“Sweat” and a Masculinity Complex

The phrase “boys will be boys” is a time-old phrase used to counteract the actions of men. This phrase comes from a culture where it is deemed normal for a man to be unfaithful, rough, rude, among many other unlikeable traits. In Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat,” this toxic masculinity was on full display through Delia’s  husband Sykes and his actions through his cheating and abuse of her. Only two months after they first got married, he began to abuse her and taunt her playing off of her fear of snakes. Him purposely using her fear of snakes as a way to taunt her or control her is a profound form of abuse. This along with the fact he was harsh with her and her choice of work, and was pursuing another woman on the side, Delia made the decision to not be with him anymore and he went to stay with the other woman he was seeing, Bertha. Throughout the story it was evident that he cared more about Bertha, yet he chose to stay with Delia. This is because he knew he had a level of control over her and didn’t want to lose it. Being unemployed, it was like making her miserable and keeping her under his control was like a daily occupation. It is in this masculinity complex, especially for the African American male, to be hard and to have control over his house.

Also within the works of the masculinity complex, is the idea of like a bro-code if you will . This idea is shown through the silence of the other men when Sykes came into the shop with Bertha. Because of town gossip they all knew that Sykes was unfaithful to Delia, and even spoke about how messed up it is, but once he walked into the shop with Bertha, they all grew silent. Their silence isn’t a sign of minding their business because they sit around together and gossip. It is a sign of their conformity to what he is doing, and accepting the fact that this is the way he, and other men like him are, yet they do nothing about it. Sykes and his womanizing ways are looked at as just another form of masculinity by his peers. This behavior should not be made normal for men, yet for years it has been and probably will continue to be. 

Unbelievable

Men and the General Desensitization to Sexual Assault

To say I was surprised by the short series “Unbelievable,”  would be an understatement. This show had revealed the ins and outs of working a rape case from the police side as well as the victim’s. Some of it was hard to watch, and hard to handle, but other parts of it were powerful and brave, and revelaed the amount of strength secxual assault victims have, and will have to have for the rest of their lives. But the key thing I noticed in this show and wanted to talk about is the correlation between men, in the police force as well as regular people, and their treatment and view of sexual assault cases. 

At the beginning of the show, a young girl Marie, had just become a victim of sexual assault. She rightfully called the police right after, and the investigation process began immediately. I counted that she had to recall what happened and make her statement six times to the male detectives working her case. It became apparent that every time she told the story again, they believed it less and less; to the point where they coerced her into lying about it and saying the assault didn’t happen all together. This young girl, who just had a tragedy happen to her, is rushed into recalling as many details as possible from something so scarring and probable to being blocked out of her psyche. Being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, it would be easy to see just how some details get left out or changed in each recalling of the assault, yet the detectives were so quick to pick apart her story and see some of the inconsistencies without considering why that might be, other than she is lying. Their disbelief of the victim’s story and their quickness to say she is lying instead of seeing her inconsistencies for what they were, a response to trauma, shows that there is a level of desensitization to sexual assault and the stories of the victims. 

After the first episode, the show transitions between Marie’s story and the story of two female detectives cracking down on the serial rapist who also happens to be the rapist that attacked Marie. In pursuit of the serial rapist, they investigate past cases of sexual assault, and speak to those victims for details they might not have remembered from when it first happened. One  of the women they went back to talk to was visibly hostile towards the detectives because nothing had come out of her case which was filed an entire year before. It was when she worked with the female detectives that new evidence of a large knife, which he threatened her with during the assault, was discovered in her garden. Why was it that nothing had come out of this woman’s case, yet there was undiscovered evidence lying around in her front yard? There was an obvious lack of effort from the detective on this case, because like the detectives who worked on Marie’s case, the detective didn’t believe what happened to her because of her questionable lifestyle. The detective on this case was a man. The similarities between the male detectives and their judgements and decisions to not believe the female sexual assault  victim is uncannily similar. It is apparent that these detectives have a preceding thought complex when it comes to sexaul assault cases and the trustworthiness of the victims. Now, there sadly is a level of validity to their suspicions and thought complexes because of the unfortunate cases where women purposely lie about being sexually assaulted, for whatever reason it might be. One moment in the show that kind of shocked me, before I realized there was a hint of truth in it was when the female detectives brought in a male suspect for questioning and he said to them, “It happens all the time now. Girls making these claims. It’s a thing. There’s a status to being a victim.” While yes, this sadly can be a fact, it should be viewed and categorized as what it is, a rarity, rather than the normal. It is the women who have truly experienced rape or any form of sexual assualt that suffere from the fake claims made. When people believe that there are more and more women faking something so horrible happening to them, it causes people to be less sensitive to the topic and to those who truly suffer from it. 

