Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Freedom and Personal Liberties

(In response to the discussion on liberty in class, and how women in different countries view their personal liberties.)

I have always felt that liberty has more to do with freedom of choice, than specific freedoms concerning clothing ect. If someone wants to wear a headscarf, or if they want to lay out in public in a bikini, it should be their CHOICE to do so. The freedom of it lies in their ability to choose which they would prefer and then be act to act upon that choice. I believe that the lack of liberty found in some Third world nations lies in the women’s inability to choose their apparel. Those who can choose and decide to wear the head scarves – power to you. The liberty of America can be found in the “pursuit of happiness” slogan, Americans have the freedom, regardless of gender, to do what they need to (within limits) in order to be happy and feel safe. If the headscarves make the afghan women happy and safe, then they should do what makes them happy. If they wear them out of fear of punishment or because they are legally forced to do so, then that represents a lack of liberty.

hegemonic masculinity rxn paper

Feminist theorizing must at some point identify its place in relation to hegemonic masculinity, as it is typically the same behaviors that reinforce hegemonic masculinity that subvert women. However, just as complex as feminist theory is, so too is hegemonic masculinity. The comparison of two different works on the subject reveals its complexity, as well as its social and theoretical relevance.
The documentary Tough Guise focuses on the representation of hegemonic masculinity in the media and how that leads to a slew of social problems. The news media’s lack of recognition of how violence is significantly gendered is one way in which it reinforces strong messages of masculinity. The reporting how many women were raped eludes the emphasis and consequently examination of the men who were actively committing sexual assault. In entertainment, hegemonic masculinity is represented in such a way to promote images of huge, threatening male bodies, the glamorization of weapons, and a lack of sensitivity which is depicted as weakness. By promoting these depictions in film and sports, young men especially feel encouraged to bring to life these models in order to gain respect from their peers and the community.
The essay Hegemonic Masculinity interprets masculinity in a far more complicated light. For example, the relationship between masculinity and violence is actually more intricate. Men are propelled towards violence and crime not because of instilled values of masculinity but, “through the pursuit of hegemony,” which adds more depth and insight to the concept of hegemonic masculinity. Also the relationship between the reproduction of the masculine image and actual links to power and dominance are seemingly more complex as well. Those who embody what society esteems to be masculine representations are not the same as, “those men (who are) identified by researchers as hegemonic.” Tough gang members may earn respect on the street, but they are hardly the ones in our society who control substantial power and influence. These contemplations add layers of depth that both answer and raise questions and concerns about how men are motivated and compelled to fit the mold of hegemonic masculinity.
Both works are fundamentally important to understanding and relating concepts of hegemonic masculinity to pragmatic society and feminist theorizing. While portrayals such as Tough Guise may oversimplify the masculinity, it does address possibly the most relevant social concern of masculinity which is the enormous proportion of violent crimes committed by men and potential ways in which they could be reduced. But at the same time, it is also important to critically analyze the multiple factors that go into the formation of hegemonic masculinity in the first place. Theory and social action are enriched when working complementarily of each other.

Hegemonic Masc. Throughout Life

Hegemonic masculinity is displayed throughout our lives creating subconscious ideas of how a man should behave. At the gym I was able to find an example of the hegemonic masculinity that is persistent in daily life. It was a flyer entitled “Enhancing Male Body Image” that taught men to “be assertive” when others speak about their body image. It speaks of confronting men who speak about a man’s body image negatively. An example of this is when they are called names such as “sissy” or Wimp”. The suggestion to be assertive when a man’s body is challenged is an example of how men are encouraged to defend themselves when their masculinity is challenged. One sees how action is encouraged for men when they are mocked and why there are large rates of violence in men. The standards in place create high standards for men to live up to making men go to extreme lengths to achieve the high standards.
In the movie Tough Guise the extreme act of male violence is discussed, pointing out how men utilize many methods to achieve hegemonic masculinity. It clarifies the problems that accompany our social standards that men feel pressure to follow, showing the need to end the hierarchy of gender based on high, often unattainable, characteristics. From the reading “Hegemonic Masculinity”, I drew the conclusion that within society there is hegemonic masculinity but everyone has their own idea of what it is. Hegemonic masculinity is created during a child’s development through the checking of gender that occurs and the images they are exposed to at a young age. I saw the checking of hegemonic masculinity while teaching preschool, when a boy told another boy during a game of dress up that he was unable to wear both high heels and a space pack. These words created a gender check of the situation explaining that boys who wear space packs do not wear high heels, and more importantly, that a boy who wears high heels does not play with the other boys but with the girls. Hegemonic masculinity asserts itself in most situations, instilling certain ideas in men, causing them to try to achieve hegemonic masculinity by any means necessary. Ultimately, men are looking for the validation of another man. They wish to be recognized as masculine and that they have achieved hegemonic masculinity.

