The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.


Riviere begins the essay by stating that the essay will “attempt to show that women who wish for masculinity may put on a mask of womanliness to avert anxiety and retribution feared from men,” (132) this quote immedietly brought to mind Sarah Jane. Although Sarah Jane does not wear a mask of womanliness to avert anxiety and retribution feared from men she does wear a mask. Her mask shieldes her (in her mind) from the stereotypes and scrutiny she will recieve if people discovered that she was African American. It also allows her to conform to the white male idea of a perfect woman. Later she mentions the relationship between the woman and her mother , “by it she surpassed her mother, won her approval and proved her superiority among rival ‘feminine’ women (134), but in the case of Sarah Jane she surpasses her mother by shunning her. This allows her to step into a new world of conformity and compete with these ‘feminine’ women that Riviere mentions.

Riviere goes on to say that, “womanliness therefore could be assumed and worn as a mask, both to hide possession of masculinity and to avert the reprisals expected if she was found to posses it–much as a thief will turn out his pockets and ask to be searched to prove that he has not the stolen goods” (133). Her description of her aquantaince who hides her ability to do certain “masculine” tasks and passes them off as ‘lucky guess’ made me think of single mothers who have to learn “masculine” task to get through everyday life but are ridiculed because of their knowledge. This has alot to do with our society which at a young age reinforce the idea that you need a man in your life. For example, in my family I am often questioned about not having a boyfriend, speaking my mind, being careless, or knowing to much. I’m often told that I have to put on this “damsel in distress” persona in order to attract a man which I don’t agree with at all. Women have to maintain the idea of a perfect woman that was put on her from childhood, e.g. Barbie (she can do anything). As Riviere states, “She conformed in almost every particulaer to the description…excellent wives and mothers, capable housewives; they maintain social life and assist culture; they have no lack of feminine interests. (132)


Comments on: "All the world’s a stage–or at least for women" (2)

  1. Jasmine, I agree with the theory that women wear a mask to hide their masculine attributes while comitting into “masculine” duties.

  2. After introducing Riviere’s quote, you state that “although Sarah Jane does not wear a mask of womanliness to avert anxiety and retribution feared from men she does wear a mask.” I personally find that Ariel (from the Disney movie… Yes, I know it’s lame) actually embodies the Riviere quote that you have used.
    In a nutshell (for those who haven’t seen The Little Mermaid) Ariel (who is a mermaid) is advised to never swim her way up to the “forbidden” shores of man by her father. Yet, Ariel disobeys him one evening only to find Prince Eric, a human, who she falls in love with. It is here where her journey for “a mask of womanliness” begins.
    She consults Ursula, a sea witch, so that she can be transformed into a human (to be with Eric). In an application of Riviere’s theory, Ariel’s mask is womanliness itself. She masquerades as a woman when she is truly a mermaid in order to fulfill her “wish” of obtaining masculinity (Eric’s love). Though what is key is that she uses womanliness to “avert” her anxious feelings of not being accepted. When she first sees Eric, a storm nearly destroys his ship and Ariel saves him (in her mermaid form). However, she is careful to not expose her true identity for fear that Eric might discover who she is and possibly reject her tail (her perceived “unwomanly” form). This seems to be analogous to woman’s fear that her “plain” vagina, as Irigaray puts it: “becomes nothing to see at all” as opposed to one that is hidden, concealed, or “wrapped with a bow” that can divert a man’s attention or indicate that it is “different.” Ariel believes that if she masquerades as a woman, she will be “different” and theoretically distract Eric from seeing who she truly is. Yet, when Eric discovers her true form he is not disgusted, and the two ultimately end up together as Ariel’s father transforms her into a human.
    What is interesting is that though Ariel does get her man, it is her father that allows her that privilege of that. This indeed suggests that women should still feel anxious and retributive sentiments, for they must go through a man who they do not fear, in order to secure the one they do.

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