Final paper then I’m free. yaaaaaaay!

On my final paper, I’ll be working on the topic of woman and politics in the  two texts We Egyptian Women by Inji Aflatun and The Second Sex(introduction) by Simone de Beauvoire. Both essays were published in the same year 1949. Although they belong to two different cultures and societies, both emphasize on the importance of the participation of women in political life to create a democratic society. Besides, by the time these works were published women hadn’t fully gained her political rights(although the situation didn’t really change that much now).

Study will start by giving a brief historical background about situation of women in both societies. Then, afterwards there’ll be a theoritical approach to the text using Marx and Althusser’s theories because both authors talk about this issue from a Marxist point of view and then the idea of feminism as ideology will be explored as well along with the influence of these texts on the territories where they were published and here the power of words through writing is revealed, which ofcourse brings to our mind our dear Derrida :S.

I really wonder why are women a threat to men in the political field?  Isn’t democracy about equality between everyone regardless of gender between other issues or is politics excluded in this point?Why is it thought that just by voting we got all our political rights?Why is it always thought like Aristotle said”women are incomplete men“? why are we condemned to silence(somehow until now) in this specific male-dominated area?

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Guha and Spivak

The two post-colonialist theorists Guha and Spivak mainly focus on the subalterns  and their representation in the history of the  imperial India. Subaltern is referred to the oppressed groups within society: women, proletarians…etc. But Spivak discusses it from another angle and says it  doesn’t refer only to the social class of the oppressed groups, but also to the deprivation of the access to imperialist culture in general. 

In Prose of Counter Insurgency,  Guha starts his discussion mentioning that whenever peasants rebelled, it was considered as a violation of the imperialist codes imposed upon them: law, religion and tradition. So, this first paragraph gives a whole overview of the isses that’ll be discussed in the article afterwards. The author then gives examples of insurgency of peasant and explains it as:” Insurgency, in other words, was a motivated and conscious undertaking on the part of the rural masses” (46).  

Regarding Historiography and how it represented the rebels’ consciousness, it “has been content to deal with the peasant rebel merely as an empirical person or member of a class, but not as an entity whose will and reason constituted the praxis called rebellion” (46). Therefore, the peasant rebel wasn’t viewed in Historiography as” the conscious subject of his own history”.

This is how Guha ends up his essay showing that Historiography is subjective and written from an imperialist perspective and all what is written is counted as true. (And ofcourse, needless to the say that insurgence is viewed from a different way by dominants).

 All the points that Guha discussed regarding insurgency of groups without voice in history can be applied on women who belong to subaltern group. Spivak discussed this issues in her essay Subaltern Studies:  Deconstructing Historiography where women in Indian society was oppressed and deprived of leadership within patriarchal society. Besides, Historians excluded women as subjects, just as the peasant insurgents. Women, are referred to as people without voices, because as we saw in Guha’s article he says whatever is written in History is regarded as true, but what about silence? What if these silent individuals could speak?  Would they be able to change History? I think so.

Spivak mentions that women are subordinated to men under the patriarchal power which eliminates their own identity:” the figure of woman moving from clan to clan, and family to family, as daughter/sister and wife/mother, syntaxes patriarchal continuity even as she is herself drained of proper identity” (220).

Here I attach an article which talks about  brutal violence  committed against female protestors during the Egyptian Revolution, January 2011. And I wonder would historians mention it when they write about this Revolution? I don’t think so. Not only because they are women(subaltern: according to society), but also the same three codes would prevent him/her from mentioning it: religion, law and tradition.

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Foucault’s”Repressive Hypothesis”

In Repressive Hypothesis, Foucault talks about the repression of sexuality throughout history. He basically mentions that the main reason of this repression is the power which prohibited sex to be formed as a discourse.

This form of repressions parallels the rise of the bourgeosie in the seventeenth century because it was against their ethic and they didn’t want to ruin their families’ lineage. In that time, sex was restricted to be talked about at home in the bedroom and literature which included sex was described as”scandalous”. Not only did the capitalism form this censorship but the Church as a religious institution as well. Which means that discourse of sexuality was restricted only to marriage(a private place) and not to be talked about or thought of outside this area.

