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Femininity and Masculinity

Masculinity and femininity present in different proportions in every human, and people even can adjust these proportions sometimes. Usually, it is possible to determine the relative degree of masculinity or femininity in the character subject to features that dominate in a particular personality type. This paper will help us to explain the phenomenon of courageous women and feminine men that has been observed for a long time. Thus, we are going to discuss femininity and masculinity themes presented in the play M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang.

First of all it is necessary to mention that David Henry Hwang’s drama M. Butterfly is considered to be one of the most disputable and popular modern American plays. Hwang used an interesting way to show his story that allows to say that in some moments the play even can seem funny and amusing, but in its essence we can find a big tragic story of French diplomat Rene Gallimard, who falls in love with a Chinese opera diva, Song Liling. The play is based on real love story of Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei-Pu. Observing the play it is also necessary to mention that Song Liling was a man, who was sent to the diplomat to get more information on the French government, and only over more than 15 years of relationships Gallimard understood that he was falling in love not with a woman, but with a man. At the end of the play we see that Gallimard was jailed for espionage and he has committed suicide being in a great despair. Thus, the play has rich structure of different images presented in it with in attempt to deconstruct existed perceptions about femininity and masculinity, gender and race, sexuality and social relationships.

The title of the play M. Butterfly suggests that it is a kind of story about big metamorphosis and firstly this metamorphosis is based on famous Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madama Butterfly”. Hwang’s play is also called a contemporary geopolitical argument for cultural understanding, where extramarital affair presents the positions of female against male as East is opposed to West. Thus, we can mention that very controversial topic is hidden under these strange love relations of two people, because the author hides contradictions of the Western and the Eastern culture in two images of diplomat and opera diva, trying to expose stereotypes that dominate in societies of both countries.

Thinking about femininity and masculinity and immersing into the sphere of interpersonal relationships of socionic types we see that it opens us strong unexplored layers of human internal world, which will require developmental work of several generations of researchers. In the play M. Butterfly one of these layers is the nature of feminine and masculine origin of human nature. This problem was always important and interesting for researchers, and when behavioral patterns were changed; standards of beauty, social roles of men and women were revalued, the mystery of display of the male character in a woman and vice versa remained unsolved for a long time.

Dwelling on the essence of femininity question in the context of the above discussed play we see that Asian-American studies report that the stereotype of submissive Asian women is rooted in the history of colonialism. In those times strong European states consider any alien to them country as a backward culture. They tried, wherever possible, to erase local customs and traditions, imposing their own views. Attractiveness of Asian women is enhanced by existing ‘sexual’ ideal of beauty, which also includes such features as youth and slenderness. Previous statement allows to suppose that Asian women manage to look younger and slimmer than other women in different cultures. They sometimes look like teenagers, and perhaps this is an explanation of the attractiveness of Eastern and South-Eastern women.

Analyzing the play with more details we see that Rene Gallimard is looking for ‘the perfect woman’ and who would be able to combine submissive, docile, feminine and friendly features of character and he has found his ‘perfect woman’ in Song, who was not a woman, but a man. Song is presented as the embodiment of modesty and simplicity, and being a spy she (he) shows that ‘her’ love is true and she/he is ready to perform any diplomat’s whimsy, not asking something in return. Professional actor in a female guise (Song) anticipates every wish of her/his master, she/he never denies in anything, except one small detail – her/his master should not see his lover naked.

The image of Song allows us to observe a man in the woman, and we can say that it explains that femininity is more developed in this person. Such phenomenon can be explained as the presence of specific archetype in this person, because archetype, as a part of our soul can not be likened to the body. To present this type of archetype of femininity in more powerful way in own mind, Song should interact with it, because only well established relationships and regular interaction could help to force it to show its considerable influence on human behavior and body.

Basing on the femininity and masculinity description that have a place in Hwang’s play M. Butterfly it is possible to declare that our society has different, even diametrically opposed opinions about the intellectual and spiritual potential of both sexes, but especially in relate to woman it happens that in one situation a woman is percept as a goddess, but in others, by contrast, she relegates to the level of childbearing machine. This difference in attitude is largely conditioned by different thoughts about woman in major world religions: Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Various Christian denominations also have different attitudes to the problem of the relation of male and female spiritual principles: Orthodoxy is dominant in the cult of masculinity – Christ; in Catholicism we can find female image – the Virgin Mary. Orthodox Muslim are trying to downplay woman to the level of dumb male’s will executor, and trying to say that a woman has no any creativity in her nature. Buddhism, the most tolerant in this regard religion, requires equal opportunity in the “enlightenment” and “salvation” for men and women. Buddhism differs from Christianity in the above presented feature, where a woman is blamed in firstborn sin and according to the canons of both the Old and New Testaments, a man plays the role of undisputed leader in family and society.

Thus, taking into consideration everything that has been observed in the paper it is necessary to say that the problem of masculinity and femininity that is exposed by Hwang in his tragic play M. Butterfly continues to be not only popular, but also controversial issue of our society.


Work Cited:

Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly. Literature and the Writing Process. Broadway, 1988.