Monday, May 07, 2007

hand maid's tale rxn paper

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale certainly offers insight on issues relating to women’s subjugation, but a well versed reader can not help but notice the undertones which comment on Atwood’s feminist contemporaries. It seems to serve as a premonition for any type of radical movement, especially for ones that claim to serve the interests of women, be it on the left or on the right.
By illustrating the horrors of a society that has leaned so far that it has fallen into the radical religious right, Atwood also puts into question the morality of radical feminism. Catherine McKinnon’s crusade against sexualized violence led her into a much criticized alliance with the religious right. Tactics that McKinnon and other radical feminists proposed for helping women curbed freedom of speech and expression in order to limit pornography. That combined with Offred’s feminist mother burning books, are scarily similar to the totalitarian tactics used in the Republic of Gilead, which also supposedly protect women from violence. Instead, they do this by severely restricting women’s freedoms, as well as men’s accessibility to them.
In the context of the novel the feminist approach had failed to stop the eroticism of dominance and sexual violence. The failure made room for the conservative backlash, which protected women by removing sexuality from dominance. The mechanical act of the Ceremony demonstrates how it is possible for women to be oppressed through sexuality without dominance or submission or anything sexy (though dominance and submission do still certainly exist). Atwood’s critique of McKinnon and radical feminism is not scathing; it merely shows its possible dangers as well as its wholes.
Disability is also a pervasive motif throughout the novel. In the Republic of Gilead, environment factors have caused infertility in men and women, though only women bare the consequences. Disability theory shows how not being able to conform to physical gender expectation, i.e. by not giving birth, women considered defective non-women. Thus this “disability” (even if it is the man who is disabled/infertile) causes women to lose their status as women, and thus as persons and they are consequently sent to die in the colonies. Even when pregnancy results in live birth, deformed infants known as schredders are sent away and presumably euthanized. This shows how obsolete the notion of disability is, especially when environmental factors practically make it a norm.
Patricia C. Collins’ literature also has a place in analysis. The rulers of Gilead use a complex social system of race and gender to create a hierarchy of subordination and domination for the women of Gilead – with the privileged white Wives working alongside the stigmatized possibly black Marthas, who work together to control the bodies and sexuality of the Handmaids.
Twenty years after its publication, The Handmaid’s Tale still serves as a reminder to avoid any type of totalitarian action regardless of the philosophy it backs up. It is also concerning because of the ever-growing power of the religious right, who gear their activism towards denying women reproductive freedom, as evident by the symbolic illegalization of “partial birth” abortions. Today, perhaps the greatest message we can take away from the novel is “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Is freedom relative? Analyzing FGD

