of the “New Woman”, Hardy is able to allow them to personify a changing archetype of what a woman can become. “The modern woman sees herself as having choices…” (Dillon 1).
Sue Bridehead is intellectual and unique. She has an ambitious perception and uses her scholarly ways to challenge those around her. Oftentimes, she defies the typical ideals of what a woman, wife, and mother should be. She acts selfishly, not considering the strain her advances put on others. While she feels she is “sexless”, she is honestly just pure and different.
Shifting to Arabella Donn, she is the impulsive and more sensual of the twain. She is manipulative and seductive. Simultaneously, she is spontaneous and raw—she is the physical strength that counteracts the fortitude of Sue’s inner being. While Arabella is superficial, Sue is plainer. “The women’s clothes seem a part of their bodies by virtue of their incorporation into the woman’s sexual awareness.” (Boumelha 35). Arabella has fake hair because she understands a man’s need to be aroused and provoked; she is more in touch with her sexuality, which allows her to seduce Jude and entrap him in the first place. Sue, however, has a more boyish appearance, and is more concerned with keeping men as equal comrades rather than sexual objects. Hardy formed these characters to be self-aware; they recognize their situations and use their flattering traits to their advantage.
Although most women at that time had a strongly internalized sense of adhering to conventional social values, Sue and Arabella went against society’s expectations and ethics, and did what was most suitable to their feelings—their needs and desires. Throughout Hardy’s fiction, a radical split formed in women’s consciousness between self-perception and perception by others; it is the latter which gives origin to self-consciousness and to that apprehension which recognizes the judgment of others. (Boumehla 35-36). Both these women took note of the way others viewed them and their conduct, yet still, each woman lived for herself and did what would better her in the long run.
One can evidently link this to the way each carried out her relationships. Focusing on Arabella, she was involved in two marriages. Originally, her first marriage transpired due to her chicanery. She met Jude, seduced him, and then claimed to be pregnant in order to procure an engagement. With Jude, she felt a connection and did what was necessary to fulfill her desire to keep him, regardless of how deceitful and conniving she had to be. Arabella’s character contrasted greatly to the ideology of women from the classic Victorian society. At that time, the majority of women were believed not to be much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind, nor did they do anything to emasculate their male counterparts; it was believed that a woman seldom desired any sexual gratification for herself (Picard 265).
Centering back to Arabella’s other marriage, the union was committed in adultery and, because she never ended her first, was considered an act of bigamy. She wed an Australian hotel manager, Cartlett, because prospects with him seemed promising; unfortunately, for her, he died. After this, she ended up remarrying Jude once he and Sue split. At this point, she coaxed Jude into the marriage—he had gone back to drinking and was getting sicker each day; hence, she facilitated his weakened state to benefit her best interests. Although Arabella appears somewhat ruthless, she manifests the raw ambition and tact which was nonexistent in most women; she did what she had to in order to maintain her happiness.
Similarly, Susanna Bridehead also did what was necessary to maintain her happiness. She didn’t falter in her ambitions of living a life of betterment…she knew that she need not adhere to society’s standards, for she created her own standards, her own consequences. Sue lived for herself. Surprisingly, Sue also experienced two relationships−one was her marriage to Richard Phillotson and the other was her illegitimate one with Jude Fawely. Initially, Sue married Richard as a formal agreement; he happened to be a professor, and she planned to go into teaching with him, so they could later open up a school together. Sue was smart; she was stimulated, not by lust or men, but by books and intellect. She never fell into obligations she didn’t want to—this can be seen from her other platonic friendship with a man she used to live with. Although he insisted she be his lover, she refused and stayed as his edifying equal. Even with Richard, Sue did what she felt she must and ended up leaving him because she wanted to stay with Jude. Regarding her marriage, she never fulfilled her “duty” as Phillotson’s wife because she simply didn’t want a sexual relationship with him.
