Feminism in Cinderella

            Cinderella is usually thought of in a Disney movie context with the beautiful daughter, the death of her dad, and her terrifying step-mother and step-sisters. There are, of course, other versions of the story less viewed. Two such examples include “Catskin” and “Donkeyskin.” The story line of all three tales encourages the widely held belief people have about women, also referred to as the “Cult of Womanhood.”

            The “Cult of Womanhood” idealized the “true woman,” or the ideal that women are fragile, submissive, and sexually pure (Learning for a Diverse World, Tyson). The many stories of Cinderella all appeal to this feminist theory by using many words, both positive and negative to describe Cinderella herself.

            In “Catskin,” a story by Joseph Jacobs written in the late eighteen hundreds, Cinderella is described as bonny, graceful, fair, and beautiful. These are some of the more “flattering,” and “good girl” qualities Jacobs gives her. “Bad girl” qualities include dirty, impudent, and sluttish. It seems that the “flattering” qualities are given to describe her when she is cleaned up and in the presence of a man. Her “bad girl” qualities are given to her when he is working for a living and hiding herself, often in the presence of other women. Both positive and negative qualities are negative in the mind’s eye of a feminist. While negative qualities such as “dirty” or “sluttish” are cruel, words that are flattering may not be so flattering. Because people have always grown into accepting the ideal that women are fragile and submissive, and men are capable, powerful, and in control, flattering words are not flattering because they only fit the role of the “true woman,” and idealized, false type of woman. Traits such as bonny, graceful, and fair do not give Cinderella control, power, or strength, therefore, making her sound helpless and in need of a man to “save” her. Cinderella, or Catskin, was born a bonny girl and grew up a bonny girl, as stated in the first paragraph of the text. Bonny is another word for attractive, fair, fine, and excellent, all qualities of a “good girl.” Because Catskin was a girl, her father decided he never wanted to see her and have her married off to the first man that came to marry her. This is one example of a women’s powerlessness and a man’s power and control.

            “Donkeyskin,” by Charles Perrault, has many more examples of prejudice. “Good girl” descriptions outweigh the “bad girl” descriptions. Donkeyskin, in this context of Cinderella is described as beautiful, charming, youthful, elegant, lovely, fine, fresh, remarkable, a nymph, and proud. She is also described as disagreeable, unkempt, dirty, ugly, and filthy. Again, she is described with “bad girl” descriptions only when she is alone or in the presence of women. She is described only such when she is in hiding and as a lower-class female. When she is in the presence of a man, she is described in the “flattering” way. Again, these are not flattering words. These words merely stereotype women and force them to fit the mold of the “true woman.” When the prince peeped through her keyhole and saw her, he referred to her as beautiful and a remarkable nymph. Even though these words are truly flattering, they again close her off to the ideal that she may be a powerful, strong, willful woman, which she obviously was since she ran away from her father and all she knew. This fact is overseen by the other characters perspectives of her. They saw her as either beautiful or dirty and disagreeable.  

            Through and through, all versions of Cinderella reek of the ideal woman, or “true woman.” There is no escaping the views and ideals that have long been placed on women and female characters in stories. Both through positive and negative descriptions, women are not viewed as self-willing individuals, but dependant on men in one way or another.

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Gay and Lesbian Theory notes

  • Why we should learn about Gay and Lesbian Theory?
    • Our sexuality is related to most or all of the other characteristics by which we define ourselves.
    • America—a man who has sex with another man is still defined as a heterosexual as long as he assumes the masculine role (21 century)—determined by cultural attitudes toward sexuality.
    • Biological essentialism: Our sexual orientation is an essential, or inborn, part of our biological makeup.
    • Social constructionalism: Our sexual orientation is constructed by our experience in society.
    • Why learn it?—see what an important and diverse field of inquiry gay and lesbian theory opens up for our understanding of human sexuality and its relationship to human identity and culture.
  • Basic Concepts
    • Heterosexism:
      • The belief that heterosexuality is the only right or natural sexual orientation.
      • Person ignores the existence or discriminates against them.
      • Institutionalized heterosexism: discrimination against nonstraight people that is built into a culture’s laws and customs.
      • Compulsory heterosexuality: our heterosexist society teaches us that we must be heterosexual regardless of how we feel about it.
    • Homophobia:
      • The intense Fear and loathing of homosexuality.
      • Homophobes: Homophobic people.
        • Uncertain about their own sexuality
        • Responsible for hate crimes
        • Internalized homophobia: Self-hatred some lesbians and gay men experience.
    • Homosocial:
      • Same-sex bonding activities.
    • Woman-Identified Woman:
      • A woman who identifies exclusively or almost exclusively with women and whose primary relationships are with women.
    • Homoerotic:
      • Erotic images that imply same-sex attraction or that might appeal sexually to a same-sex reader.
    • Queer Theory:
      • Human sexuality consists of a host of important factors that are not related to the sex of our partner.       
        • What is our sexual personality? Are we kind? Cruel? Etc.
        • Are we drawn to a particular type, or “look”?
        • Our sexuality is determined neither by genetics nor environment, neither by nature nor nurture.
        • It may be different at different times during our lives or even different times during the week.
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Feminism Chapter Notes

