Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Week Nine Reading Questions

Beth Bailey’s “The Etiquette of Masculinity and Femininity” referred to courtship as an acknowledged charade. It implied an almost rebellious quality in conforming wholly during courtship: “One way women could employ gender etiquette to challenge men was by conforming to the etiquette absolutely. Women could become so feminine and submissive that men felt inadequate because they could not possibly be masculine enough to meet all the demands created by absolute submission” (116). Is the impossibility of fulfilling these demands the only thing that makes complete submission threatening? Does submitting completely to etiquette rules, on either person’s part, make the behavior seem natural or completely affected to the partner? The passage goes on to say that “Impeccable manners without dominance were not masculine” (117). If someone perceived the behavior of who they were courting or who they were being courted by to be completely natural or a complete charade, how could control be asserted or identity differentiated? How is the courtship affected if there is no sense that something is being controlled or a desire is being repressed?

Barbara Ehrenreich’s article “Playboy Joins the Battle of the Sexes” suggests that “through its articles, its graphics and its advertisements, Playboy presented, by the beginning of the sixties, something approaching a coherent program for the male rebellion: a critique of marriage, a strategy for liberation (reclaiming the indoors as a realm for masculine pleasure) and a utopian vision (defined by its unique commodity ensemble)” (50). How is reclaiming the indoors as a realm of masculine power a strategy for liberation –if Hefner’s thought doesn’t see it as a space that has been claimed by women, would reclaiming it be a strategy for liberation? If the “indoors” or domestic hadn’t been claimed by either gender, would a rebellion of domesticity be successful by reclaiming the indoors? Ehrenreich claims that the magazine’s message was not eroticism, but escape –“literal escape from the bondage of breadwinning” (51). She also notes that while the magazine resisted the “conventional male role,” it didn’t resist work or consumerist values, but encouraged them. How has and how do consumerist values play a part in shaping restrictive gender norms and expectations? Can a magazine, or any source of dialogue, resist any conventions without resisting consumerist and capitalist values?

I found several of this week’s readings depressing, particularly the ones on Playboy, Beatlemania, and etiquette. They all seem to suggest that committed or monogamous adult relationships can only be a source of pleasure for the one in the relationship who has the most power at a given time. The article on Beatlemania suggests that female fans found acts like Elvis and the Beatles appealing either because of their rebellious sleaziness or unthreatening androgyny –appealing to fans by carrying personas that were the opposite of what was considered at the time “appropriate” men to marry. The article on Playboy presented quotes from Hefner who believed domesticity to be a “slow death,” and a “gray miasma of conformity.” To suggest that resisting domesticity is an act of rebellion is to assume that there is no pleasure in marriage or that the pleasure is seemingly false either because it’s based on power negotiations between the couple or found in the act of conforming to a conventional expectation. What does this suggest about desire? Is all desire in a relationship self-serving or can it take more subtle forms?

No comments:

Post a Comment