Although I made the correlation to men being desensitized from rape crimes, there is a general numbing to sexaul assault crimes because they happen so oftern. The fact that there is a level of normalcy to this crime is shameful. It was said in the show by the FBI detective, that rape cases are not given the same time and energy as other casses, which is sad. A crime is a crime, and the police officers and detectives who put on their badge and uniform everyday, living out the oath they made, promising to protect people and fight for justice, should apply to all crimes.  Law enforcement agencies are predominately run by men, and can be a factor as to why sexual assault cases aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. I think this show was insightful, powerful, and displayed a true depiction of how impactful sexaul assault can be in a person’s life, victim or authority working the case. I know for me personally, this has truly heightened my awareness of the depth of the struggles assault victims face, and I can only hope it has done the same for viewers everywhere to take any this desestimacion that has occured in our society.  

Pursuit of Justice or Vengeance?

The gruesome documentary, Long Night’s Journey Into Day, takes a look at the apartheid that took place in South Africa from 1948-1994. Before watching this documentary, I had no idea what the apartheid was and I knew no information about it. I think it is very interesting that the creation and implementation of the apartheid was done by white people, yet 80% of the 7,000 perpetrators who applied for amnesty were black. The fact that the majority of the people who applied for amnesty were black from a law that was instituted to be racist towards black people, goes to show that the black were fighting against the inequality and injustice they were faced with on a day to day basis; however, I found myself torn between looking at the actions of the blacks as fighting back for justice, or violently seeking vengeance . 

To say I was torn on my viewpoints of the actions taken during the apartheid would be an understatement. The first story told of Amy Biehl, the American student killed in 1993, was a pretty sad story to watch and listen to. What really struck me was the fact that her parents were so accepting of what had happened, and did not hold any animosity towards the men or their families. The parents were so forgiving towards the mothers of the convicted men, which is a very powerful message to send, and is fundamentally what the TRC was created for. I personally felt some levels of hostility towards the men because of the fact that they went after and murdered an innocent woman simply because she was white and white people were their oppressor; it was killing for the sake of killing. On the flipside, the second case with the “Cradock 4,” was a complete display of injustice and racism against blacks by the police. The four men were out to attend the United Democratic Front when they were approached by police and killed. This was also pretty hard to take in, and to see the outcry of the community for the wrongful death of these men. The cop that came forward for amnesty, Eric Taylor, believed it was his “duty” to attack them, which again, was nothing but wrong and racist. 

Around this point in time, in the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting against blatant displays of racism as well through peaceful protests and was successful. Looking at how MLK went about handling the injustice black Americans faced, it makes me question whether or not the blacks in South Africa could have taken the same approach. But on the other side of that, they not only were faced with inequality, but were also being killed, so desperate times can influence desperate measures, however I believe the line was crossed into vengeful action when innocent people were being murdered for the sake of making a statement.

Self-Reflection in Death and the Maiden

The play, “Death and the Maiden” by Ariel Dorfman is a play that displays a lack of justice for the assault of the main character Paulina. Throughout the play, the audience sees her response to Roberto, and just how angry and vengeful she is towards him. The audience watching this conflict occur and unfold, can almost feel like the audience is a jury. We observe the situation at hand and form our own opinions and thoughts on it and decide what it is that we believe. At the very end of Act III before Paulina is supposedly about to shoot Roberto, there is a large mirror that descends from the ceiling and down in front of the audience in the stage directions. I think this is an interesting addition by Dorfman to this play, and really causes the audience and the readers of the play to think. 

The use of the mirror at the end of the play, and the use of the spotlights flashing over random members of the audience before the epilogue I think is a powerful moment. The mirror represents self-reflection and causes the audience to think and literally forces them to look at themselves and think about their complacency to what has happened, as well as whether or not justice is being served. I think the complacency speaks to both what has happened to Paulina and whether or not we believe her and also to the fate of Roberto. The mirror falls right before what we would assume is when she shoots him, and the audience doesn’t get to see it. The mirror I think probably raises questions like how do they feel about what’s happening ? Were they accepting of and okay with Roberto being shot? Do they feel satisfied witnessing what has happened without knowing the outcome? This makes me think about the Me Too movement today, and the women who come forward with their stories and testimonies of the sexaul abuse they have faced, and the lack of belief people who heard their stories had in it and them. The use of mirrors in literature has always been symbolic of reflection and seeing oneself for what they truly are and what they truly think, which is no different in this play.

The Haitian Constitution

The Haitian Constitution is quite a historic document. This constitution was the 3rd one created in the world at this point in time and it was also created for the first black republic in the world. Comparing the Haitian Constitution to the constitution of the United States, there are some obvious differences. In comparison to the United States constitution, some of the articles of Haitain constitution were created, obviously submerged in the events of the time, and was in comparison more racially charged, instead of thinking towards the future. 

A few of the articles that are slightly odd and are reflective of Haiti’s feeling towards the French include Article 12, 13, and 14. Article 12 states that “No white person, of whatever nationality, shall set foot on this territory with the title of master or proprietor, nor in the future, acquire property here.” Being that slavery had been recently abolished, it would make sense for having this in the constitution at that time, however thinking  forward to the present, articles like this don’t apply to Haitian society today. Articles 13 and 14 essentially follow the same suit, and address race in the sense of a child coming from a Haitian man and white woman, is a Haitain citizen and the woman is allowed to stay as well.