Saturday, March 14, 2009

All Alone in the Dark with the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!"

No, I am not planning on ranting about margarine today- although I do think it is a very bad thing- and possibly symptomatic of all that is rotten in Denmark. I just could not bring myself to write a blog post called " Why Do I Even Bother ( To Discuss Gender) Anymore?" or something equally boring and sarcastic.

Yesterday I spent my morning with my Comp 2 students, wading through Othello. The assignment was to take Emilia's speech defending women who cheat ( 4.3.80-99, should you care to give it a try) and translate it into modern language, so that it might be used as part of the script on General Hospital, Desperate Housewives, or some such. Each section did their own version, and each added certain key elements- what follows is a synthesis of them all. In response to Desdemona's assertion that she does not believe that there are in fact women who cheat on their husbands, Emilia responds;

Plenty of women cheat, but it's the man's fault. If he won't take care of our needs- goes out and shoots his wad at the strip club- while telling us where we can and can't go, shorting our fun money, smacking us around...well then women can take an attitude too.
Let those men know that women want a little something-something, a little bit of strange, just like men do. Why do they cheat on us anyway? Is it a game? Do they have crushes? Are they just weak? Sure, all of the above. But don't we like games? Don't we get a little buzz from flirting? Don't we just have to have it sometimes too? Sure we do.
Just tell those men to treat us nicely or else we are going to pull the same shit on them- because they showed us how.

So I was proud of my students- because "pour our treasure into foreign laps" is clearly about a lap dance, and I would never have seen it myself any more than I would have thought to translate "gall" as attitude. But then we started talking about what, if anything, had changed since 1604. They informed me that boys who run around are still players, and girls who run around are still whores, skanks, and some other words they wouldn't say in class. They also told me that they know people, relatives, who still have the wifey on an allowance, and if she spends it wrong she is going to get in trouble. It's justified, see, because some women just shop too much.

I got a little sad, and managed to cheer myself up by asking them to tell me why the names Othello, Iago, and Desmona are not used more often as baby names. I mean, Iago could be a girl name too, Iaga. Sweetness. Little Desdemono? Othella?

They reminded me of the lovely family that named their son Adolf Hitler and their daughter Aryan Nation ( which does have a certain soft ring to it, if you completely detach the meaning of the words from the sounds).


  1. So depressing that nothing much changes. I keep trying to tell my (relatively enlightened) husband about how the world has not fundamentally changed in its attitude to women but he seems to take this as a personal affront and merely argues his own case.Zzzzzzz.
    I actually think things are worse than they were a decade or two ago when at least there was a veneer of political correctness to inform us that it was not okay to call women bitches and ho's as easily and unashamedly as today and young women had not been sold the concept that the commoditisation of their sexuality was empowerment rather than DISempowerment.
    Sad. But glad your students are wise to it. I wonder how and if that translates into any action in their own lives. Did they say>?

  2. My students tend to waffle back and forth between scary flashes of insight and defensiveness, depending on the day. They have explained to me that the guy pays for the dinner and the girl shows appropriate appreciation- but they do not think that this equation is suspect. I find that when I try to argue point for point I get absolutely nowhere - but when I stick to the text, and just ask what do you think about this character, this choice, this representation of reality? then we do tend to move towards a higher expectation for both genders. So hard for me to step down from the soap box, but it works much better when I do.