  • Why Should We Learn About the Feminist Theory?
    • Patriarchy—refers to  any society in which men hold all or most  of the power
    • Understand the ways women are oppressed—socially, economically, politically, psychologically
    • Goal—reduce women oppression
    • Feminism is a form of humanism
    • Patriarchy ideology—promotes damaging beliefs about women and men
    • Antipatriarchal text—promotes accurate perceptions of women and men/offers positive portrayals of characters who violate traditional gender roles
  • Questions to ask when reading
    • Do the characters conform to traditional (patriarchal) gender roles?
    • Is the role of the strong, rational protector given to a male character whole the role of the submissive, emotional nurturer is given to a female character?
    • Are the female characters depicted according to patriarchal stereotypes of women?
  • Basic Concepts
    • Patriarchy:
      • gives men power by promoting traditional gender roles
      • feminist theory—“to conform to traditional gender roles means limiting people’s options, denying then the choice  to follow the  path that best fulfills their potential”
    • Traditional Gender Roles
      • Traditional gender roles—men are naturally rational, strong, protective, and decisive. Women are naturally emotional, weak, nurturing, and submissive
      • Feminist theory—gender roles are produced by patriarchy rather than by nature.
    • “Good Girls” and “Bad Girls”
      • Patriarchal perspective—women who adhere  to  traditional roles are “good girls,” and those who do not are “bad girls”
      • Feminist theory—objectified by patriarchy. Both terms, “good girl,” and “bad girl” are used to represent the usefulness of women and not appeal to their abilities
    • Sexism
      • Patriarchy is based on sexism
      • “women are innately inferior to men: less intelligent, less rational, less courageous, and so forth”
      • Sexist—any person who holds sexist beliefs as well as any practice, policy, or custom that disadvantages women only because they are women.
      • Patriarchal and Sexist are more or less synonymous
      • Feminist theory (there is a difference!!):
        • Biological make-up (sex organs and body chemistry)
        • Gender (cultural programming as feminine or masculine)
          • Our culture forms us into our gender roles from birth. Ex: girls in pink and bows, boys in blue and associated with sports. Each culture is different. Our gender roles are determined by our society and what is socially acceptable.
    • “Cult of Womanhood”
      • Nineteenth century Victorian patriarchy promoted this
        • Idealized the “true woman”—still influences people’s opinions and views of both men and women today
          • Women: fragile, submissive, sexually pure
          • Men: capable, powerful, in control
          • Excludes poor women of all races whose survival requires them to be “unfeminine’
            • Loud, brassy, promiscuous, unattractive
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Dr. Gian Pagnucci’s Writing Track Presentation notes

Writing is not only a way of expressing one’s self, but can be used to create stories never created before, analyzing information for corporations and businesses and the like, on top of many other things. Writing is used by every person no matter what major they are in, and is very important. In the English Writing track, Dr. Pagnucci specifies in his presentation that students will learn about publishing, and the track will help the students develop a professional writing portfolio, develop professional writing skills, and develop a writing voice on top of others.

A few things that interested me in Dr. Pagnuccis’s presentation were the opportunities for publication, which is my dream, and award opportunities. One day I will be a published author, I am determined to do so at any cost. An award opportunity that Dr. Pagnucci brought to the auduiences attention was that every spring there are contests for poetry, fiction, critical analysis, and educational lesson plans. I am very interested in this competition. Dr. Pagnucci encouraged the audience to submit works as one way of getting out name out in the English department, on top of joining other English related groups. He said this is a good way to build a resume and be involved beyond classes. Before this presentation, I realized it is important to be involved in other groups and activities, but I didn’t realize all what opportunities were available to an English student, such as the award competitions and opportunities for publishing.

Overall, Dr. Pagnucci’s presentation has encouraged me to expand my horizons in relation to writing as well as English groups and organizations. His presentation has also informed me on the purpose of the writing track, and of opportunities available for a student in the English writing track.

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“Everyday Use” African-American, Marxist, and Psychoanalytical Theories

“Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker, can be interpreted in many ways using many theories. Theories commonly viewed to analyze Dee, a primary character in “Everyday Use” include the African-American theory, the Marxist theory, and the psychoanalytical theory.  