Afterwards in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, sex discourse was still controlled and was discussed in fields of medicine and psychiatry . Even sexual orientation and certain sexual practises as sodomy were controlled as well. Foucault sees that there’s no difference regarding this issue in modern industrial time.

Talking about gender and sexuality, I would like to say that I totally agree with Butler when she says that gender issue rises up when one is born and they decide either s/he is male or female because we are all human beings and should be looked at this way apart from our sex/sexuality. Thus, Foucault theory was influential on feminist and queer theory due to the oppression practiced on both women and homosexuals and putting them in the world of silence

On the other hand, I’d like to say that I agree with Foucault as well because power is a form of repression on sexual discourse. For example, in Egypt (where sex is still regarded as a taboo), the two main centres of power are: politics and religion(Islam and Christianity). Both of them ban sexual discourse in the name of religion in order to create a stable, conservative society, according to them. I think I’ll need hundreds on pages to give examples of sexual repressions, but I’ll talk about it briefly. Sex discourse is restricted to husband and wife who can’t kiss for example in public places and they can’t discuss it with their children until one of them gets married. What’s really frustrating that many people get married and they don’t even know what sex is. Can you believe it?

In schools, it is banned to teach sexology, even in biology when we were taught the lesson about reproduction, we weren’t allowed to ask about “shameful” details. Other form of sexual repression is discourse of homosexuality which is the biggest taboo ever. In military services, only straight men are allowed to join and then they check each person even they find out if one is gay(I don’t know how they know that), they stamp it on his file and then he’s deprived from all his rights even from working.

Last but least, as Mosques and Churches are the most powerful institutions in Arab societies, both encourage circumcision of children, a medieval act which is practiced until now. Here I upload alink for a video that shows how brutal it is. Besides, I was shocked when I found out it is even practiced here in Vancouver as seen in the picture.!/video/video.php?v=361232477920&oid=22049526756

To sum up, after mentioning the above examples, I agree with Foucault that even until now the repressive hypothesis takes place in different places. I’m quite sure it has other forms in Western societies as well. But why  all this obsession with our sexuality? Does it really say anything about us? I don’t think so.

Finally, I have a couple of questions:

-Foucault said that historically this form of repression started with the rise of bourgeosie, but I wonder how was sex viewed and discussed in previous centuries?

-With the explosion of pop culture which is all about sex, would it have satisfied Foucault? And did it really solve this issue?

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Review on”Paris is burning”

        New York, 1987

Paris is burning is a documentary whose main theme can be described in three words: Black, gay, men. It reflects the lives of these persons within one specific place: ball. What really matters is the significance of this place for the characters, it’s a place where they can be themselves, a place where they can do anything they wish and be anyone they want. So, their own real identity is created over there.

Through the interviews, we see the struggle of these people with some major problems within that society as homophobia, racism., poverty., and even rejection from their families because of their sexuality.

Actually, the models that they imitate in the ball rooms are white and rich. Even those who imitate actresses they choose ones like Marylin Monroe for example but never black ones. Therefore, in Gramsci terms there is a cultural hegemony of white  and precisely a specific social class. This  white supremacy is the cultural hegemony that’s dominating the minds of the characters. In this case, race isn’t just a color of skin, but actually it forms a part of ideology that’s associated with certain aspects within our minds including social class and power from among others. Not only class and race are the models to follow, but also heterosexuality forms part of the hegemonic culture as well. To confirm this point, as the title mentions, Paris represents  the place of white way of living, looking and dressing . On the other hand, the colors in the movie were really related with all the actions as they were concentrated on three: red, black and white. Three colors which are related with sexuality, passion and power. Moreover, music plays a major role in the movie and relates deeply with the actions and with the emotions of the characters.

Bell Hooks in her essay “The Oppositional Gaze” talks about how movies were always directed to white spectators and never to black ones. Even if there are black actors they are either ridiculised or violent. In Paris is burning, although the movie could be considered to be directed to black spectators, its director is white and controlled it from a white hegemonic point of view because despite of  apparently concentrating on lives of black men, it actually shows that their sole aim is to be like white as if they were destined to be subordinated to this hegemonic culture for the rest of their lives.