Sue’s personality contrasted immensely with the expectations and pressures of that time; it was believed that when a man was inclined to have sex, the wife should be available; the sexual act itself is only meant to pleasure the male−the woman must do it out of subordination (Picard 264-265). The woman was meant to subject her body to surveillance and intervention at her companion’s request (Boumelha 25). Sue never did what she didn’t want to do; this is best demonstrated in her relationship with Jude. She cared for Jude because she envisioned a future with him as friends and cohorts. With him, she did end up fulfilling her supposed “duty” of bearing children, yet she did it because she wanted to. However, because she and Jude never married, many people didn’t even try to recognize their relationship—they believed their union to be sinful because it was unlawful. Even though all Sue had to do was marry Jude, she didn’t want to−therefore, she didn’t. She was steadfast in her views and didn’t alter to fit anyone’s needs but her own. Although she was constantly pressured by external forces, Sue went against it all and fulfilled her own desire to be satisfied in life.
Separated, these two women are completely different, yet as one they create the definitive modern woman. In creating these characters, Hardy was able to challenge the prevalent ideologies of Victorian society, especially regarding the relationships these women endured. The ideal marriage consisted of the man earning the family income and his wife was suppose to stay at home, make herself and the place beautifully comfortable to suit her husband after he arrived from an exhausting day (Picard 264). Arabella and Sue counteracted this philosophy; both of their unions promoted divorce and they acted in accordance to what would benefit them, not their partners.
Hardy was criticized for his portrayal of women because they were innovative and new—people, especially men, felt threatened and criticized Hardy for his audacity. Unfortunately, because of all the negative criticisms of his works, Hardy decided to give up writing novels and went back to poetry. Yet today, his compositions are honored and are placed in the cannon of influential literature. Hardy was bold and it paid off because he created representations for women to follow and learn from, thus promoting the enlightenment and strength a woman could obtain—then and for generations to come.
Blum, Deborah. “Both Biology and Culture Help Establish Gender Roles.” Egendor, Ed. Laura K. Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc,, 2000. 25.
Boumelha, Penny. Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form. Sussex: The Harvester Press Limited, 1982.
Dillon, Amber. “Insight to the Modern Woman–Lifestyles.” 5 March 2004. The Travel Online. 29 March 2009 <http://www.thetravelonline.com>.
Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. New York: Signet Classic, 1961.
Lipking, Lawrence. “”Realism”.” World Book, Inc. World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, Inc, 2004 ed. 171-172.
Picard, Liza. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870. New York: St. Marting’s Press, 2005.
White, D.E. “English Literature.” World Book, Inc. World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, Inc, 2006 ed. 320-321.
The Path of Poetry
In the search to understand one’s roots, a true awakening of one’s history and culture is inevitable. My parents are from South America. In their youth, they moved to New York City. There, they met and fell in love. Once they were married, they traveled to Florida to start a family. As a young Hispanic woman, experiencing the diversity of the United States permits a solid appreciation of what possibilities are available.
When asked to research a piece of writing relevant to our ethnic background, I sought the splendors of Hispanic poetry. I held no preference for a specific author or format, but knew the work must have a solid rhythm and flow. Being a woman, I wanted a female writer. Finally, I settled on a website that had a series of direct translations alongside the original Spanish works. I chose the poem “Esto Que Ves”, written by Teresa Aburto Uribe.
Uribe was born in Chile in 1965. She discovered her passion for writing at twelve years old, when she wrote a school play. Her work advanced into the art of poetry; she cultivated her talents by entering several literary competitions to assist in developing her networking skills, along with continued edification.
I selected Uribe and her poem “Esto Que Ves” because she is a Hispanic woman who writes poetry. Being a writer and poet myself, I enjoyed the thought of peering into the creative state of another Hispanic woman. Stylistically, she is to the point; using fierce, yet concise diction. Uribe directs her words, while allowing the reader to interpret each one, using his/her own life as a frame of reference. The structure of the poem pushes the reader to focus, helping the audience undertake the true complexity of each term. The tone of the poem is light and carefree, with strong sentiments of confidence and ability.
