Hussah's Blog 501

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Hussah's Blog 501

Week 6 Blog Post

October 9th, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Feminism and female agency. How do we define those two phrases? Typically when coming across the term feminism or feminist (anything related to these two categories), one expects to see empowerment and support connected with these terms. In Vogel’s adaptation of Othello, “Desdemona A play about a handkerchief” since this adaptation is written by a female author, one would expect the female characters of the play to be empowered. However, that is not the case. Vogel presents the real definition of what feminism is, which is to raise awareness of societal oppression on females and spurring a reaction from those you are raising this awareness to.

In the article by Jennifer Flaherty, she explains in her abstract that “Although the women of Vogel’s Desdemona are each doomed to fail at their respective attempts to escape the situations that control them, the text still maintains a feminist perspective. The feminism of Desdemona does not demonstrate empowerment, enlightenment, or equality—these positive elements are replaced with a kind of negative empathy” (35). Despite this negative perspective presented by Vogel, she still successfully promotes her feminist approach. The characters do not need a happy ending or are heroes, but they are causing an effect on the audience by ” Vogel asks her audiences to say ‘no’ to constraints on female agency and ‘no’ to female complicity and isolation. By not saving Desdemona, Vogel invites her audiences to save themselves” (35). I agree with this because what the point of making a recreated fictional character power and authority since it is only a character and not real life. The best way to send out a message is to have the story affect the audience. Many expected Desdemona to have power in this adaptation because it is written by a female author but Vogel shows that no matter the gender of the author, that does not change the main point which is that female agency lacked and did not exist due to the oppression of a patriarchal society.

No matter how many adaptations are recreated, everyone can go back and reread the original text by Shakespeare himself since he created these fictional characters. Every adaptation after this is just a meaningless wish of what was desired by readers of Shakespeare in how characters were treated. Many authors desire for the females to have a voice, but Vogel wants the audience to give these female characters a voice, not the text to give them a voice. This voice becomes a community and helps the audience change how society is so that future works based on a specific society can actually refrain from not writing about female oppression since society can actually change how females are treated.

Female oppression existed in a drastic manner during Shakespeare’s time. Adaptations writing different storylines won’t change the truth and this is what Vogel wants. Vogel wants to write an adaptation where Desdemona’s fate is worse, because In Shakespeare’s version because of her high status, she was less limited but ideally women back then were very limited and this is what Vogel wants to present. She presented the truth behind the female life in Shakespeares time, without regarding high status. She does not view status as a source of power but she views the body as a source of power (39) “Vogel presents Desdemona’s aggressive sexuality as an act of resistance, albeit unsuccessful. Feeling frustrated by her life, her marriage, and her position in society, Desdemona rebels in the only way that she can—through her body. She feels liberated by her sexual adventures, as though she can achieve her dreams of travel and adventure through sex with men who have traveled and fought. In an attempt to explain this feeling to Emilia, Desdemona describes it as a way to satisfy her “desire to know the world” (Vogel 20).” In Shakespeare’s version, Desdemona was loyal to Othello and was pure, but in this adaptation, Desdemona uses her sexuality to escape her reality. This is an ideal idea back in that time period because many women were oppressed they acted out in the only way they can which was through their bodies. She sees sexual relations as a way of experiencing the world, this just proves Vogel’s idea that in a patriarchal society there is selfishness, lust, violence, and anger (37). By her wanting to experience life through sex, she is affected by the patriarchal idea of sex and lust.

The only issue with this idea is in Shakespeare’s version, the audience disliked Othello for killing his wife since she was loyal and did nothing wrong but in this version, she did commit acts of adultery, so does this justify him killing her (38)? In this adaptation, Othello believes that by killing her he is saving other men from being hurt by her but this goes back to fighting against the idea that she was inferior to men. Why would Othello worry about Desdemona hurting other men if she is inferior to them so this is where the idea that Vogel presents backfires. She initially portrayed Desdemona and other female characters as having no voice or authority but because of the fear that Othello feels when he discovers of Desdemona’s adultery, he is scared of her authority and kills her. I think the conclusion from this is everyone can have authority, But the authority that you have has a connotation to it. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Desdemona’s authority was through her voice and status which is respected by the audience and her fellow characters, but in Vogel’s adaptation, Desdemona’s authority comes from her body. Her body being used for sexual acts as a desire to escape her reality and experience the world is a negative presentation, This makes the audience sympathize with Othello rather than understand Desdemona and support her. The moral that I saw Vogel wanted to send was that no matter what kind of authority is given to a woman, the only acceptable form of authority is one where she is still respected and can raise her head high and be proud. She made Desdemona an adulterous woman in brothels that still got her freedom but made sure that the audience will still say no and wish for a better life than this, a better authority than this. (1039)


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