Hooks and Butler talked about the movie from two different perspectives: Hooks from the race point of view and Butler on performance aspect. Talking about performance of the realness in the ball, these persons feel like subjects over there and in Freudian terms the compulsion to repeat this act, gives them pleasure and creates their real identity. In one of the performances in the ball which takes place between two persons who don’t like each other, performance is made by hands and one of the actor said this hand is the mirror for them to look at which implies Lacan definition of subjectivity through the mirror image.

Although Benjamin mentioned that with the new technological revolution, masses got a closer look to objects and cinema is the art of the masses, actually still as seen in this movie, the urban media and everything is being controlled by a specific ideology which controls our perception as well.

The movie as a whole gave me the opportunity to know a world I did ignore but these are the questions I’d like to ask:

-Why movies which talk about homosexuality are always discussed from a phallocentric perspective? Because movies about lesbians are much less(as far as I know) than those of gay men.

-Would have the movie been different if it was made by a black director?

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Metaphor in Lakoff and Grassi’s texts

Freud defined anger as impulses inside us which need to be released from within, because if not they’ll have negative consequences. In Lakoff’s text Anger, his objective is to prove that emotions are more than just feelings but actually they have a conceptual content explained through metaphors and metonymies in American English from folk theories. I tried to make a comparison between anger and lust metaphors in American English and Egyptian Arabic  and found out that there are big similarities between them on the semantic level as they are  related to heat, hunger, animal, insanity..etc.

But differences is that in Arabic anger isn’t related to kitchen tools but actually lust is because in movies when coffee spoils from kettle means that there’s a sexual intercourse or rape that’ll take place. Other point, machine expressions aren’t related to lust but rather to sports field as” I scored a goal, man” refers to sex as well.

Moving to another point which is the rape part in which social perspectives are related with metaphors. From a feminist perspective , this part has been discussed from a male point of view and at the same time as if it were directed to male readers(one of points that feminism discussed). Moreover, woman in these examples appear as nothing more than a sexual object and according to the man in the example she is responsible of the rape act(same opinion is in Egyptian society). From this example one can conclude that this act goes beyond violence against women and can be dragged under the concept of pleasure principle in Freudian terms because instead of repressing sexual desire inside he rapes women so as not to feel she has power on him if the word POWER is restricted to male use. Moreover, this attitude is called narcissistic injury according to Freud as well as he’;; feel his virility will be injured if he doesn’t do it.  Besides, this part reminds us of definition as woman as womb which Simone de Beauvoir discussed in her essay The Second Sex. For all reasons mentioned above, I think he could have talked about lust in other examples other than rape.

On the other hand, Grassi in his article discussed metaphor on two levels as rational language and rhetorical one. He emphasizes that Rhetorics is the basis of the rational thought. Giving examples like in Cassandra, Cassandra represents rhetorical level due to use of images while chorus is the rational one. Afterwards, through the dialogue between both of them  transfers Cassandra from the purely semantic world to the rational one. This transfer is made by metaphor which acts as bridge between these two worlds. Rhetorical language was always related to religious and semantic fields. Comparing between Rhetorics and Philosohpy, Rhetorics always had a formal function while Philosohpy was to provide knowledge. But actually, Rhetorics reaches grade of philosophy as he concluded that therefore, we can not speak of rhetoric and philosophy, but every original philosophy is rhetoric and every true and not exterior rhetoric is philosophy.

Two sum up, these two authors talked about metaphors from two different angles but allowed us to know that they are beyond pure rhetorical, linguistic figures detached from other cultural aspects.

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Benjamin’s”work of art in the age of its technological reproducubility”

In this text, Benjamin mainly talks about the effect of modern forms of  technological reproduction on art as the title describes. The essay first gives a glimpse on the development of reproduction of art throughout history starting from woodcut, lithography until the appearance of photography and cinema which created a drastic change in the artistic field.

