My Journey of Life and Learning (with occasional digressions)

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Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Parenthood in Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

This is another blog from Gender studies. The point was to reflect on how parenthood was shown in Margaret Atwood’s book “The Handmaid’s Tale” and compare that with our own experience as parents. The quotes and such are from the book. Enjoy!

Two of the greatest joys of my life have been my children. In The Handmaid’s Tale, I certainly identify with the description of Luke, “What I remember is Luke, with me in the hospital, standing beside my head, holding my hand, in the green gown and white mask they gave him. Oh, he said, oh Jesus, breath coming out in wonder. That night he couldn’t go to sleep at all, he said, he was so high” (126). Arthur, my son, was born first and was a breech delivery. I understand that as a male, I cannot fathom the physical aspects of delivery, but I felt so bad for Bonnie. My memories of the look on her face, though, when she first saw and held our son will never fade.  Atwood writes and I’ve often wondered about it, that “But who can remember the pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow…” (125). One year later came Moriah, my daughter. She presented normally and both were delivered vaginally. The doctor actually let me cut the cord when she came. Since remarrying, I’ve become a grandfather (is there such a thing as a step-grandfather?) to two darling babies, Brandi and Sophia. Something I’m surprised Atwood omitted is that “new baby smell” that all infants seem to have. I don’t know if men are expected to notice it, but I do, and I love holding little ones when I get the chance. The absence of the Commanders during the birth is something I can never understand, though I know it’s common among men. Frankly, men who consider babies and child-rearing “women’s work” have always disgusted and annoyed me. I love every second with my children and grandchildren.

Shorter provides a description in the article “The Post Modern Family.” Bonnie and I were both in the military when our children were born. She was in the Reserves and I was active duty. We didn’t fully fit Shorter’s description, though he makes some valid points. Moriah and Arthur identify strongly with family, including their in-laws, have an interest in family history and genealogy, though Moriah has stronger interest in that than Arthur does. I don’t remember any real scenes of “teenage rebellion,” but we always spoke with our children and treated them like human beings with something to say. It is true that Bonnie and I divorced after 25 years, but our children were grown and in college by that time. I managed to always plan my leave dates around Bonnie’s military training and always had weekends off, which I know was rare. For socializing our children, we had close neighbors whose children were the same age as ours. We arranged more “play groups” with neighbors than baby sat for each other.

As for gender identity, the children always chose what toys to play with, we never dictated. I see the same happening with my grandchildren. Touching on my own gender identity, I’ll admit that there is a bond between a mother and child that a father can never have. De Beauvoir’s point that though “we are born male or female, we become men and women” is absolutely valid. The Commanders in The Handmaid’s Tale, and some “men” I have known, are little more than sperm donors – a concept I find abhorrent. It takes time and dedication to BECOME a father and, for me, it’s worth every second of the effort.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1998. Print.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex.  Trans. H. M. Parshley. New York: Random House, 1993. Print.

“The post-modern family.” Internet Archive Wayback Machine. United Nations University. N.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.

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Hegemony as a Gatekeeper

So, here is the blog that I submitted in my Gender Studies class. I thought it was pretty good, especially since the artists I like are from the classical period, other than Dali, and he’s not exactly defending women in his work. The artist I chose to write about is Karen Finley. Well, wrote it, submitted it. I included links so folks could hear her words and view a visual work that she did. Today, as I though I had stuff wrapped up for this week, my prof emails me and says that I HAVE TO REDO it all by tomorrow (Friday). I emailed her back and asked if Georgia O’Keefe would be acceptable. I don’t think she’s as strong as Finley in challenging the male dominated world, but I’m not a woman, so I guess I don’t have the right to make that call. Anyway, here’s my original piece:

Through the Module 6 Introduction, I discovered a female artist I had never heard of, Karen Finley. I realize that it is not a “scholarly source,” but when I read about a person I have never heard of before, I will look them up in Wikipedia (shame-faced blush). In the case of Karen Finley, what caught my eye is that she was involved in the 1980s punk scene and began her artistic journey at the San Francisco Art Institute. The Wikipedia article also mentions the Dead Kennedys, which was a band I listened to quite a bit and they always had a satirical, often sarcastic and bombastic way of addressing issues within society. Finley, by association, should prove interesting. Along these lines, one would expect that Finley’s object in her work is to subvert the societal norms.

Finley’s first artistic piece that I viewed was a recording of her speaking live. Spoken word is an art form. The intonation and delivery she uses assails the hegemony and rails against the constraints that have long been impressed upon women to suppress them. The first 45 seconds of her spoken word piece, It’s My Body, is directed toward women’s right to govern their bodies regarding abortion. One comment in particular caught my attention: “I saw Eve holding a banner that said, ‘God is a woman.”’ This, of course, flies in the face of many of the male dominated religious movements and sects of the world. The second part addresses the suffering inflicted through illegal abortions. Near the two minute mark of her spoken word piece, Finley attacks the Bush-era policies concerning parental consent and the proxy imposition on unwanted children on members of the lower class. She closes her spoken piece with equating the silencing of those undergoing the agony of illegal abortion to those women suffering rape. The piece is very strong, poignant and appropriate considering the hegemony’s subjugation of women, especially during the Bush-era. The link for the spoken word piece is here – click on this. (Or copy paste: https://youtu.be/yCan4sGIOfE)

A personal experience I had in Germany in about 1990 strongly impacted my view of abortion. I toured the Frankfurt Polizei Crime Museum, one may only do so by invitation and it is not opened to the public. One room was dedicated entirely to the practices used through the years to abort unwanted fetuses. In view of the sheer barbarism of the techniques and tools, the torture suffered by the women who used those means, I firmly believe that women should have the right to safe and legal means to do so if they wish to do so.

The second piece is a poem inscribed on bronze, written by Finley. The poem is titled “The Black Sheep.” The work addresses those who are not “of the mainstream.” What I found to be the best part to challenge the “this is OUR world” mentality of the establishment is:

Black Sheep’s destinies are not in
necessarily having families,
having prescribed existences –
like the American Dream.
Black Sheep destinies are to give
meaning in life – to be angels,
to be conscience, to be nightmares
to be actors in dreams.

There is so much lip service given by humanitarian organizations and religious organizations to “give meaning in life,” yet there seems to be a stipulation that to do so, one must conform. The link for the site with the entire poem, well worth reading, and click here to read it.

(Or copy paste: http://creativetime.org/programs/archive/1990/TheBlackSheep/BlackSheep.htm)

Considering that, as stated in the Module Introduction, Finley had to sue the National Endowment for the Arts; her art must be considered “subversive” by the hegemony. The NEA’s guidelines for supporting the arts were even altered after that case was decided by the Supreme Court against Finley. There is always debate concerning the government’s role in supporting the arts and Finley is a fine example of how those in power force artists to accept repression and should act as a warning. If the government funds an activity, such as the arts, research or development of a device, that funding will continue as long as the government feels that the activity remains “in-line” with their way of thinking.