violence 

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Don’t! A Woman’s Word by Elly Danica- Dominic Bilodeau

 

            Back in the 1980's, people wanted to ban music genres as Metal, Rap and Hip-Hop, because the lyrics from these less valid forms of music were too violent and thematized oppression and powerlessness. - Have you ever read Don't: A Woman's Word ?- In this aswer, there is no intention of saying that the book should be banned; on the contrary, the book should be read and considered.

The book

            Violence sells; this is the reason of the comparison with the three types of music listed above. People want violence. Men and women in western culture want it. Yet, when the thing gets too real and too extreme; things are different. Elly Danica tells her experience as a ''four-year old adult'' as she writes. The book is not a light reading. It makes the reader angry, sad and, for men probably more, ashamed. The book is written in single or very few lines a once, which makes the story difficult to bear; and this is only the structure of it. The text telling the story of the author's father abusing her is realistic and Elly Danica spares the reader of no detail; from the thoughts and feeling she has, to the description of the injustice she suffers.

Effects of the reading

            As one reads the book, a silence reigns in his/her mind: a troubling silence. This is the first effect that the text has on the reader. The fact that the text is a narration causes this silence. Julie Rak, a professor at the university level, says that the narratives ''seek to enact trauma ... to produce a special type of silence in its readers as the initial response. In this silence, readers are called into being as witnesses, a position which they are not usually asked to occupy ... (Rak, 4)''. This silence is then filled with a feeling that is most disturbing. The same professor states, ''the story can be told to another, which can cause the other to take on the otherness of the traumatic experience (Rak, 5)''. The fact that the reader witnesses the events makes him/her angry and is quite disturbing; it really makes the reader react to the text. Moreover, this book reflects the way many people feel about men. The men in their lives are nothing else than the monster that is their father. Readers who are not victims of such crimes as incest, or rape, or any kind of abuse, can understand why some women see men as predators, monsters and thieves; those men stole their youth, innocence and freedom. In other words, this book makes the reader think about these crimes that are, most sadly and frustratingly, part of life in society. It also brings the reader to take action and speak up about this major problem; victim or not, this problem is real and it is time we do something about it.

 

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Works Cited

Rak, Julie. ‘’Do Witness: Don’t: A Woman’s Word and Trauma as Pedagogy.’’ Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies: Topia, Number 10, Fall 2003. Web. 13 November 2011.

 

Danica, Elly. ‘’Don’t: A Woman’s Word’’. Charlottetown : Gynery books, 1988. Print.

 

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"Welfare Brat" (Mary Childers) by Mira Blazeska 

 

    "Welfare Brat" is a memoir that focuses on the unhappy Childhood of the author: Mary Childers. She tells her  experiences of growing up poor, living on welfare, being  raised by a single mother, and being faced with racism.   Mary Childers' intimate memoir tells the writer's  life between the ages of ten and seventeen in the Bronx of  the 1960s. Childers was born in a large poor Irish Catholic family: brought up by an unmarried welfare mother, four absent fathers, and five half-sisters and a brother. She was raised in a family with alcohol and drugs, a family which valued sexuality more than self-esteem and self-sufficiency. Childers’ family was headed by an alcoholic-dependent single mother who had multiple relationships with men. Living on welfare, her drinking problem and irresponsibility left her children

hungry and desperate. Childers mentions how her mother often disappeared, leaving Mary to babysit her younger siblings, and how she dragged her mother out of the bars to come home. Thus, Childers knew that she was very different from her family siblings. Although she loves her family, Childers did not want to make the same mistakes as her mother.  She knew, as well, that her only way to escape from poverty was to get education, which neither of her half-sisters managed to do. She believes that school is essential, contrary to her mother who believes that only men could make a woman happy and safe. Despite her mother's disapproval, she went to school, which allowed her to get a Ph.D. in English literature. By the end of the book, Mary Childers gets over her anger at her mother and admits that her mother tried her best to raise her family. One can notice this conviction from the author throughout her work, despite the many challenges she has faced in her quest to get away from her chaotic environment. She is discriminated by other people, and is a victim of prejudice because of her social status. At one moment in the book, Childers has enough of the negative opinions from others on her: the way she envies those who find happiness despite their poverty, and accept it without even trying to change their fate.        

            Mary Childers argues, in her personal memoir, how she was filled with envy because she was living in poverty.  As many can argue, envy can usually get someone in trouble. The same thing happens to Mary Childers when she finds a bus pass in the schoolyard. Just before this scene, the author is telling us how she had to stop frequently at apartment buildings to warm herself up, on her way to school, because of her too-thin winter coat. Therefore, she decides to pick up the bus pass, even if she knows that this would make her a thief. At the same time, she notices the owner's name and ``know its owner as a wearer of Capezio shoes who boasts about weekend shopping sprees with her rich big brother`` (103).  After this, she decides to use the bus pass. When she has used it for the first time, she felt ``like a queen`` (104). Unfortunately, that was the first and the last time she has used the pass because the school found out about it very quickly, and then she was publicly humiliated.

          Moreover, Mary Childers says that envy could lead someone to disappointment, but also to the scorn of friends and family. This can be seen when, at the age of thirteen, Childers sees her father, for the first time, after an absence of six years. When he asks her about school, she tells him that she is very sad for the only reason that she will probably not be able to attend her ninth-grade graduation because she does not have enough money to buy a dress. He then promises to give her the money, but eventually she never receives it. Thus, Childers is disappointed with herself for believing in her father, but most importantly, for allowing him to disappoint her: ``I time myself for a half hour literally kicking my own butt, running down the street pumping my legs back high enough for them to bang my bottom cheeks. [...] I care, I don't care, I care, I don't care, I don't care`` (139).