In class for the past few weeks we have been discussing freedom, in its application to both Western and Third World Countries. Furthermore, we discussed how freedom is different from women based on geographical location. I find that although this may be true in some situations (such as dress), it cannot always be applied to traditions "valued" in a society. The traditional practice of female genital mutilation (FDM) comes to mind. FGM is the predominately African custom in which females (as young as 4 years old) engage in a ceremonial process that results in the removal of part, or all of the genitilia. The procedure may refer to clitoridectomy (removal of the clitoris), excision (removal of the labia minora), or infibulation (removal of the clitoris, labia minora and majora, and stitching together to form a small hole). A female is held down by older women (either the town elder, a traditional midwife or a healer) with her legs open and the incision is done with the use of broken glass, a tin lid, scissors or a razor blade, often without the use of a local anesthetic. (I apologize for the graphics, I just want to get my point across fully). Immediate complications that result from the procedure include hemorrhage, shock due to intolerable and prolonged pain, infection, tetanus and retention of urine. Later complications involve difficult and painful urination, urinary infections resulting from debris collecting, a damming up of menstrual blood and inclusion cysts. At marriage, the infibulation MUST be torn, stretched or cut open by the bridegroom, and then prevented from healing shut. This agonizingly painful procedure may take weeks or even months to complete. Giving birth is quite dangerous due to the inelasticity of her infibulation scar. An estimated 135 million females have undergone female genital mutilation in their lifetime and approximately two million girls a year are at risk of mutilation. So clearly, this is a horrible practice as it has LIFETHREATENING effects on females that have undergone the practice, so why is practiced? While all Muslims do not find the tradition to be a religious tradition specified in the Koran, Muslims of strict Islamic observance believe that a woman should be “circumcised” in order to follow the example of the faith’s prophet, Mohammed, who they believed favored sunnah circumcision (circumcision necessary to preserve tradition and honor). Many Women who are not circumsized are shunned by society and live in fear. For example, during the Muslim month of Ramadan, Muslim men do not accept food from an uncircumcised Muslim woman and she will not be allowed to pray in a mosque. There are even more extreme views, “Leaving a girl uncircumcised endangers both her and her baby. If the baby’s head touches the uncut clitoris during birth, the baby will born hydrocephalic. The milk of the mother will become poisonous."
If this practice is immoral on the basis of a universal set of ethics not traditions, How does one reconcile women rights as a universal value while recognizing culture? How and when is it just to impose one’s (Western) beliefs and system of morals upon another culture? On what grounds are diverse cultures valid?


I love this poem by Adrienne Rich, probably because its science related and reminds me of Vera Rubin (this amazing astronomer I met who discovered dark mass). Astronomy is a very discriminating field that does not easily accept women into its research and study. Anyways, this poem is about the astronomer Caroline Herschel who discovered eight comets. When she was 10 she had typhus, stunting her growth; because of her malformation her father advised her that she would never marry and would live her life as an "old maid". She never ended up marrying and was one of the first women recognized for a scientific position, she received pension from King George III, the Gold Medal of Science from the King of Prussia and numerous presitigious awards.

by Adrienne Rich

A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them

a woman ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled
like us
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
ribs chilled
in those spaces of the mind

An eye,

‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
from the mad webs of Uranusborg

encountering the NOVA

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

Tycho whispering at last
‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse
pouring in from Taurus

I am bombarded yet I stand

I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep
so invo-luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me
And has taken
I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lessons through generations

One of my favorite readings this semester was Uma Narayan’s Contesting Cultures. I enjoyed it very much because of how much it related to my own life. I especially liked her discussion about mother-daughter relationships. My mother and I get along very well; she is one of the closest friends I have. However, as I grow older I can see more contradictions in the way she raised me, as Narayan described. For instance, she is very supportive of my academic pursuits. In some ways, she has made my goal to become a lawyer hers as well, through her constant support and encouragement. She wants me to learn all I can in college, allowing me to venture to D.C. and giving me my independence instead of keeping me near home. It is as Narayan claimed, “Both our mothers and our mother-cultures give us all sorts of contradictory messages, encouraging their daughters to be confident, impudent, self-assertive, and achieving, even as they attempt to instill conformity, decorum, and silence, seemingly oblivious to these contradictions.” My mother teaches me to be strong and independent.

At the same time though, she unconsciously instills the passive characteristics of Asian culture in me. By innocently telling me how she asks my father before making any major decision, she is establishing the ideas of patriarchy in my mind. I understand and take to heart all her lessons on respect for my elders, but how to balance my quiet docility with the freethinking independence I’m supposed to live by?