On the other hand, it discusses the concept of the “aura” which refers to the uniqueness and authenticity of the work of art. This aura was lost in modern times because by new means as photography can create a copy of an original painting which made art lose its originality. Actually, the aura distanced the masses from having the opportunity to get a closer look at objects as seen in the buildings of the ruling classes for example. But, the new means of reproduction allowed the masses to have a close look through the use of close-ups in movies and zoom in photography for example.

Another key point discussed in this essay is the change of human perception along history which is controlled by two factors : nature and history: Just as the entire mode of existence of human collectives changes over long historical periods, so too does their mode of perception.

Moreover, the meaning and function of work has changed over time because at the beggining it was related to rituals/magic but the modern reproducibility freed art from its cult background ” the whole social function of art is revolutionized. Instead of being founded on ritual, it is based on a different practice: politics“. Although Greeks contributed in reproducibility by stamping and casting, the reproducibility of film differs from it due to its tendency of improvement through the process of editing which can enchance the quality of the scene reproduced.

Talking about machine, this equipment affected radically human’s life. It is no longer the relation between Man and Nature but it turned into a relation of machine/man/machine. For example in the case of cinema, when the actor performs infront of the camera(which is like mirror-image), but actually this camera is not only a machine  because actually he’s performing infront of masses who are invisible and inspite of their invisibility they’ll control him afterwards. This situation represents the actor’s estrangement infront of this machine which at the same time represents the humans being’s self alienation.

Ofcourse, politics controls arts as it does with all other aspects of life. For example, now we see that in movies certain classes are controlling our perception of role models, perspectives and even distribution of films. But at the same time, no one can deny the role of independent film that revolutionized the role of art too.

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Freud’s”Beyond the Pleasure Principle”

In this article, Freud defines the pleasure principle and elaborates his explanation with different examples. Freud says that although there are unpleasant situations in our lives, we have impulses that make us react to it. An example for this is a one and half year old child whose mother used to leave him for hours. His reaction to this situation was to create a game “Gone” where he throws objects in the corner and get them back. So, the unpleasant situation of her departure is compensated by the pleasant moment of her return. Besides, the repetition of this game, gave the child pleasure and at the same time made him the master of the situation( this shows that children deep inside want to act like adults and control certain situations).

 Freud then explains that physicians should be more concerned with patients who react passively towards serious situations because all the repressed feeling within us which lie in our unconscious should come out because if not they’ll have bad effects and can cause mental and psychological problems. Sex is considered among the repressed feelings that can be accumulated from childhood. The first emotional disappointment that a person faces is when he as a child loses the affection tie that connects him to the opposite sex parent when a new child arrives and as a consequence he receives less attention , that’s why s/he feels jealous.

Other term introduced is “compulsion to repeat” which refers to repetition of certain experiences over and over again. Freud says that patient actually forgets his past experiences that are repressed but they can come out unintentionally when he’s with the doctor for example and the patient’s resistance to the repetition of unpleasant experiences is controlled by the ego system:There is no doubt that the resistance of the conscious and unconscious ego operates under the sway of pleasure principle: it seeks to avoid the unpleasure which would be produced by the liberation of the repressed.” On the other hand, these experiences could be revived in the form of dreams even if it’s in an indirect way.

If we try to apply the pleasure principle in literature, for example in Laura Esquivel’s novel “Like Water For Chocolate”, Tita the protagonist who was oppressed by the patriarchal society where she lived and even by her mother, got rid of all these repressed feelings by cooking which for her represents a pleasant experience. Other example in cinema, in a movie like Saw, the Jigsaw who is struggling with cancer chooses his victims who don’t appreciate what they have. So, he brings out all the anger he feels inside by torturing his victims playing a game with them which pleases him.

Actually there’s a part that I couldn’t understand and I hope someone could help out with it: ” The consideration of these cases and situations, which have a yield of pleasure as their final outcome, should be undertaken by some systems of aesthetics with an economic approach to its subject-matter”. I’d like to know what Freud means by economic approach in this context? because this term has been repeated twice in the text.

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