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Gender & Politics in Post- Modernist Society

Introduction

The idea of gender and politics has been taken as an important aspect for analysis in the recent past. Society has all along treated women to be apolitical, creating a scenario where men dominate the political scene, leaving little opportunity for the former. In many literary works, it has become a known fact that women were associated with domestic responsibilities, and anything political was regarded as a preserve for men. However, Kundera, in her book The Unbearable Lightness of Being, dismisses this belief and instead equates men and women in many aspects of their social and political lives. In support of Kundera’s belief are several other authors such as William Burroughs in his book, Queer Apocalypse, who believes that all humans, whether male or female or of whatever sexuality are equally queer in one way or the other. Silvia Plath, in her book The Bell Jar, has used the women’s movement, groupies, to elaborate the extent of political involvement of women in the process. This literary work suggests a lot of partisan politics, emphasizing the need to demonstrate women’s ability in socio-political equity. This paper discusses women and politics, entities that have been traditionally considered incompatible, considering the entrenched traditional perception that women are apolitical, while men are political.

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The Societal Predefined Socio-political Behavior

While it is logical to believe that every person has been involved in certain forms of ideologies as far as politics and social life are concerned, it is also possible to acknowledge that the traditional belief entrenched in our society suggests that women have always taken a back seat in this field, because of their gender weaknesses. In many circumstances, women’s moral conduct in society is viewed with more concern as compared to men, presenting a form of bias in the perception and belief of societal moral responsibility. However, Kundera (2009) believes that both men and women have equal ability to be both political and defy a predefined societal socio-political behavior. Kundera uses specific characters, both male and female, to draw no boundary between the strength and weaknesses of the two sexes.

For example, Tomas a widely renowned professional surgeon uses his position in society to practice a lifestyle that is ‘typical man’ in a society that does not treat man infidelity as a serious crime. His sexual involvement with many women despite being in love with only one, Teresa, could be seen as normal. Of equal measure is Sabina, a woman who is even more extreme in her endeavors as she breaks ranks with every establishment, she goes more aggressive in every aspect of life, takes sexual involvement with many men as normal. However, society would describe her behavior and lifestyle as a series of betrayals, which eventually isolate her, but gain her total freedom in American society. Tomas and Sabina involve themselves in sexual encounters, in what could be described as a “no-strings-attached” kind of relationship (Kundera, 2009). At this level, the two have taken the issue with lightness it deserves, with no mention of domestic or normal romantic attachment.

The socio-political standards of behavior in our society have been predetermined in people’s minds, but more events show that there are no exclusive behaviors separating men and women, hence the need to understand that all sexes are endowed with the ability to play along with all societal games. Burroughs (1995) supports this ideology as he believes that every human, irrespective of sexual orientation, has equal capacity to become queer and that each given opportunity can engage in sexual or political dissidence. Burroughs fears the reaction from authority following his exposure of the gay sex issue, as he says, “I must be careful not to lay myself open to a charge of anti-Semitism” (Burroughs, 1985, p.51). This kind of societal structure clearly shows that every sex can either be political or apolitical, whether male or female and that their involvement can defy the predetermined socio-political behavior set by the society.

The change in behaviors of people, especially women, is seen as a cultural dissidence with which they are seen as going against the societal grains. However, persistence among women suggests that they are in a position to achieve whatever they want as far as freedom is concerned. Women are ready to go against societal set up to develop their own identity and build a step towards socio-political freedom as much as their male counterparts do. This kind of step puts them in equal measure as men, even though it upsets the establishment, and in many instances causes resistance. The perception is highly entrenched and it takes more effort to implement, more than one would imagine.

Apolitical People and Psychological Recognition of Gender Roles

The recognition that each gender has a role to play in society has been in practice for a long. In many instances, these roles exposed little abrasiveness, mainly confined in the belief that one gender is more tender and considerate while the other is always abrasive and mainly participates in issues considered to be needing strong-willed persons. In other words, women are believed to be oriented to be more tender and considerate, with roles confined in the care and love of people they encounter without hurting them. However, men have all along been regarded as inconsiderate in their conduct, leading to the belief that they are more suited to aggressive professions such as politics. This kind of belief has been entrenched in our psychological minds, dictating our beliefs in a manner that sometimes fails to justify the facts in post-modern society.