These questions lead me to think about how I will raise my daughter. Will I emphasize heavier on Western ideals or refer to the Eastern principles of my parents? I have been raised with a mix of two; I can only imagine that the generation after me will receive a even more diluted upbringing. I am often confused by the two forces in my life, I’m not sure which one I’m more predisposed to and how they will carry through to my adulthood. As I mentioned in class, luckily this hypothetical daughter is a long way off.

Anzaldúa & Rushin: Identities

Everyone possesses multiple identities, whether those involve one’s position in a family, work place, age group, social environment, etc. These identities can act as fluid markers depending on the context, add to the complexity of individuals, as well as present difficulties to a person when separate identities clash. When one is classified as the product of a plurality of races, the tension that often can arise from conflict of identities is tremendously augmented. Gloria Anzaldúa’s La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness addresses the unique and distressing position of those with a combination of Spanish, Native American, African, and Anglo roots. She describes the uncomfortable position of both men and women labeled mestiza, and the need for a mestiza consciousness fixed upon the concept of inclusivity and acceptance. Anzaldúa addresses the need to require equal treatment from the men of same unique racial makeup, and the necessity of creating a fresh definition of masculinity within this new consciousness as well. She posits that the creation of this consciousness cannot come without an acceptance of the tensions, contradictions, and ambivalences which mark the unique identities of those like Anzaldúa, including the recognition of past and present injustices inflicted by/upon such people. “We can no longer blame you [oppressors], nor disown the white parts, the male parts, the pathological parts, the queer parts, the vulnerable parts” (386). Her work shares some paramount concepts with black feminist writers. The issue of identity multiplicity is very integral to Black Feminism, given the continuing conflict of whether to unite with men of color or predominantly white feminists in order to fight subjugation. The distinctive intersection of race and gender is considered home to many. To Anzaldúa this space is the called “Borderlands”; to Donna Kate Rushin, it is a “Bridge.” Anzaldúa’s Borderlands poem demonstrates the alienation, invisibility, and vulnerability which accompany the mestiza experience. Her assertion that survival entails “being a crossroads” certainly parallels the idea of multiple identities creating a bridge for others to tread on, as put forth in Donna Kate Rushin’s Bridge Poem. She denounces this kind of bridging of identities because she must first build a bridge to her “true self” in order to be “useful”, much in the same way that Anzaldúa recognizes the need to internally accept the plurality of identities in a mestiza. Both women shed light on the extreme pressure to explain themselves, externally and internally, and their continually contradictory and conflicting personal and cultural histories.

The Bridge Poem

Another interesting poem we discussed was the Bridge Poem by Donna Kate Rushin. I remember my initial reaction was feeling a little repelled. Her wording was very strong and I felt as if she was bragging about carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. I was especially skeptical about the excerpt

I am sick/Of having to remind you/To breathe/Before you suffocate/Your own fool self

I mentioned this to the group and we had a discussion about whether she was arrogant or rightfully proud of what she has done.

In the end my mind was changed as we concluded that she was indeed bearing a heavy burden. Her poem reflected the frustration she felt over being alone and the sole bridge. At the conclusion, she decided the most important bridge she could build is the one to her true self. If venting her anger in this poem counted as the first step, I don't see it as arrogance at all.

Lines you can't cross

Looking back at the semester, one discussion particularly stands out to me. We had just read Anzaldua's poem the Borderlands and someone had commented about the dangers of rigidity. Anzaldua's poem referred to an internal conflict within herself about her mixed identity, as well as external problems with the way people perceived her. Our group discussed the dangers of drawing too many lines between people. I believe that these categories and labels only serve to divide us further into even more little niches and cliques. Another problem is people are forced to identify with one "prime" identity- whether it be young, old, heterosexual, lesbian, white, black...these divisive lines make it difficult for people to be themselves. We are byproducts of many factors and characteristics but the groups society makes for us force us to repress all in favor of one.

Elaboration on Tough Guise

Ninety-nine percent of the time when I introduce myself as a women’s studies major, I face the same three responses.

“Uh-oh, you must REALLY hate men.”
“Oh so are you a crazy feminist?”
“Hey, where’s the men’s studies?”