Constructed as a plea for self‑discovery and acceptance, this poem notes all the fickle facets of an individual. In mentioning the smallest aspects of behavior, she highlights the overpowering qualities of what it is to be human. For instance, she recognizes that in “un pedazo de ser” there is everything from “risas” to “suenos” to “locuras”. She shifts from these common subjects into vague, yet prevailing matters, such as “humanidad” and “espacio”.
Touching on universal topics like freedom, human interaction, along with the powers of influence and choice, Uribe allows the reader to visualize where he/she falls in the vast spectrum of consciousness. Being mindful of his/her place in life, one is able to ascertain a plan for progress. If one is clueless as to his/her influence on the world, he/she will be incapable of making a difference. Uribe provokes questions, permitting the audience to identify and grow. To do, you must know. When that’s done, let go, and learn to live.
Teresa Aburto Uribe — Chile (Translated by José Wan Díaz)
|Esto que vesEsto que ves soy yo,
ni más, ni menos.
Un pedazo de Ser…
un trozo de humanidad…
un puñado de risas…
un montón de sueños.
Una cuota de locura…
un pedazo de dulzura
con toda mi sinceridad.
Esto que ves, soy yo,
ni más, ni menos.
Una mujer, a veces una niña,
a veces espacio…
a veces infinito…
a veces pasión…
a veces libertad.
Pero así, simplemente así soy yo.
Es todo lo que tengo,
todo lo que soy…
No es mucho… pero es todo.
|This that you seeThis that you see is me,
no more, no less.
A piece of Being …
a portion of humanity …
a fistfull of laughter …
a pile of dreams.
A share of craziness …
a bit of sweetness
with all my sincerity.
This that you see, is me,
no more, no less.
A woman, sometimes a child,
sometimes space …
sometimes infinity …
sometimes passion …
But like this, I am simply like this.
It’s all I have,
all I am …
It isn’t much … but it’s all.
The Realms of Reality: A Shadow of the Self in Society
A label is used to categorize the indicative nature of our realities. Collective labels compartmentalize subject matter by identifying the content. In truth, labels determine a language of signification and purpose; this language can be privately pressed upon the psyche or put up by public pressure. When we label, we define; this is how the world holds meaning. If everything has meaning, who determines what’s valuable? For that matter, what is meaning worth? Frankly, we must see how socially‑imposed labels create individualized identities; in order to understand why the system works as it does, we have to see the parts; only then can we fully assess the whole. To exemplify my decree, I will reference Marc Bousquet’s book, How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low‑Wage Nation, alongside Tom Perrotta’s novel, Joe College.
Together, these writers create a narrative of cultural knowledge; these testaments illustrate the varying interpretations of what university life is supposed to be. Bousquet’s work offers a series of critical arguments concerning casualization and corruption within academia. Perrotta’s story follows the escapades of a budding college kid. Although it seems these subjects are so estranged, they’re actually stuck in the same scene, with both exhibiting why academia is seen as it is. Convincingly, Bousquet reveals the hardships of those who fall victim to exploitation by the promises of education. By examining the commodification of information, Bousquet discloses a network “aimed at creating a common culture … ‘led’ by management but ‘shared’ by the workforce”; naturally, “in an effort to minimize output to the most profitable level of demand”, the new, corporate university is concerned with establishing an “identity of interest”; this is all designed to suit society’s marketplace economy (Bousquet 101, 123, 181). To say the least, the critical content is illuminating.
In any case, let’s shift our attention to Perrotta’s commentary. In Joe College, Danny is the story’s protagonist; at best, the narrative demonstrates how an intellectual adapts to the culture of a capitalist America. Through these readings, one thing is clear: appearance and attitude are the deciding factors of how we perceive the world. In other words, once we wake up to what’s always been there, we can interpret what’s what. If we take the time to understand how we judge and decipher the world, we improve our relations with the world at large. To deepen our awareness, we must divulge the truth.
