Yarí E. Cruz Ríos
10 December 2012
Female Submission and Sexual Politics in Titus Andronicus and Blindness
Since the time of Adam and Eve, the issue of gender roles in society has been questioned and examined. As time passes, women have gained more independence and rights, but seem to still be seen as inferior to men. The submission of women has been represented for centuries in literature, a mirroring image of the role women have in the corresponding time when the literary piece was written in. Many theorists have formed a correlation between the submissive role of women and their depiction as sex symbols in society. Lavinia, in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, and both the doctor’s wife and the girl with dark glasses in José Saramago’s Blindness are direct examples of female submission and their representation as sex symbols in society and how the role of female submission is predetermined and inescapable.
The religious history of female submission is an important aspect in the understanding of the development of female submission. In Genesis I, it is stated that men and women were created equally in the eyes of God. However, this information is obsucurred in the account of Genesis II, where it is revealed that Eve was created after Adam to be his helper1. In an analysis of the relationship between Adam and Eve, Grace Community Church consultant John MacArthur states,
Eve was equal to Adam, but she was given the role and duty of submitting to him. Although the word ‘helper’ carries very positive connotations, it still describes someone in a relationship of service to another. The responsibility of wives to submit to their husbands, then, was part of the plan from creation, even before the curse (Insert Annotation Here).
This submissive role was not a choice of female, but they were technically born into it. This dominant role of man has led to the development of women as having submissive roles in society and the portrayal as sex symbols.
Researchers have labeled this disparity between sexes as gender stereotypes, documenting the differences and why these differences exist. Certain labels have been attached to both male and female according to biological and societal characteristics. For example, biologically men are physically stronger than a female, and this strength led to their ability in providing for their family. This goes back to the time of the Native Americans, where the men were expected to go out hunting for food and resources, while the women stayed at home to watch over the children and take care of the home. This led to women’s roles, on the other hand, seen as more nurturing, an inferior characteristic, placed in the home to care, clean, and cook, providing for the “wants” rather than the “needs” of a family. However, research has shown that these differences formed from the perceptive traits of each gender are not truly important and mostly inaccurate.
People commonly believe sex differences to be far greater than they actually are. Research on actual sex differences indicates that there is little basis for many gender stereotypes. There is no consistent evidence, for example, that the sexes differ in cognitive style, creativity, independence, susceptibility to influence, general self-esteem, emotionality, empathy, nurturance, sociability, or loquaciousness (Insert Annotation here).
These preconceived roles, though, have led to the portrayal of females having submissive roles based mainly on their appearance in advertisements, movies, and literature. A debate surrounding this issue has arisen connecting this sexual depiction as adding to female’s submissive role, “depictions of sexuality and violence were confounded with subordinate depictions of female characters” (Insert annotation here). The referred to violence in this issue is dealing with male aggression towards females, specifically rape, but the research also notes that “presence of strong, positive