Shrew You! (Week 3)

Week three of Shrew You has been full of new lessons, and new questions, and I’ve begun to see the connections between all of the texts we’ve been reading.  Through our exemplar readings, videos, ‘Taming of the Shrew’, in-class discussions, and milestone assignments I’ve gained a better understanding of women throughout time, and how things have changed and stayed the same.  

One of the ideas brought up in class that I found a pattern in throughout the texts was the idea of women being seen as property, and seen as objects.   This is shown in our culture, and also our media.  Women, up until a few hundred years ago were seen as the man’s property.  In Elizabethan times, particularly in Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ the female characters’ purpose in the story is being married off.  The other male characters have arcs and storylines but the two sisters are simply portrayed as shrewish, or submissive.  In the first act it was rare for either of them to get a line, even though the whole story was about who they were getting married to.  These women were seen as objects for the men to use when they pleased, for their gain.  When Petruchio is talking to Kate’s father about marrying her his main concern is the dowry he would receive for her betrothal, and how he could deal with whatever she is, and tame her, much like an animal that he’s recently come into his possession.  

This is a continuing theme throughout time in our research, as we talked about the music videos of ‘Cherry Pie’ and ‘Timber’, and how the women are used to please the male gaze, and embody a desire that they have.  This is where another important question comes into play which is, when has it been okay to be overt about sexism, and when is it hidden.  In the past when women didn’t have as many rights or as much autonomy over their own lives as they do now, sexism was used in a very overt way to sell products, portray women in the movies and the media, and it was more overt even in day to day life.  A great example of this overt sexism was the advertisement for cigarettes we talked about which read “Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere.” with a picture of a beautiful woman fawning over the cigarette-smoking man.

This ad seems outrageous now because of its overtness, but this form of ad which sexualizes women is still not hard to come by today, you just have to know what you’re looking at.  Women being sexualized is commonplace in our society but it’s so ingrained that most people don’t even see it anymore.  Going back to the music videos, at first the class agreed that the videos weren’t inherently sexist, but then after reading the lyrics of the song, and then looking from an objective standpoint we saw what the message really was of these song’s we’ve been singing and listening to our whole childhoods.  The fact that we as children were once singing these clearly inappropriate choruses really shows how deep-rooted sexism is, that it would be acceptable for kids to sing.  This is why I felt so uncomfortable when watching the video of the children’s rendition of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’.  Sexism being so embedded in our society, in our music, in our media, and in our lives, it is really important for us young people to be able to recognize it moving forward into our futures, I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn this in school, and I’m grateful and excited to continue.