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Gendered Silence Paper Proposal

Butterfly Wings's picture

As we've discussed the Eva's silences in class, and whether those silences have been empowering, I've been wondering about the exact role of silence.

Specifically, I've found myself aksing whether as a woman in American society, you can be [viewed as?] powerful without have control over your own image.

A huge amount of what we stereotypically consider as defining womanhood can be reduced to a set of stereotypes and behaviors that all center around controlling the way we appear to mass society. There is an intense level of pushback and disgust around those that cannot control their outward semblances [see: aging, obesity, pimpling, and many mental illnesses- the list is very extensive]. In our discussion on tuesday, we touched on the scene where Eva is refusing to speak to the police, who label her as "dangerous". We categorized this as an occasion where her silence was not empowering (or even fully a choice), but harmful. I am curious as to why that was- is it because it allowed others to label her, to control how she seemed to the outside world?

I want to look at the role labelling and controlling appearances plays in Eva's silences and come to a better understanding of a) whether her silence is a CHOICE and b) whether her silence is an EMPOWERING choice


Anne Dalke's picture

Butterfly Wings--
I’m glad that you’re willing to go on thinking about the role of silence in Eva’s Man, and/but I’m also thinking that we pretty much already broke down, in class, the two questions you ask here, each of which poses a binary opposition: whether Eva’s silence is chosen or forced (both/and), empowering or disempowering (both/and). So can you frame your question differently, to invite a more complex response?

You actually begin your proposal by speaking about American women’s ability to control their own images. This puts me in mind of bell hooks’ (rather infamous) critique, 'Beyoncé is a Terrorist":

I heard hooks develop this argument @ the NWSA conference last year, where she claimed that Beyoncé’s powerful media presence is just “propaganda for white supremacism,” “colonizing herself to make more money.” In a capitalist system, in other words, how might we (how do you) think about the power of self-presentation, particularly of a beautiful black woman, particularly of a pop cultural idol?

Yes, and this seems very, very far away from the questions Eva faces. Alhough she, too, is managing public perception....