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February 26, 2007

Gender and Cultural Expectations

In society today and years past, men and women have had general but specific gender roles. Through the media (TV, advertising, movies, etc.) and also through our "societal norms," these roles have been enforced and applied from birth and all the way through life to death. Men have been given the role of the dominant, strong, smart and show-no-emotion leader whereas women must be subordinant, weak, followers and carry submissive roles. Many would argue that today much of that is changed and that we do not carry or enforce those roles, but there are also many that would definately agree. Open a female magazine, or just look at the cover. Article titles such as and similar to "How to please your man" or "Tricks to the perfect body" headline almost every female targeted magazine. The woman on the cover is tall, very slender, generally has long hair and is beautiful beyond all compare. When looking at male targeted magazines, there are either scantily clad women on the cover or a huge buff guy showing off the "perfect male physique." Our culture uses both physical and non-physical stereotypes to keep the gender roles in their place, but why? Why do women get the smaller end of the stick and do not get the intellectual or leadership credit that males get?

When we look at literary and historical texts of the past, this theme is carried throughout as well. Shakespeare is no exception, and although we have only read two of his plays, I can think of at least 5 cases of the degration of women. Within the first act of King Lear, Cordelia is "put in her place" and given the shaft by her father. Because she refuses to lie and say that he is the only person in her life, she gets cut out of the inheritance. Just by speaking her mind is she shut down, for females are not "supposed" to do that. Females are supposed to act like her sisters and give in to their father, to submit and say that he is the most important thing in the world because he is their father, and a man. They are gold diggers, wanting only money in life and will give up their freedoms and opinions just for that.

Unfortunately, when thinking of Richard III, I was able to think of way more. I ask myself why Anne was even depicted as "Lady Anne," and why not "Bimbo Anne" or "Anne the Ditz." Who in their right mind would permit themselves to be wooed by their husbands killer? Only a female. Only a brainless, man-dependant woman. Also, when Margaret gives her prophesy on Richard, no one believes her because she is a female. They degrade her, call her names and shut her out because it is ridiculous that she would even say something against a man. It was not her place at all to be thinking or speaking like that. And in the end, who was right? Margaret of course. I am not saying that all women are always right, but they should at least be given credit and be treated in a humanitarian way. Ahh, and lastly, I look upon Queen Elizabeth's daughter. Her role in this play was only that of a pawn. She was only needed for access to the crown. Where is love? Where is chivalry and committment? Richard used his power (as a man) to cast away Anne and prey upon young Elizabeth, abusing that power tremendously.

Everyday I am amazed when reading plays like Shakespeare wrote. I look at it, and see how much it actually relates to our everyday life. I am definately not saying that all women are treated this way and that all men are bad, because there are many cases where it is no the case. I am saying however that there still is progress to be made, equality to be found. And just by looking at our everyday life, and how influences like the media play in our lives, we can change a lot of that. Women, be the Margarets and Cordelias and voice your opinions. Men, be virtuous like Buckingham and do what you believe to be true!

February 20, 2007

Shakespeare in the Movies

Reading Richard III made me think about how there are hundreds of movies that have plots that include the same devious plots and actions that are written in Shakespears's plays. The film that comes to mind right now is the Mel Gibson film, The Patriot.

The plot of the movie itself doesn't necessarily follow that of Richard III, but the actions of the two main characters are very similar to those of Richard and Richmind. The movie takes place in South Carolina in 1776, during the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) is a war hero who wants nothing to do with the war with Britian. But two of his sons, Gabriel and Thomas, can't wait to enlist and kill some Redcoats. The minute that South Carolina decides to go to war with Britian, Gabriel signs up to fight. It is not long unitl Gabriel is captured by the villanous Brittish Officer, Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs) infront of the Martin plantation. Gabriels younger brother Thomas tries to free him and is shot in the back by Col. Tavington, who is famous for his brutal attacks. The movie is based on a revenge plot with Benjamin trying to avenge his sons deaths by meeting Col. Tavington and killing him. Later in the movie, Gabriel, the eldest son, is killed in a face to face confrontation with Tavington. The evil Colonel had recently killed Gabriels new bride and her family. Now Banjamin has lost his two eldest sons to the same man and vows to kill him. He leads an army of malitia that consists of peasants, slaves, a minister, and some others. This is much like the army that Richmond and Richard are commanding. He leads his army into a final battle with the British in wich the Frech allies arrive to help them out. Col. Tavington and Benjamin seek eachother out in battle and Tavington is stabbed in the throat and killed by Benjamin. The war ends soon after and the rebuilding process begins.