Three parts of the African-American theory are represented in Dee, a character from Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”: internalized racism, intraracial racism, and double consciousness. Internalized racism is defined in Lois Tyson’s Learning for a Diverse World, as “the acceptance of the belief pressed upon them by racist America that they are inferior to whites, less worthy, less capable, less intelligent, or less attractive.” Because she suffers from internalized racism, even though she is lighter skin then her sister and mother, she has low self-esteem. Her belief that she is less worthy and less capable, inspires her to overleap these judgments and to try to overcome them, which she successfully does by going to college, a privilege not attainable by her mother or sister. Therefore, internalized racism is the driving hand behind her aspirations. Intraracial racism, as defined in Lois Tyson’s book, is defined as: “discrimination within the black community, against those with darker skin and more African features,” and “African-Americans believe, for example, that light-skinned black people are more beautiful or more intelligent than darker-skinned black Americans.”

Intraracial racism goes hand-in-hand with Dee’s internalized racism. Because Dee has low self-esteem due to internalized racism, she is inspired to overcome prejudices placed on her because of her skin color. Because she is lighter than her mother and sister, she feels that she has the opportunity to do so by attending college. This harms her by pushing others down, such as her mother and sister, to get where she wants to go, because they are darker. Because they are darker, they do not have the same advantages as Dee. There is a saying: “If you’re white, you’re alright; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re black, get back!” Because Dee’s mother and sister were not light-skinned black Americans, they didn’t have the same opportunities, on top of other reasons.  

Double consciousness, “the awareness of belonging to two conflicting cultures,” is a contribution to Dee’s unlikable personality. Dee lifted herself above her family by going to college and joining a “higher class” of people. She, in turn, lets her family know that she is better than them by rubbing her education in their faces, forgetting that they helped her financially through college, along with the entire town. Dee’s arrogant personality is due to her double conscious. She seems to belong to the African-American community in which she grew up, and the more educated public in which she attended college.

American dream and rugged individualism are two aspects of the Marxist theory that are ubiquitous in “Everyday Use.” Dee has the American dream. Defined in Lois Tyson’s book, the American dream is: “a capitalist ideology associated specifically with American history and culture.”  Because Dee rose up above the normal standards of her family and community by going to college, she considers herself a part of the American dream. She was born into poverty and, with the help of her community, went to college and made something of herself. She no longer belongs to the poor community in which she was raised. This is an example of rugged individualism. Tyson also points out: “the American dream leads us to believe that poor people who are unable to significantly improve their financial status must be shiftless and lazy or in some other way undeserving of decent living conditions.” This concept can be applied to Dee’s idea of her mother and sister. If she could do it, why can’t they? They must be undeserving. Her ideologies of her family are shown through her personality and treatment towards them. As a result, she believes Maggie, her sister, does not deserve the quilts her mother gave her. The quilts were important to the family because they had patches of clothing from the family tracing back decades. Dee believes that her family does not respect them and that she deserves them because she is the only one who can possibly give them the full respect they deserve. Because Dee is “living the American dream,” she believes that her family is pathetic and ignorant, therefore, thinking more of herself and less of her family and their opinions (giving the quilts to Maggie means using and destroying important family history).

Basic concepts in the psychoanalytical theory that are common in “Everyday Use” include the defenses, and core issues. A few of the defenses Dee uses include denial and avoidance. Dee was in denial that she ever came from a poor family. By keeping her upper-class lifestyle and never visiting her home, she could completely avoid remembering where she came from. By avoiding her home she can make a new image for herself and suppress her family and her past. To do this, Dee becomes obsessed with her image. By denying her past and by avoiding reminders of her past, Dee forms a “psychological wound” that is the driving hand behind her annoying and greedy personality.

Insecure or unstable sense of self, fear of abandonment, and fear of intimacy are three core issues that Dee has hidden deep in her id. Dee is insecure and has an unstable sense of self. She isn’t completely sure who she is. She came from a poor, low-class, African-American family, but she was able to pull herself up out of the “rut” and get a college degree. Is she still la part of her poor family? Or is she now in the middle-class? Because she is dangling between her old and new lives, she isn’t sure who she is.

Because of her lighter skin, achievements, and her differences, Dee is afraid that she will be abandoned by her family and whoever she gets close to. This also goes along with fear of intimacy. Because she is so different from her family, she is not close to them. Dee does not have the same relationship Maggie and her mother have, which is a close bond. Dee has always been different, and this has me questioning: if Dee didn’t have lighter skin, and if Dee would have been saved from the house fire instead of Maggie, would Dee be in the same shoes as Maggie? Possibly in a reversed situation, i.e. Maggie be outgoing and intelligent and Dee burned and the favorite of their mother?  