            During her childhood, the author was confronted with racism. Childers' members were a family of white, and they were living in African-American and Latino neighbourhoods. As white, she has more opportunity to find a job and perhaps she could have more opportunities than other children of different race. ``It’s true that we have a few more options because we’re white. If landlords see Mom and one or two of us, maybe we can escape to a block that is still populated by some white people and employed minorities`` (202). However, by living in poor neighborhoods in the 1960s, she was often a victim of racism by people of color because they disliked white people, and how white people treated them in society at that time. Thus, the author feels rejected by white people because they are generally wealthier than her family, and from people of different race because of their social status in relation to whites like her.

            In conclusion, as in the memoir Welfare Brat, the division between social classes is evident in modern life. People of lower classes are often victims of prejudice and denied by the others. Thus, they must fight back to prove that they too deserve respect and have the capacity to succeed in life. Despite the difficulties involved in being a welfare brat, the author never gave up, and has remained determined to achieve her goal which was to escape from poverty and thus, to escape from the fate reserved for a number of children who grew up under the same circumstances as Mary Childers.

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Works Cited 

Childers, Mary. Welfare Brat. 2005. New York : Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006.

Stavis, Laurel. A Conversation With the Ombudsperson. Vox of Dartmouth: The Newspaper for the Dartmouth Faculty and Staff. 17 Dec. 2008. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

            http://www.dartmouth.edu/~vox/0607/0402/childers.html (Picture #2)

Vermont Humanities Council: Sharing Our Past... Sharing Our Future. Exploring Ideas through Books. State of Vermont. n.d. Web.16 Nov. 2011. 

http://www.vermonthumanities.org/WhatWeDo/Literacy/Connections/tabid/227/Default.aspx (Picture #1)

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The Scold's Bridle by Amelia Bourdonnais 

 

Under 17th century patriarchy, women suffered many forms of injustices. Amongst other things, they were treated as inferior to men, confined to the private sphere, and silenced.  In the 17th century, gender hierarchy was not to be trifled with; it was thought of as ''instituted by God and nature'' (17th Century Life and Times). The man was the ‘‘governor of his family and household'' while the woman was a mere servant, bound to obedience (The Early Seventeenth Century).  She was to be a good wife and a good mother.  ''Women were continually instructed that their spiritual and social worth resided above all else in their practice of and reputation for chastity'' (17th Century Life and Times). The ones who dared to speak up or who acted in ways that could hurt their own, and more importantly, their husbands' reputation, were referred to as ''shrews'' or ''scolds'' and were publicly punished by means of the scold's bridle (Findlay 1).  ''A [s]cold  in a legal sense is a troublesome and angry women, who by her brawling and wrangling amongst her [n]eighbours, doth break the public Peace'' (The Scold's Bridle). 

The scold's bridle was a punishment devise used by men to silence shrewish women, to put them back into their place. Nowadays, such a devise would be seen as an instrument of torture, but at that time, it was a man's prerogative to punish a bad woman (The Scold's Bridle). '' In its earliest form the Bridle consisted of a hoop head-piece of iron, opening by hinges at the side so as to enclose the head, with a flat piece of iron projecting inwards [...] to fit into the mouth and press the tongue down'' (The Scold's Bridle). Later on, the bridle resembled more a cage as it was made of a series of hoops that formed a mask around the woman's face with holes only for her mouth, nose and eyes. A short spike was sometimes added to the mouth-plate, making it even worse than it already was (The Scold's Bridle). Women were paraded through town with these on their heads and publicly humiliated. When not marched through town, they were chained in a public place where passers-by mocked them or inflicted physical humiliation such as urinating on them. It was up to the man ''leading the woman in the bridle'' to decide how far the punishment went, ''whether or not her teeth and jaws were permanently injured or even smashed'' (The Scold's Bridle).

Throughout the 17th century, the scold's bridle was used on women, not animals, but actual human beings. This shows that women were perceived as objects or property. Men tried to tame 'bad women,' to keep them silenced and oppressed. In 1632, a law called the "Law's Resolution of Women's Rights" was passed. In this document, a description of women's roles in society was given, and the importance for women to have a husband strongly emphasized (Ramos). According to the law, men were permitted to beat their wives if they had good reasons: ''If a man beat an out-law, a traitor, a pagan, his villain, or his wife, it is dispensable by the Law Common these persons can have no action. [...] he shall neither do nor procure to be done to [his wife] (mark, I pray you) any bodily damage, otherwise than appertains to the office of a husband for a lawful and reasonable correction'' (17th Century Life and Times). Hence, the scold's bridle was seen as a ''reasonable correction''.

 

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Works Cited

Findlay, Alison. ''Shrew,'' Women in Shakespeare, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd / Books, 2010, p365-367. Print.

 

''The Early Seventeenth Century: Topics,'' Gender, Family, Household-17th Century Norms and Controversies: Overview, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Norton Topics Online. Web. 20       November 2011. < http://www.wwnorton.com/ >.

 

''The Scold's Bridle.''Shakespeare’s England, Everyday life in Seventeenth Century London, Web. 20 November. 2011.  <http://www.shakespearesengland.com/>.

 

Ramos, Nicholas. ''Roles of Women in the 17th Century,''  ehow.com, Web, 20 November 2011. <http://www.ehow.com/ >

 

''17th Century Life and Times,''  Military and Civilian History Recreated, Web. 20 November  2011. <http://www.17thcenturylifeandtimes.com/>

Images:

''Best Pictures of.'' Web. 20 November. 2011. <http://ca.bestpicturesof.com/scolds%20bridle>.  

 

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©Martine Pelletier