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Where are Women in the Law?

The question that I pose in the title is one that has been left for us in almost all of the readings. We read about what justice does for men (The Furies) and what the law provides for men (Declaration of Independence). What we don’t see is where the law has left room for women. This question is asked in Death and the Maiden and answered in an interesting way. Paulina has been unable to see justice for the horrible crimes committed against her. She shows serious disillusionment with the justice system which leads her to kidnap her abuser to put on her own trial. She sums up her thoughts at the end of the play by asking, “And why does it always have to be people like me who have to sacrifice, why are we always the ones who have to make concessions when something has to be conceded, why always me who has to bite her tongue, why?” (Dorfman 66). Because she knows that the actual commission won’t help her, Paulina tries to invent her own system of justice that still lets her down. I think here she is giving her own answer to the presented question. She says that it’s not as easy as women just being left out of the justice process, but they are the ones to lose the most. Not only is Paulina brutally tortured and raped, but then she has to be labelled as “sick” and irrational. She is lied to by her husband and her rapist who conspire against her. The system of justice that she invents, still finds a way to re-victimize her. I think an interesting and bold claim that Dorfman could be trying to make is that justice is sexist. The plotline features two men conspiring against a survivor of sexual assault who is just trying to heal. Rather than listening and believing her, Gerardo automatically believes the other man in the situation. There is a moment that he believes her, but it still seems that he turns on her. The law, and justice in the law, does not leave room for women so women have to make room for themselves. Still, however, the system is stacked against survivors hiding behind the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” which Gerardo brings up in the play. I think I am ending with even more questions than I began with about the law being sexist. Why do women have to find justice for themselves/why aren’t they believed? Why haven’t we fixed this? Where do we draw the line at innocent until proven guilty?

Gender Power

Like many of the works written in the past, the role of genders matched the real-life roles. However, in The Furies, the characters did not keep their stereotypical roles of this time period in the play at all. In this play, the women had all the power, and the men were there to try and support each other.  

The first example of female power is Clytemnestra talking to the Furies about getting revenge. Through my first time reading through this, I missed the fact that the Furies were female. So, my first impression of this scene was that even as a ghost, a female still had more power than a male because she was able to give the Furies commands in their sleep. But this changed after I realized they were female.

In the end of the play, Athena is given the power to decide the outcome of what will happen to Orestes, is interesting in two ways. The first is the fact that she was going to have the final say if the votes come back a tie. If she has the power to do that, why didn’t she just do that in the beginning? I understand that she wants to give Orestes a fair trial, so the Furies don’t think she doesn’t want to hear what their side of the story, but the outcome was still the same Orestes was spared. The other way I thought this scene was interesting was because of how the play ended. After the trial, Athena and was trying to appease the Furies so they wouldn’t bring havoc to the world. This only happened because the Furies were not able to deal with Orestes the way they wanted to. But this was going to happen with or without a trial because it was Athena’s decision, so the trial wasn’t necessary.

The Furies also had a significant amount of power. They were able to challenge the ideas of both Athena and Apollo and not suffer any major consequences. The most important of the two would be Apollo since he was a male, and it is typically the male who has the power to do this.