But what is the truth? Purely put, truth is what we take as real and undeniable; therefore, on the whole, truth is simply subjective. Once a truth is known, a motive of reality sets in; our world is what we make it, so no world is alike—our realities are relative. For Bousquet, he focuses on the reality of those who are broken by the system. In Joe College, Danny’s reality is bright and appealing, with him reaping the benefits of the system. Even though these are two different views of the academic system, they merge by their understandings of reality. Chiefly, in Joe College, there is mention of Danny joining a publishing effort for “Reality”. “Reality” is a literary magazine designed to expose “the whole wide hardscrabble world” that exists beyond Danny’s collegiate “ivory tower” (Perrotta 35). Exclusively, “Reality” is dedicated to exposing the truth of “exploited workers, violent crime, urban poverty, and moral squalor”; basically, as Danny puts it, the publication is “devoted to everything but college” (Perrotta 35). Ironically, if we note Bousquet’s critical arguments, an opposing voice is vibrant; in his opinion, the truth Danny presents is inseparable from how the university works.
Notably, Bousquet claims that those seeking a higher education tend to identify as either a “worker” or a “student”. For the most part, these two terms “overlap”; however, they differ when applied to the hierarchy of social class (Bousquet 87). For example: people are categorized by net‑worth—this is a system of rank and commodification. In recognizing class differences, we see how status comes about by labels. Moreover, these labels determine how profits are produced. In capitalist America, profit is proof of potential. If money can be made, it must be managed by the standards of society; forthwith, funds are filtered into the fields which benefit the money‑machine. If a product cannot be commodified, it loses its value because it has no applicable use. In this way, labor and knowledge are put on a level playing field; if production can supply the demand, the field is deemed useful and progressive. Nevertheless, “the dominant circumstances of production and distribution are a core function of higher education” (Bousquet 104).
Markedly, Joe College portrays Danny as someone who is familiar with the working‑class, yet exists amongst the upper‑class. Danny is subjected to socially‑imposed labels because he’s confined to expectations: he is a worker and he is a student. Danny is forced to “‘work [his] way through’” college; however, for him, working in the dining hall or his father’s lunch truck is only temporary; he has no plans of slaving away like this forever (Bousquet 152). Justly, from an outside perspective, most believe they can spot the difference between a “student who works” and a “worker who studies”; in actuality, this “self‑reporting” is totally subjective; thus far, “there isn’t any clear way of ‘distinguishing’ between students and workers” (Bousquet 151). With no way of labeling this demographic, some people slip through the cracks. In Danny’s case, even though he comes from a working‑class family and seems to be regularly employed, he doesn’t really identify with the working‑class; he aspires for bigger and better things. Soon enough, he will be free from the chaos and demeanor of labor; yes, he will be successful. Surely, anyone attending Yale University may be led to think such things—it’s kind of a give‑in.
In all fairness, Danny is a diligent student and applies himself in his studies. Even so, Danny still manages to venture out and socialize, always doing his best to enjoy the typical college culture and vices. When he’s alone, Danny enjoys the curious scholarship associated with higher learning. By and large, Danny appreciates being challenged. If he’s at school or at home, he adapts his attitude to act his part, thus morphing into what he is expected to be. Essentially, while society shapes the self, the self seeks its survival by status.
