Posts Tagged ‘womens roles’

Oh, goodness! Being “good” as being “same”?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Having recently listened to the Joe Jackson song referenced in class, I have been on a “kick,” if you will, about sameness. As our readings, particularly the Wilkins piece, exemplified, sameness offers solace and comfort, as well as social reaffirmation that one is on the “right path.” For example, we witnessed the University Unity kids assert repeatedly that they do pursue and hold friendships outside the confines of Unity and Christianity as a whole. However, and most notably, they find it hard to know “where they stand” with these secular friends or friends of other faiths. This cuts Unity/non-Unity friendships short, or only allows them to reach a certain point before one or both of the members feels disconnected from the other person on moral grounds. And in terms of Unity lifestyle, there are many areas that are apt to prompt disagreement with non-Unity friends.

The idea of being a part of a group that Wilkins originally categorizes as “just good people” is intriguing, because it brings up the necessary and essential idea of goodness. What—and who—can be considered “good?” In terms of Unity alone, it seems that if one is dutiful in praying and reading the Bible, setting aside time for God, and abstaining from sex, drug usage, and immodesty, then that individual fits the criteria for “goodness.” But in effect, adherence to these rules leaves very little room for individuality and potential to think for oneself outside of an academic context, so no wonder it limits their more secular relationships.

My question here is, does goodness imply sameness—sameness of “thought, word, and deed,” as outlined in the Nicene Creed itself?

This is a disturbing thought, because the last thing we want to believe is that we, as humans with functional minds and control over our actions, could subscribe to a set of prescribed actions and thoughts to such an extent that we become, as we mentioned earlier in the semester, “holy spirit zombies.” That we would be unable to identify any personal characteristic or marking qualities aside from surface-level hobbies, such as Lucas’ swing-dancing pastime, is frightening to a modern, liberal, 21st-century mind. And yet, on the surface, they seem so normal—college hoodies and movie nights with friends, going out to diners and for ice cream, and the like, seem to suggest that we as non-Unity members are not so different from them after all.

However, it is also important to note that while the Unity kids seem not to stand out in their choice of dress and lack of partying—Wilkins describes them explicitly as “vanilla” at one point—this is precisely what sets them apart from the norm. Though understated and subtle, Unity kids maintain the appearance of social “norms” in the way that Christian Rock does—they take the semblances of the mainstream and then “clean it up,” therefore making the action more palatable for those who subscribe to the Unity lifestyle. For example, some of the Unity girls like to go out and dance with their friends, but instead of contour skirts and pumps, they can be seen in T-shirts and jeans.

“Unity Style”


This chick

This is the tricky part: T-shirts and jeans seem so normal, but in this case, their wearers are actually embodying a quiet form of resistance to social (i.e., secular) norms. By going against the expected code of dress, Unity girls maintain the modesty expected of them, and are able to participate in activities outside Unity, all the while upholding Unity values.

This resistance is fascinating, because it is often gender-dependent, can have many layers, and can be done in a variety of ways. In my Language and Gender class, we have talked a lot about gender and how individuals and groups will often subvert gender in ways that are unexpected and often surprising. If you have the time, I would recommend you read the following article about “Nerd Girls” that we had to read for class. Just the idea that the category of “Nerd” does not already include females is noteworthy, but that aside, it is a good read and exemplifies yet another way that groups subvert, undercut, and otherwise resist social norms and gender expectations. Furthermore, this is another example of how important sameness is in terms of connection and group cohesiveness, and how social situations can become potentially problematic or confusing if not all participants in the conversation approach the subject the same way.

[Incidentally, another gender-bending article we read for Language and Gender may be of interest to some of you. It is a culturally-based a commentary on Japan’s “Kogals”who routinely defy and redefine young Japanese women’s sexuality through sexual availability, deliberate linguistic change, and distinctive images that offer yet another form of resistance against traditional femininity.]

Whew, sorry for the longest blog post ever! See you all in class!

A Timely Story from NPR…

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

This One’s for the Girls

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Hello, y’all.

Let me start off with a personal plug: there is a lot of really rich and fruitful discussion going on in previous posts about The Zuni Man-Woman. Please keep up this creative and scholarly energy for class today when Brittany and I talk to y’all about the book! =] I am really curious to see where our discussion will take us today!

