Monday, November 11, 2013

M. Butterfly Effect

I've spent most of my time reading lately. Sometimes, I binge on books to help me drown the large number of stories in my head; I wish they would just stop coming, but my imagination is such that ideas and scenarios play out continuously, brought about by the smallest stimuli.

It is not as bad as it sounds. The binging helps me get my ideas together about the fiction I'm writing. Also, this summer I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked. Reading short works like The Great Gatsby will help me get an appetite for longer works, like The Grapes of Wrath.

Plays are also short and thanks to the American Drama class I'm taking, I've been reading many plays. Before this season, I never read much contemporary drama. That was a mistake. I found this out recently.

M. Butterfly by D. Hwang is the kind of story that lets you see what can be done with the symbols we call language. It was like a fresh onion: Layer after layer of meaning; the deeper you peel away at those layers, the more you want to cry.

It helped me formulate a question that had been formless in my mind until after I finished reading that play: Why do we think we are either male or female if we come from males and females (together)?

Of course, you will say it is because of your penis and vagina. But if I were to suggest that our genitals are what make us male or female, then I think I would be missing something. And, you might say, angrily too I bet, that we are not animals--only wild beasts depend on their genitalia to define them.

What do cultures usually preach? There is more to being a man than just having male genitalia. We drive that message across in America and abroad; that is why there are rituals denoting manhood. It is never enough that we have the right equipment, so to speak. Certain behavior is expected. It is the same for women.

Other words come into the conversation, like masculinity and femininity. There is more involved. In the past, the female gender has been relegated to domestic duties, while the male gender has been out using their brawn and mind to carry on society, suspiciously keeping the mind of the female gender in the domestic sphere.

I think it was Virginia Woolf who first helped form these thoughts in my head, that what we call gender is an illusion. She rightly noted (as have many other female writers) that the female gender, the illusion, is the result of keeping them in the domestic sphere--a brash form of conditioning.

Unlike other female writers, however, Virginia Woolf considers the consequences of removing the conditioning. In, A Room of One's Own, she considers that the conditioning has given women certain characteristics--some of which she doesn't females ought to be rid of. What is the end, then? Androgyny. She weighs the options.

Hwang considers the male illusion in M. Butterfly. I want to keep going, but I won't spoil that for you, and I think I have rambled on enough for a Veteran's Day post.