This series of events reminds me of Richard and Richmond. Richard, of course, is comparable to the villanous Col. Tavington of the British Army. Much like Tavington, Richard kills off people that would potentially get in the way of him accomplishing his goal. He first has his own brother killed, who would be the heir to the dying Edward IV's throne. The stress of Georges death ends up killing King Edward, who in his final moment tries to fix the problems caused by Richard. Next, Richard kills those loyal to Edward: Dorset, Grey,Hastings, and Vaughn. With them out of his way he moves on to Henry and Elizabeths children, Edward Prince of Wales and Richard Duke of York. Richard even goes as far as having his new wife, Lady Anne, killed so he can marry Queen Elizabeths daughter. But her daughter is in a realtionship with Richmond, so naturally, Richard plots to have him killed. But it is too late. Richmond is already on his way with an army to dethrone Richard.

The battle scene I imagined while reading this play is waht sparked this comparison. Richmond finally comes face to face in battle with Richard, who had killed so many innocent people to become king, not to mention tried to steal Richmonds woman. Richmond killes Richard and order is restored.

So Richmond and Benjamin Martin sort of have the same goals in mind when they set out for battle. The both are leading an un trained army of peasants and common people and inspire them to fight well and make them feel like they should win the battle. Richard and Col. Tavingotn are evil and kill may people for their cause. Richard wants to be King and Tavington want Britian to rule the American Colonies. In both cases the good guy wins and antagonists in the plots are defeated.

I see connections like this in almost every movie I've watched since started reading Shakespeare. I seriously think that most movies are written with Shakespeare in mind, being it the comedic or dramadic aspect of his writing.

February 19, 2007

Richard as an Athlete

In today’s world, a lot of the media and attention is composed of athletics and upcoming sporting events. Every time you turn on the television or pick up a newspaper there is some outrageous sports news.

As I finished Richard III, somehow I viewed Richard as this token sports star who just wants more money and power. This reminded me of the story of a certain individual, Latrell Sprewell. Latrell hasn’t played basketball for 2 years now, because he declined a three year, $21 million dollar contract. He thought that he deserves more money, because he needs to “support his family.? And in 2006, he faced charges of raping a women on his boat. Recently, he got sued $200 million from his mother. Last month, he stopped giving her money to support her 4 other children that she is the legal guardian. The mother wanted to call the police, but Latrell hit her and dragged her down a flight of stairs by her feet to prevent her from making the phone call. Is Latrell not supposed to be a role model? He made millions of dollars and can’t even help his own mother to buy food. I’m sure he has enough money to buy a new car and theater in his house though. This example shows how Latrell made his mother feel like dirt since it took her so long to ask him for money because she was so scared. Right before Buckingham dies he says, “Thus doth he force the swords of wicked men to turn their own points in their masters’ bosom.? Buckingham means that he has done evil, and that he shall pay for it. However, I saw this as a double meaning to Richard, that Richard has done much evil and eventually he will regret it and be punished. This shows when he regrets it in his dream and ends up dying in battle. Richard brainwashed Buckingham so much that Buckingham was lead to believe that he was the villain and deserved his death. However, this is definitely not the case. Richard is the obvious villain and took advantage of Buckingham because he promised to stand by Edward’s children. Yes, he did ally with Richard and kill many people, but Buckingham had a gut check and knew it was time to stop. Similar to Latrell’s situation, he made his mother think she deserved no money. Once again, the power of mouth plays a giant role in making others feel ashamed for the wrong reasons. Good, innocent people are becoming victims and the aggressors are getting off clean for the time being. Also, in Richard’s speech before battle all he basically said was that Richmond’s army was scum and non deserving peasants. However, Richmond emphasized to fight for honor, loyalty, and compassion for all the women, children, and the innocent deceased. In sports, I see Richard as the guy who just wants more money and more money.

What ever happened to playing for fun and the love of the game? Sure athletes can have large salaries, but somewhere there needs to be a line drawn. Now, I am a huge fan of sports but just can’t stand when athletes complain about money and others get almost $20 million in a year. How much power did Richard really need? By the time he was actually king basically everyone was dead except the others forcing him into battle. After all of that, was it really worth it?

February 13, 2007

Role Models in North Minneapolis

I had started my service-learning at the Ascension Place in North Minneapolis and I had experiences much like Katie's. I was the minority and I knew it. Fortunately, those memories are not the ones that have affected me the most about my volunteering. I have had so many engaging conversations with many very incredible women.