Kundera dismisses this notion through the exposure of her characters’ behaviors as far as politics is concerned. The three main characters, Tomas and Sabina identify with no political ideologies in a more or less similar tone. They believe that all political affiliations are fundamentally the same in terms of ideological behavior. They detest extreme involvement in political issues, even though each political wing recognizes their presence and influence.

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In the post-modernist world, it has become obvious that the modern woman has approached the reconstructed lifestyle in the society that still gives men a dominant presence in many societal aspects. In essence, their politics of gender plays the role of bridging the gap between man and woman, thus creating a sense of equal representation. The body politics that many scholars have used to separate men and women has become irrelevant; since it is only a matter of interest and individual belief that can define one’s own life, and not sexual orientation.

All Humans Are Naturally Political

As much as people would say that some individuals, especially women, were naturally created apolitical, it is obvious that every human is political in one way or the other. For instance, there is a common belief that most women detest politics. However, it has been shown that politics is an inborn characteristic of every human and that it only takes different forms.

As much as Tom detests the political involvement, he is being pursued by both Czech’s communist government and the rebellious groups; each wants his involvement in their respective cause (Kundera, 2009). His rebellion is a sign that he recognizes politics and its effect. Tereza, on the other hand, believes that all these political affiliations would interfere with her lifestyle, more so privacy, as they are still full of traditional beliefs about the place of women in society (Kundera, 2009). Although she stops not feeling this fact, she develops a psychological recognition of this development, confirming the predetermined societal beliefs on gender differences. Plath (1971) supports this ideology of the place of women as entrenched in society.

While the society wanted women to settle down and have a family, their inward feelings among some women suggested that they desired other things that defined society such as academics and politics. The politics of relationships, marriage, and affairs have placed women in the position of submissiveness, while men are seen as free-willed, with little barrier to prevent them from engaging in any form of societal conduct. For example, immorality is only considered gross when women engage in things like infidelity but attract immeasurable leniency when a man does the same. While this has been entrenched in the psychology of the people, both men, and women, the post-modern society has practically changed and there is clear evidence that women rebel and argues against this double standard with practicality and vigor.

Women have developed strong personal beliefs against this entrenched societal belief that in effect have created a lot of implications as far as politics is concerned. In equal measure, both women and men are seen as political in all aspects. For example, one male character, Tomas, writes an article demonizing the communist government for exploiting people’s ignorance to pursue their ill-motivated goals (Kundera, 2009, p.36). Sabina too expresses her political side through paintings, of course justifying issues that are not right in the society, albeit outside her country of birth that is full of oppression. This kind of involvement of each character in political-related activities shows that no human is apolitical and that every person has that inner-self of opinion and stand, which may as well fall in the category of a political belief, irrespective of gender.

Conclusion

The belief that men and women have different predefined roles in society may be true in the psychological minds of the people; however, the present societal conducts suggest that these roles have become uniform for the two sexes. For instance, women have traditionally been regarded as those who belonged to specifically confined roles in homes, judged harshly as far as societal moral conducts are concerned, and considered apolitical. Men on the other hand have been considered abrasive and free to engage in more roles outside the confines of their homes, considered more political, and attracted less attention as far as societal immorality issues such as infidelity are concerned. Kundera (2009), supported by many other authors, has dismissed this perception, suggesting that the modern woman has practically evolved and plays similar roles as men. Just like men are political, women have become even more expressive in terms of their feelings, sexual adventure, with very strong political ideologies as far their lives are concerned. Moreover, the gender politics of post-modernism shows that there are men with little interest in mainstream political involvement.

Reference List

Burroughs, W. (1985). Queer. Michigan. Viking.

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Kundera, M. (2009). The Unbearable Lightness of Being. London. HarperCollins.

Plath, S. (1971). The Bell Jar. New York. Faber and Faber.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Gender & Politics in Post- Modernist Society'. 5 December.

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