Moreover, theories popularly applied to “Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker, can be interpreted in many ways. The African-American theory, the Marxist theory, and the psychoanalytical theory are only three theories that can be applied, and I have only listed but a few examples of endless interpretations.

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English Undergrad Conference: Samuel Colerdige and the Gothic

I attended Samuel Coleridge and the Gothic during the English Undergraduate Conference. I found it interesting because the presenters presented both poems “Cristabel” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Coleridge, in such a way that the audience could see two different poems and how they are still reflected in today’s pop culture.

First presented was “Cristabel.” Unfortunately, the poem itself was not presented, but information pertaining to the poem was. For example, symbols that gave the poem its “gothic” feel include the castle, owls, rooster, and dogs. All contribute to the theme: the castle contributes by giving the setting of the poem a mysterious feel. Samuel Coleridge had previously mocked the gothic literature, but decided to use this style of writing to possibly cover the theme of the poem, so we think, as lesbianism and gender roles. Although this is a possibility, it is not positive that this is what Coleridge intended. Poetry is often used, like most literature, to discuss human behavior that was not acceptable to talk about in that time.

The second poem covered was “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Covering many themes, this poem is widely referenced primarily in today’s movies. Comedy, death, the unfamiliar, and folklore are all included making this poem intense. Quick changes are apparent in emotion while reading this poem. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” references can be found in movies often. A few examples include Ghost Ship, Pirates of the Carrabin, Master and Commander, and Serenity. During the presentation, a segment of Ghost Ship and a segment of Serenity were shone. I found the reference to the poem in Ghost Ship more interesting then the “light” reference in Serenity. In Serenity, there was only a reference to a ship ran by ghosts. In Ghost Ship, the singer on the boat played a role of a Siren, hypnotizing the guests on the boat and luring them to their deaths. I found that interesting also because there was a painting of a Siren behind her. Even though the movie is a modern movie set in modern day, the references to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” were obvious as the gothic style is still implicated in today’s pop culture.

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Psychoanalytical Theory: Notes

  • Why Should We Learn about Psychoanalytic Theory?
    • Psychological problems
      • Identify  and understand “dysfunctional behavior”
        • How we begin to heal problems
      • Lack of awareness
        • Makes us vulnerable to psychological problems
        • Allows us to “play them out”
          • Ex: Roommate turns into a flirt when your date arrives to pick you up. Roommate borrows your things and returns them broken or soiled. Etc.
    • When reading ask:
      • “Do any of the characters exhibit what might be considered dysfunctional behavior, and if so, what are the psychological motives behind it?”
  • Basic Concepts
    • The Family
      • Origin of our personal problems
        • The theory wants to help us overcome our personal problems, so we recognize them through our experiences. Earliest experiences took place in the family.
          • Where we learned our behaviors
    • Repression and the Unconscious
      • Push memories we cannot handle back into the unconscious
        • Sign of repressed emotional problem: repetition of self-destructive behavior
          • Choosing unhealthy friends or romantic partners
          • Displaying inappropriate social behavior
          • Engaging in violent behavior, etc.
    • The Defenses
      • Tool we use to keep repressed memories repressed
        • Denial– When you believe something doesn’t exist or never occurred.
        • Avoidance– When we stay away from people, places, or situations that may bring up repressed memories.
        • Displacement– Takes out negative emotions on something or someone else that is not the cause of that negative emotion.
        • Projection– Denying a problem that you have, but saying that someone else has that problem.
    • Core Issues
      • Recurring, self-destructive behavior
        • Low Self-Esteem– We believe we are not deserving of attention or love. We believe we should be punished in some way.
        • Insecure or Unstable Sense of Self– Unable to sustain a feeling of personal identity.
        • Fear of Abandonment– The belief we will be deserted.
        • Fear of Intimacy– Belief that emotional closeness will destroy us, therefore, avoiding it at all costs.
        • Oedipal Fixation– The belief that we all have a sexual attachment to our parent of the opposite sex during our youth.
    • Dream Symbolism
      • Meaning behind dreams—everything has an underlying meaning. Your id comes to the front and reveals your desires.
        • Water– The unconscious, emotions, sexuality
        • Buildings– The self, our body
        • Basements– The self, unconscious, repressed memories
        • Attics– Intellect or the conscious mind
        • Male Imagery– “Phallic symbols”
          • Towers
          • Guns
          • Serpents
          • Swords
          • (anything that can be associated with the penis)
        • Female Imagery– Anything that can be associated with the womb
          • Caves
          • Walled-in gardens
          • Containers
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