The last comment, usually quipped by some guy trying to be cute and witty, actually underlines a problem that the film “Tough Guise” highlights. Though men are considered the “dominant” gender group, they are growing increasingly invisible, enabled unconsciously by our society. For instance, news headlines do not say “Man killed wife,” but rather make the woman the subject of discourse by announcing “Woman murdered by husband.”

The invisibility of men can be attributed to their majority status as it is the norm. For instance, the film listed categories such as race. My mind immediately reverted to African, Asian, Latina. Never did I think Caucasian, because they are the majority. Their actions, thoughts, and beliefs are thus considered the norm and free from observation, which becomes a great danger.

I was very struck by this phenomenon that the film brought up. I love women’s studies and have accepted that we are indeed the “minority” gender. However, I had never realized how powerful this implication was for men. Because of this, men as the majority group are allowed to slide under the radar. Thus the cheeky question actually has some validity- where is the men’s studies? Connell’s article on masculinity is a start. By examining hegemonic masculinities, we can explore a lot of what creates the typical image of a “manly man” and begin to understand the roots of many problems.

Studies such as Connell’s become even more important with the invisibility of men. We need to study men just as we study women, especially if men’s majority status allows them to slide by. For instance, “Tough Guise” often brought up the need for young boys to act tough and macho. This leads to violence, as numerous statistics show the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by males. Connell also elaborates on this danger, citing the relationship between hegemony and force.

If men have the protective shield of invisibility, granted by their dominant status, I am in full support of a men’s studies programs. Perhaps even men don’t understand what makes them who they are. Women’s studies has certainly taught me a lot about being a woman and opened up another level of understanding to me. I believe men could benefit from the same. Traditionally, soul searching and discussions over identity has been scorned by men but perhaps this is what we need. Connell sums it up with, “The cure lies in taking a consistently relational approach to gender- not in abandoning the concepts of gender of masculinity.” An even more radical idea could be studying men and women in relevance to one another instead of separating the sphere. A better understanding of ourselves would benefit all sides.

Women vs. Women

The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a long time. Until I came to complete this reaction paper, I had no idea that it was written even before I was born. As I read the novel, I could see so many issues prevalent to today’s society. However, now I can also see the debates over feminist theory of that time.

One of the most interesting points was the classification of women. Through these, Atwood highlights some important debate in feminism. There are the Handmaids, such as the narrator Offred. As the story progresses, we’re introduced to more Handmaids, such as Ofwarren and Ofglen, all without proper names and only considered an extension of the male they belong to. Offred describes herself as nothing but shell hiding a core. For instance, Handmaids are denied lotion as their outer appearance is meaningless; they’re only used for their fertility. This brings into question the worth of women- are we nothing but baby producing machines?

In the Republic of Gilead, women are prevented from reading and making choices. There’s a sense of women subjugating women, as the Wives hold sway over the Handmaids. For instance, Offred often mentions how Serena Joy passively emphasizes her power over her, such as barring the door and refusing her entrance until she pleases. Also, the Marthas dictate Offred’s physical wellbeing by feeding and washing her. The Aunts hold power over the Handmaids as well, reshaping them mentally. However, none of these classes of females have any liking or respect for each other. They are in a constant battle and struggle against each other, trying to keep their own heads above water.

In a way, this relates to feminist issues today. One of the problems with feminism today is the gaps in our movement. Whether they’re caused by age, social class, or race, there are many divisive factors that hold back the women’s movement. Often, it is said that women are the ones hurting their own cause. This can be seen in the Handmaid’s Tale. Though the Commander was the highest in the hierarchy, he was actually very passive. He was even kind to Offred, giving her hand lotion and spending time with her. It was actually Serena Joy and the other women who kept Offred suppressed. In this sense, it is a shame that women are actually the ones who uphold the hierarchy of oppression.

This also relates to issues dating even farther back. The lack of unity amongst females has been a prevalent issue; even Simone de Beauvoir mentioned it in The Second Sex in 1949. She concluded that the division is because “…women lack concrete means for organizing themselves into a unity which can stand face to face with the correlative unit. They have no past, no history, no religion of their own.” Classically, women have had trouble uniting and fighting as a cohesive group. Their division further hurts the movement when they become the sources of other women’s suppression.