For Danny, being aware of social status allows him to evolve; more often than not, he bases his decisions upon the constraints of his situation. Nonetheless, whether he is dealing with the “unsavory … filthy … relentless … demonic” work line of the dining hall or “juggling small talk and numbers” for his lunch truck “work week”, Danny is certain these work experiences are merely stepping stones unto better opportunities: “I was a decent person and expected the future to be good to me” (Perrotta 69, 153, 163, 256). Danny is willing to work because it allows him to be accountable, which helps him take pride in his progress: “My life was pretty much on track … my success … was my own doing and no one else’s” (Perrotta 256). Danny’s foreseeable success is “a well deserved reward for years of hard work, perseverance, and good‑humored self‑denial”; he insists, “I’m on my way, there’s no stopping now, no way, not even if I wanted to” (Perrotta 256‑257).
Conversely, for most “students who are trying to work their way through” college, they simply can’t afford to be as confident as Danny: “higher education and its promise of the future is increasingly a form of indenture, involving some combination of debt, overwork, and underinsurance” (Bousquet 153). On the whole, this results in “the pervasive shortchanging of health, family, obligations, and, ironically, the curtailment even of learning and self‑culture” (Bousquet 153). In truth, Danny is pulled between two realities: he is of the working‑class, but he yearns to be settled in the upper‑echelon; if he wants to get up there, he has to work for it. Danny accepts his situation because he doesn’t have many options—not because it is a pleasure to do so.
At school, Danny is surrounded by privileged people who feel entitled to everything. Regrettably, Danny wasn’t born into money or bequeathed a lucrative social network; he doesn’t have connections and mentors to work with; he depends on social‑mobility because, in the long run, his driven self‑discipline is all that has proven successful. Accordingly, students like this “share the mania for assessment, ranking, pay‑as‑you‑go, revenue maximization, and continuous competition in pursuit of ‘excellence,’ even where those values are demonstrably against their own interests” (Bousquet 93). Without delay, if we don’t acknowledge how society influences our life‑choices, we become vulnerable to the constraints which exploit those who don’t know any better. Even though Danny is considerably well‑off, “the very idea that this arrangement is fair or rational” negates the very hindrances students must endure, all for the sake of what “‘looks good’” (Bousquet 91). By all means, our “world of possibility” is framed by “‘the value’ of different kinds of education”; for this reason, it seems we should have plenty of options for soon‑to‑be success, yet we’re forced to settle for dispensable positions (Bousquet 92).
Provided that everyone is granted equal opportunity, everyone should be able to succeed—right? Simply put, no. Some people are better off than others because they have better opportunities, not necessarily because they are better equipped to perform the prescribed tasks. More so, some people are deceived by the mere assurance of better opportunities; rightly, if these gullible hopefuls are done in by provisional manipulation, well then, so be it; incontestably, this kind of ruthless consumerism costs much more than it provides!
To exemplify this truth, let’s look to those employed by UPS and its “‘school‑to‑work” based program (Bousquet 125). UPS offered an undergraduate education on the condition of hire; consequently, “the part time positions devolved into one of the least desirable forms of work … Featuring poor wages, limited benefits, a high injury rate, and unreasonable scheduling”; in effect, this “created compensation and working conditions” that were simply unacceptable (Bousquet 132). As it seems, such “school‑to‑work” based programs have done more harm than good: “UPS counts on its student workers failing or dropping out” because “UPS ends up paying only a modest fraction of the education benefits it offers” (Bousquet 143). As a matter of fact, those seeking some status by knowledge seem to be subjected to slave away for the system, with little hope for real, lasting returns in personal security.
All in all, the chase and competition embedded within academia allows society to systematically control those seeking status; in any case, whether we crave a label of private or public value, we must see how the system works. If we never acknowledge where we are, we will be lost as to where we go. Danny is an example of the American Dream done right; his ambition and high hopes seem to pave the way for his future, thereby insuring a life of reverence and prosperity. For everyone else, it’s best to “‘admit’ and embrace their ‘complicity’ in a ‘corporate system’”; if people can’t adapt, then their label will be a lowly one (Bousquet 166).