All right, moving on…

Something that struck me as heartening about this book (and about Zuni society as a whole) was the fact that it is matrilineal. Though the concept of matrilineal societies isn’t exactly new to me, I guess I had never thought about all of their different implications. I was astonished and gladdened by Roscoe’s description of how women function both in and out of their families: how it is considered both normal (and expected) for women to choose their sexual partners as they wish, how children are considered legitimate no matter what because the parentage of the father is not “necessary” to know, and about how women are always grounded within their families and are not dependent on their husband’s family line. Roscoe puts it best when he says that “Married, divorced, or single, women always had a home,” (20) a concept that is both alien to Anglo-Saxon history and is comforting to our 21st-century feminist minds.

Additionally—and on a less serious note—did anyone else get a kick out of the Zuni method of divorcing a husband? It’s pretty funny:

“To divorce a husband, a woman simply set his possessions out on the doorstep. ‘When he comes home in the evening,’ Ruth Benedict explained, ‘he sees the little bundle, picks it up and cries, and returns with it to his mother’s house. He and his family weep and are regarded as unfortunate’” (20).

This definitely brought me right back to Beyonce:

Anyway, I’ll leave this post at that, but there is a lot more to be talked about and I hope our in-class dialogue proves as interesting as these posts have been!

Diabolical Dichotomy: Women’s Roles in Early American Tradition

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Over the past couple of weeks, it’s become clear that most of the ideas about women being innocent and pure are fairly new.  This first came to light for me while reading Becoming the Goddess, by Bruce Lincoln.  He describes a Navajo ceremony called “Kinaalda,” which celebrates a girl’s first menstruation.  This signals her reproductive power as a member of the community.  Celebrations like this are rare if nonexistent nowadays, and at first glance, this ceremony may be considered positive.  A society celebrated something that, in 2013, is usually hidden or just not talked about.  In the Kinaalda, the girl becomes Changing Woman, a goddess who, among many things, symbolizes fertility in Navajo tradition.

Navajo men and women bake a corn cake in the ground during a Kinaalda ceremony.  The cake is a solar image, alluding to the conception of Changing Woman's twins by Sun.

Navajo men and women bake a corn cake in the ground during a Kinaalda ceremony. The cake is a solar image, alluding to the conception of Changing Woman’s twins by Sun.

However, later in the reading, Lincoln mentions the legend of Changing Woman, who bore twins, fathered by Sun, to save the world from horrible monsters.  The origin of these monsters?

Masturbating women.

Apparently, these monsters grew from women using their sexuality for non-reproductive purposes.  Therefore, Changing Woman had to bear sons to slay the monsters and bring peace to a chaotic world.

The dichotomy of women’s roles in early tradition is blatant.  On one hand, women are held up as both productive and reproductive members of society.  They are laborers, and they bring new life into the world.  Their position as potential mothers is respected and, in matriarchal societies like that of the Navajo, women seem to be placed on a pedestal.

The other side of the coin is far less encouraging.  Unbridled female sexuality is regarded as sinful and base, and harms the society as a whole.  When a woman goes against what would be considered her natural, reproductive nature, she creates chaos.

Puritan tradition was similar in its attitudes towards women.  According to a chapter entitled “The Serpent Beguiled Me,” women had to be modest and loyal to their husbands.  Women were not naturally good, by Calvinist standards.  According to page 97, “Because the potential for evil was innate, lust might break out anywhere,” suggesting that evil and lust go hand in hand, and that women should be guarded against superficial, sexual tendencies.

Further in this chapter, the author turns to Eve, the first woman in biblical tradition.  She caused sin to enter the world by eating the Forbidden Fruit, disobeying God.  The resulting punishment on all mankind after her has caused views on women to become skewed. Women are seen as “weak, unstable, susceptible to suggestion,” by their very nature.  This attitude makes women seem like children who don’t know any better and need to be either disciplined or taught their place.

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The bottom line throughout all of this is that women have a very specific role to play, and those who toe the line are sinful and unnatural.  A woman’s job was to make babies and work hard for the good of society.  Lust was wrong.  Expression of sexuality was wrong.  From Eve to early Navajo, women have been stuck in very narrow, defined gender roles that limit their freedom of individuality and sexuality, for fear of damaging a society.  Though their gender roles have changed over time, freedom of sexual expression has always been limited and regulated by myth, legend, and Bible verse.