Classifications and distribution of roles, divisions amongst the feminist movement and women hurting women has been an issue that’s been passed down through time. Unfortunately, this is not the type of inheritance we want to leave behind for our daughters. Hopefully in time, a solution will be reached and when themes such as these make their way into literature, we can rightfully call them history, and nothing more.

Excerpt of Reaction Paper on Gloria Anzaldua

Gloria Anzaldua’s poem “Borderlands,” highlights a concept of identity that is becoming more and more relevant each day as the world grows smaller. In particular, Anzaldua speaks of the difficulties that come with being a part of the intersection of multiple cultures, races, and languages. Yet, she also briefly brings up the idea of being “both woman and man, neither—a new gender.” The role of this statement in the poem is ambiguous. Through these words, does Anzaldua mean to convey how having to be “the forerunner of a new race” feels as impossible as having to be the forerunner of a new gender would be? Or, is Anzaldua saying that the border between female and male is yet another blurred line for her that makes her identity something that she has trouble with? It is quite probable that she means both, though either way her poem clearly embraces borders of all types.

Thoughts on MacKinnon

According to MacKinnon “all women live in sexual objectification the way fish live in water” (171), an idea that comes through pretty strong in the aboutface website’s criticism of “the offenders” in the ‘gallery of offenders.’ In fact, for years, I have been taught to hate the media because of the “sexual objectification” of women that is central to most advertisements. Yet, while looking through the gallery, I couldn’t help but feel that some criticisms may be a bit too harsh. There is no doubt that women are sexually objectified and much more prominent in advertisements than men, but when male models are depicted, they too, are sexually objectified. Just as most women are not as thin as most female models, most men are not as perfectly built as most male models. It is the advertisements that depict women as both sexual and childish or women as docile or incurring violence that really upset me. For example, the advertisement that depicts a woman’s legs hanging out of the trunk of a car, I find infuriating. An advertisement where a woman is simply being sexual and is thin, however, has never angered me as much. In that sense, I believe MacKinnon’s placement of all the blame on men goes a bit too far. At the same time I am very intrigued by some of her ideas. For example, the simple statement, “what is sexual is what gives a man erection,” while perhaps an over simplification, did make me wonder about whether men can actually act sexual without making a joke of it. While men’s bodies are often sexualized in advertisements, sexual actions made by men, such as male striptease, often seem to be simply comic attempts at copying what is considered sexual female acts. Her analysis of pornography as something that “shows what men want and gives it to them” also makes me wonder if there is not a type of film that ‘shows what women want and gives it to them.’ What about romance films? Are women not taught to want and believe in unrealistic images of men just as men are taught to want and believe in unrealistic images of women? I am by no means saying that ‘chick flicks’ are as dangerous as pornography. In fact, I fully support her argument that pornography normalizes violence, hate, and oppression against women. It’s just that I believe her arguments would be more valid if she at least acknowledged that sexual inequality is not simply a one sided issue.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Afghanistan Unveiled and Mohanty