In a capitalist America, academic culture has transformed into a “logic” where information “should feel transparent and be networked”; consequently, status stems from what makes sense; what makes sense is a society that supplies services on “demand, just in time, and fully catalogued” (Bousquet 61). Despite these truths, we can do our best to determine our own labels, based on our own terms; if not, we will be mere pawns in the play for profits. Undoubtedly, if we are to be anything in America, we must do so by our own decree. Rather than disregarding the critical conception of academia, let’s advocate for alternatives. If society resorts to human‑based directives, maybe we’ll have a better chance at being dignified individuals, as opposed to money‑hungry misanthropes. Indeed, we must make our own reality, based upon our own terms—we can’t let anyone do it for us. The choice is ours.
Bousquet, Marc. How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation. NewYork: New York University Press, 2008. Critique. October 2013.
Perrotta, Tom. Joe College. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Novel. October 2013.
The Powers of American Matriarchy: A Myth of the American Household
America is a free society unlike any other: an enterprise of exponential potential. The American Dream is all anyone could ever care to know: a life dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. The American Dream equates to the ideal illusion: everyone is entitled to everything—that is, as long as it sustains and strengthens their socially‑imposed roles. Employing the techniques from Roland Barthes’ book, Mythologies, I will correlate aspects of a traditionalized matriarchy as it relates to the realization of the American Household; by applying specific cultural constraints, I will depict and illuminate the powers of American Matriarchy. Utilizing a synchronized series of the “image‑at‑one’s disposal”, I will expose “the inoculation” of the American people; in so doing, American society will be seen as one stuck forever seeking the sensible stability of suburbia. Envisioning this collective understanding of how true American home‑life ought to be, “I shall henceforth not ‘act the things’ but ‘act their names’” (Barthes 146, 150).
The American Household is the ideal abode; one with a hardworking husband, happy‑housewife, and proper, obedient children. With this image in mind, imagine this habitation within the settings of sweet suburbia: white‑picket fences, perfectly kept lawns, pretty painted houses, smiling faces, cycling citizens, youngsters in the yard, and the sun shining bright—here is the heavenly utopia! No crime; no stress; this is the bliss all must aspire to—the bestowal of the American Household. But how do we construct this perfect paradise? Well, that’s simple…through the powers of American Matriarchy.
Matriarchy is a social‑order that moves by the motives of women, especially mothers. Women make the world go ‘round and mothers mold the minds of all. American Matriarchy emphasizes the woman’s role as a model of grace and duty. In order to understand matriarchy in America, we must identify the separate sphere in which all worthy women belong: the American Household. Certainly, the domestic domain is predetermined as the nurturing nest of humanity: home is where the heart is. Justly, “every myth can have its history and its geography; each is in fact the sign of the other: a myth ripens because it spreads” and contributes to the many “myths of the Order” (Barthes 149). When a myth becomes a matter of social convention, it shapes and shows how society should seem.
American Matriarchy reinforces the basics of a functional society. Mothers act as agents of ideologies based in loyalty, servility, and honor, with every lesson guided by the love of faith, family, and country: “Motivated by self-sacrificing love, and joined to one another by its cohesive power, people will perform their duties willingly and with pleasure … [in] an atmosphere of mutual confidence and good fellowship everywhere” (Tompkins). Indeed, the formative years of every individual should be set within the American Household; this is where we develop our ethical principles, contributive behavior, sound health, political positions, exceptional educations, and plans of prosperity. In fact, mothers make America: they give birth to its future—the American Dream.
For all intents and purposes, the “apron matrons” of America are masters in maintaining the ideal illusion: a picture‑perfect populace prescribed by the cares of community, courtesy, and consistency (TV Tropes). The American Household is the moral center, with American Matriarchy as its holy “minister” (Beecher, Beecher Stowe). Logically, all mothers are made to preserve the home, produce offspring, and please their spouse—this arrangement makes sense; nevertheless, captivated by this limited sphere of power, women will tighten ranks to form and foster the foundation of a fortified nation. Undoubtedly, the model homemaker is expected to be an ambitiously cheery conformist whose life depends upon catering to the integrity of the household, hereby including its endless occupants and objects.