I was very interested to realize that each woman has a very different story and a very different personality. During my time at the Ascension Place I provide healthy cooking lessons for any women that are interested. Though I have learned that there are many more women concerned with eating our desserts than actually cooking them, it has still been very fun. I have had one steady companion for the last three weeks; she is a great helper and has really opened up to me about her family and her chance to have a fresh start. This has affected me, and helped me look into my own life. What would I do if I had to start my life over? I can’t imagine losing trust in someone that I cared about so much that I would have to leave my house and my life. She is such a strong person and is trying to find a way to carry on and make a new home for her and her children. Her determination has really been inspiring to me. I thought that I had challenges in my cushy college life. My upcoming tests and homework seemed like such big obstacles, but this woman is facing something much worse. She has to restart her life from scratch, and she has a positive attitude about it. That in itself is so inspiring. Who would have ever thought that you could find a whole house full of role models in North Minneapolis, but I did. I have yet to meet a woman there who isn’t working to better her life for herself, her children, or other family members. That is such a great achievement and therefore is something that everyone should look to for guidance. These are some of the strongest women that I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

Reality Check

I never thought of myself as a sheltered individual. I grew up in a community with a population of over 55,000 and graduated from a high school with a class of 812 out of the 3,400 total student body. We were an extremely diverse high school. There were students of almost every nationality, religion, and race. I’m not sure if I was purely ignorant to it but as I saw it there was never an issue with race or religion among the students or people in my community. Even though I was under the impression that I fairly culture savvy but I was in for a serious reality check.

I chose to volunteer at the Ascension Place in North Minneapolis because I liked the thought of being able to help women who are transitioning from a bad situation. My parents were slightly concerned about me having to take the bus by myself into North Minneapolis, but I did not share their concern. I figured I could take care of myself. However, on my first day at Ascension Place I have never felt so out of place in my entire life. My first impression of this part of the city was when I stepped off the bus and a man drove by in his car, honked, and motioned at me to go over to his car. Needless to say I rushed my way down the two blocks to the building. Ironically this safe house for women I also felt as my own. After my hours that day I got out a little later than I expected to therefore missing the bus I had planned to take home. Standing on that corner for what felt like a life time it hit me. For the first time in my life I was the minority, and the people around me had no problem making that very clear. In the short 15 minutes I was standing there I got comments like, “Are you lost?? and “Ya scared, white girl?? The truth was that I was scared. I hate to say that because I am not a racist person. The only reason I had been uncomfortable was because of how I was treated by the majority of that neighborhood. This experience has really made me realize how different life is in my hometown suburb than it is in the rural parts of Minneapolis.

February 12, 2007

Open Arms

I had orientation for my service learning on Tuesday at Open Arms. Open Arms is an organization the prepares and ships meals to people living with HIV/AIDS every week. It looks like a great program and I cannot wait to start my volunteer hours.

When I first heard of the service learning portion of the class I was definitely not excited. I've never liked being forced to volunteer, although I always end up enjoying it, and thought 'where in the world am I going to find time to do this??' However, once I actually got the ball rolling, I became completely motivated to do the work.

I chose Open Arms for a couple of different reasons. Most importantly because I have a family member who is living with AIDS. Secondly, it's something that I know very little about. I hate to be so ignorant about something that is so prevelant and such a huge problem in the world today. I don't think anyone has any real idea what it's like to live with such a disease unless they've experienced it themselves. And even though I don't know what it's like, I at least want to make it that much easier for someone who does.

This got me to thinking about our class discussion the other week about homelessness, (I won't dwell on this topic since it's been covered pretty well in the other blogs.) There was a lot of input but I couldn't help but think that no one really knows what they're talking about. To my knowledge, none of my classmates are homeless; therefore, how could they criticize, praise, admonish, or say anything about whether it's a "choice" or not? That's why I found myself having a hard time formulating an opinion on the matter. I found a single connection between Open Arms, homelessness, and our Shakespeare readings when we were talking in our service learning groups, specifically from Derek: being shunned by society. There's no doubt that homeless people and people living with HIV/AIDS are shunned by society. Is there good reason for them to be? We all know you can't get AIDS from being friendly, and you certainly can't become homeless from saying hi. I wonder how these people really feel, how isolated they are from their community, and how it affects them. That's something that I would like to get a grasp for.