Both articles of Mohanty apply well to the film Afghanistan Unveiled. Her first essay Under Western Eyes can be used to both praise and criticize the film. Mohanty preaches about the importance in not making broad generalizations for the various plights of third world women, but instead to arrive at conclusions about their struggles only after going through culturally and historically specific analysis. Although the film itself does not make the “women in the third world are…so therefore” kinds of statements that Mohanty so dreads, it does manage to show how even within the same country the circumstances which constitute women’s hardships differ drastically.
It would have been simple for the European film makers to spin the film so that al strife was due to the oppressive Taliban, and that because the Taliban had been removed by foreign troops everything was just peachy, or at least improving. Rather the film acknowledges the destructive force of the Taliban and also manages to exhibit its ripple effect on very different women, thus creating very different results. For example, the first women we encounter live in ancient Buddhist caves with their children and grandchildren, as all of the male and many of the female parents have been killed by the Taliban. As a result they have no viable means to earn a living and are destitute and malnourished. Another segment shows the troubles of a young mother, whose husband, as well as two of his male kin, was killed by an accidental bombing from American troupes while she was pregnant. These two contrasting stories create a more complex situation than “the Taliban is bad, the Taliban being gone is good.” For the first woman, though the Taliban was the source of much of her grief, its removal has yet to benefit her, and for the other it was just that, the Taliban’s removal, which caused her grief in the first place. In this way the film is successful under Mohanty’s eyes, for its specific conclusions relating to third world women.
The film is less successful when it is through the eyes of the narrator of the story, a young, beautiful, wealthy, educated woman. In this situation she seems to represent the viewpoint of the Western feminists who Mohanty so criticizes. It seems that her privileged standpoint blinds her to the real hardships that her fellow Afghani women suffer, while she blithely travels through the countryside in a jeep proudly gushing about how far women have come in Afghanistan that a woman could be a journalist and about how excited she is to ride horses. As is made evident by the film, her situation is not at all representative of progress for Afghan women, as many are still afraid of being unveiled in public and of constant threats of rape and kidnap. This aspect of the film can also be appreciated by Mohanty’s second work, Under Western Eyes Revisited, where Mohanty implores her audience to take the viewpoint of the worlds most subjugated and exploited women, because it is only from their eyes that the complex networks of oppression become visible. It is hard to conclude whether or not the film actually achieves this goal, for though it does show the hardships of the least well off, it is through the lends of the best off. Regardless, it is still a useful tool in showing the complexity of the infrastructure of a third world country, and the multifaceted factors and consequences that go into and come out of the adversity of Afghan women.

Hegemonic Masculinity

The concept of hegemonic masculinity has done much for the cause of deconstructing that which is rarely questioned. Masculinity, although the dominant gender in our current dichotomy, often remains invisible from scrutiny and challenge, paradoxically enough, because of its omnipresence. Any discussion of “gender”, according to Jackson Katz, elicits an immediate assumption that it solely involves women, never men. This phenomenon renders masculinity obscured and directs all focus on women and femininity instead of the way in which both masculinity and femininity exist relationally. It also discounts the social constructionist viewpoint which seeks to untangle common understandings of gender as necessarily attached to sex. Connell and Messerschmidt identify gender as an active process in constant need of reconstruction and enforcement. Hegemonic masculinity requires the “active struggle for dominance” (p. 832) and therefore points to the nonessential quality which defines gender. This concept allows one to reject the category of “man” as monolithic, and recognize the hierarchy of masculinities located within relations among men and women, which change given the context—historical, cultural, social or otherwise. The concept of hegemonic masculinity necessarily relies on subordinated others, either those enacting other masculinities (homosexual males, for example) or women. Connell and Messerschmidt emphasize that it is a position held by few but maintained by many, and because of this, it signifies a certain consent on behalf of the all parties involved. Masculinity, at first glance, may appear static, but once one recognizes the constant struggle on the part of men to sustain the particular dominance definitive of hegemonic masculinities, and how the qualifications change (often drastically) over time, one can clearly detect countless contradictions. The historical and cultural (re)construction of masculinity is demonstrated in the film “Tough Guise.” The representation of the gun-wielding man, the epitome of masculinity and power, has undergone tremendous alterations since the Humphrey Bogart’s of the 1940s and 50s. Jackson Katz maps the increase in size of gun and sinisterness of the pose in images of leading males in films from the 1950s-the 1980s, culminating in the enormity of the gun and muscles exhibited by the hyper-masculine characters of Rambo and the Terminator. His discussion of the influence of white Italian mafia portrayals on black rap culture and the subsequent influence on white suburban boys truly reveals the process of cultural and historical construction of masculinity and in turn de-essentializes the category itself. Both the Connell & Messerschmidt piece and “Tough Guise” portray the constant construction and reinforcement of masculinity and display the contradictions of the seemingly “inherent” nature of gender. Gender is a performance, influenced and changed by interactions with subordinates and so-called “equals”, although hegemonic masculinity rarely allows for this at all.