Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a streetcar named desire

Have you seen it? Read it? Watched the movie? If you haven't, this blog post might not make much sense. I'm sorry.
I'll try not to get too spoiler-y, but it's a pretty well known story, I think, so I'm warning you now, just don't read this if you really really care.
So, Streetcar (by Tennessee Williams) is about a woman named Blanche, a woman who is so caught up in the lies she's wrapped herself in that she's drowning. She can't leave her past behind, no matter where she goes, her family's problems and the spectre of her dead husband haunt her.
She goes to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella and Stella's husband Stanley. In her mind, Blanche imagined that the Elysian Fields, the sector of the city where Stella lives, is just as much of a paradise as it's name indicates, but she was wrong. It's a dump, maybe a charming dump, but still, not paradise.
She lives there for a while, stuff happens, et cetera et cetera et cetera, until one night a confrontation with Stanley comes to a head in a bad way. Here is exactly what happens in the play:
Stanley corners Blanche. She tells him to get away and leave her alone, but he won't. She breaks a bottle and threatens him with the sharp edge. He still won't leave, and she slashes at him with the bottle. He grabs her wrist, yells "Tiger! Tiger!" and doesn't let go. Blanche cannot fight him, moans and falls to her knees. Stanley picks up her limp body and puts her on the bed and the lights go down.
The next time we see Blanche, she's out of her mind, creating fantasies and not able to connect with the real world, and Stella and Stanley put her in a mental hospital.
What do you think happened in between? I agree with the consensus of my Dramatic Lit class: it's pretty clear that she was raped.
What I don't agree with my class about is the circumstances of that rape. Some of the arguments I heard today:
'She gave in. She let him.'
'She was asking for it from the beginning.'
'Look how she acted around him.'
'She stopped fighting.'
'She wanted it to happen.'
I couldn't believe I was hearing this, and moreover, that I was hearing it from the other girls in my class. Only one girl was on my side, completely bewildered that anyone could even try to make these arguments rationally. It was honestly upsetting to listen to. I wanted to sit with them and talk outside of class. Maybe yell a bit.
No one ever asks to be raped. No one wants it to happen.
No matter what you wear, no matter how you act, it does not give anyone the permission to violate you.
If you can't fight, you can't fight. That doesn't make what happens your fault.
It is never your fault.
And that's what happened today. I'm really looking forward to Dramatic Lit again on Sunday.


  1. It always amazes me when people try to argue that someone didn't fight hard enough to not be *raped*. It amazes me even more when women argue it. Even if a woman is the most promiscuous person on the planet she has still consented to sleep with those men, and when she says no it still means no.

  2. I am speechless. Will there be an opportunity to talk to them later? I would like to hear more about this. (I would also like to grab them each by the collar and give them a gigantic collective shake.) These are the people who serve on juries and vote to acquit a rapist because he could not possibly need to rape someone because he is too good looking. I am sick to my stomach just writing this. I think I spend a lot of time in my imaginary world where everyone thinks logically and mostly agrees with me.