Moreover, this same unit of thought establishes the American Household as the typified property of a mini‑militia; together, the unit members are equipped with the moral fortitude to defend what’s deemed socially right and proper. Stationed in suburbia, the American Household is a fort figured by constraints; it is designed to cultivate the dignified character of all its occupants. The powers of American Matriarchy are not ways of “indulging in narcissistic fantasy … or a turning away from the world into self-absorption and idle reverie”; conversely, “centering on the home … is the prerequisite of world conquest—defined as the reformation of the human race through proper care and nurturing of its young” (Tompkins). The powers of American Matriarchy are political, in that they perpetuate a particular people: saintly soldiers regulated by a sterilized American Dream.
In America’s commitment to stripping the world of evil, matriarchal militancy establishes transformative principles into the heads and hearts of society. Henceforth, by “the training of our race . . . by means of the self-sacrificing labors of the wise and good”, the American people can thrive and help humanity as a whole (Beecher, Beecher Stowe). Fortunately, to undergo such a feat, there are guidebooks for homemakers to rule by; one such example is the vision‑plan written by Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The American Woman’s Home. Although varied by content, such domestic manuals are commonly equipped with practical advice, time‑management suggestions, holistic remedies, do‑it‑yourself activities and repairs, food and drink recipes, along with tips for proper home design and efficient execution of services. The American Household relates to the sanctity of the American system; everyone must know their role and play their part; if not, the dynamics of the home and the moral alignment of society are at risk.
“To the Women of America, in whose hands rest the real destinies of the republic”, no substitute track exists—women must fulfill their vocation and become the mothers of America’s future (Beecher, Beecher Stowe). For this reason, women secure the front lines of society’s cultural wars; figuratively, they must fight the many fights of their fate. For one thing, there is no running away from the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood because society won’t allow it; really, the option of sinful single‑life or deadly divorce is purely inconceivable. Once the American Household is made, the unit must remain intact: the husband is the head, the wife is the neck, and the progenies are condensed as the body of a fruitful future. In any case, for American Matriarchy, broken homes bring about broken identities—America is not suited to either.
Nonetheless, the domestic domain is decreed as one of necessary duties and decorous results. For American Matriarchy, efficiency is everything! The experienced homemaker is a manufacturing machine: bearing, raising, and educating children, healing and preventing ailments, organizing and accomplishing chores, experimenting with cleaning supplies, investing in new appliances, laundering and sewing clothes, fixing food with “ornamental cookery”, and instituting rigorous spiritual devotion (Barthes 78‑80). Truly, spectacular homemaking is a business of knowledge and product; this approach is personified by contemporary figures, such as Martha Stewart, or widespread magazines, like Women’s World and Good Housekeeping. American Matriarchy embellished itself as a commodity—professionalized, preferred, and possible.
Notably, this “statement of fact” is ordained for every woman: American Matriarchy is a mandate, a moral machine of the nation, here to tend to everything and all (Barthes 154). Every woman must follow this path…there’s simply no other way. Or is there? Simply put—of course there is another way! Not all women are made for the powers of America Matriarchy. So, what happens to these rebellious rejects? Wretchedly, these women are ostracized as outsiders who threaten the threshold of the American Dream. Women belong in the home; anything opposing such a fact is unacceptable. By all means, this myth of the American Household is a relentless contraption that runs by the powers of American Matriarchy.
Markedly, what happens when the mythical powers of American Matriarchy actually surface in society? Here, in parody and in truth, I insert the revelation of the consequential community—the socially Stepfordized suburbia (TV Tropes). The Stepfordized suburbia is a place where women are a mix of brainwashed robots and mindless zombies, all of whom are molded and manipulated by their circumvented existence. Referencing the popular book and film, The Stepford Wives, we can see the petrifying powers of American Matriarchy come alive. In this contrived world, women will never be anything more than the privileged convenience of a mythical social convention.
Essentially, the Stepfordized suburbia is illustrated as a dreamland filled with lovely, docile, domesticated dolls; these women are dominated by men and they are permitted no free thought, no free expression, and no freedom away from the American Household; all the while, every man is encouraged to play with his prized trophy‑wife and prolong the fantasy. Utilizing this extreme, it is clear: as a myth of the American Household, the powers of American Matriarchy exemplify the effects of repressive regimes and unwavering philosophies, as well as the lasting impressions of those who blindly fall into their socially‑imposed roles. As if by silent expertise, these women reduce themselves to the epitome of the “Extreme Doormat”, by which they are “completely hollow inside” and “will obey just about any command”; in like manner, these women are grouped together as a body of the “Stepford Smiler”, by which they are “bright, chipper, and … all‑around pleasant [people]”; these women are “obsessed with projecting an image of wholesome happiness”; by yearning “to be accepted”, these subjected and subdued “slaves” uphold the effective prominence of this cultural myth, along with its substantial social impact (TV Tropes).
In spite of the aforementioned effects, the powers of American Matriarchy within the American Household are often characterized in much more appealing terms. Case in point, we can see television programs that are pierced by the pleasure of the exemplary homemaker, such as June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver or even Annie Camden from 7th Heaven; these women view motherhood as a wholesome blessing of opportunity and pride (TV Tropes). Again, what about the females who refuse such a picture‑perfect position? Can such females even be seen as women? Accordingly, no: “make no mistake: let no women believe that they can take advantage … [they must submit] to the eternal statue of womanhood. Women are on earth to give children to men … let them not depart from it” (Barthes 50). Naturally, those who can’t fall in line are useless to America and are better off exiled.
All in all, I put forth this document as a testament to the contrary: I am a woman, I am free, and I refuse to be fettered to the fates of American Matriarchy. I advocate for those who define their destiny by pursuing their own adaptation of the American Dream; everyone should be allowed to think, speak, and act unto their own free‑will. No one should be exploited by social pressures and circumstances. In explicating “the inoculation” of this particular cultural myth, the powers of a collective system can be exposed as those which make or break a people (Barthes 150). When we become aware, we awaken alternative perspectives. As can be seen, our options must be openly offered to us; if not, our insightful capabilities are limited and we lose ourselves to the scheme of social constraints. So, whether people become liberal loners, lost lovebirds, or Stepfordized androids, the good of society is upheld by our right to write our own role; no matter how off‑beat or unconventional it may be, everyone deserves the right to their own American Dream.
Works Cited & Consulted
Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Laver. New York: Hill and Wang, 1972. Book. 2013.
Beecher, Catherine E. and Harriet Beecher Stowe. “The American Woman’s Home.” 30 September 2002. Gutenberg.org. Web Page Document. October 2013. <http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6598/pg6598.html>.
Blum, Deborah. “Both Biology and Culture Help Establish Gender Roles.” Egendor, Ed. Laura K. Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc,, 2000. 25.
Dictionary.com. 2013. Dictionary.com, LLC. Web site. October 2013. <http://dictionary.reference.com/>.
Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives. 1st. Random House, 1972. Print Novel. October 2013.
Library of Congress. Books that Shaped America. 2013. Web site. October 2013. <http://myloc.gov/Exhibitions/books-that-shaped-america/1850-1900/ExhibitObjects/American-Womans-Home.aspx>.
The Stepford Wives. Dir. Bryan Forbes. 1975. DVD. October 2013.
Tompkins, Jane. “Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Politics of Literary History.” 1985. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860. Oxford UP. Web Page Document. October 2013. <http://web.princeton.edu/sites/english/NEH/TOMPKINS.HTM>.
TV Tropes. TVTropes.org. n.d. Web site. October 2013. <http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Tropes>.