Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Do men secretly hate women?

Has the public been brainwashed into hating the female sex through misogynistic subliminal messages?
  by Yanga Lubisi

Even if we are not all Christians, we are all familiar with the Adam and Eve story. Yes, the one where two people were living in utopia, in a completely euphoric state, in the Garden of Eden, until someone ruined it. That someone was Eve. Eve’s fatal mistake changed the entire balance of the garden and of life entirely, and inevitably burdened women with the painful process of childbirth. 

Some might say that is an isolated story when we view contemporary culture, one for religious followers; however, society seems to have displayed certain traits that are not in favour of women, and women are seldom portrayed in a positive light in media, if one were to truly dissect the situation. This can be vividly seen in the film industry. Susan Faludi stated in her book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, that there was a certain backlash of women in the late 1980’s, arguing how the media was responsible for depicting women in an unfavourable manner, where being career-driven was portrayed with a negative connotation and was associated with an unappealing form of obsession.  

Upon stumbling across the rather twisted and misogynistic psychological horror film, The Box (2009), a growing concern about this phenomenon was awakened. Cameron Diaz plays a married school teacher with a son, who receives a peculiar box in the early hours of the morning. The following day, a mysterious man comes to her house and explains that the box is in fact his and that it possesses a very important button. The man explains that if she pushed the button, it will kill someone in the world, a person that she does not know and after she pushes the button, she will be rewarded one million dollars in cash. Diaz’s husband, who is played by James Marsden, is sceptical about the entire issue and raises his moral concerns about pushing the button. When it came down to it, Diaz was the one who haphazardly pushed the button, defending her actions by mentioning the dire financial strain they were in and how they could benefit from the money that would come from this action. 


As promised, the mysterious man did return to their home with the million dollars in a suitcase, however, after seeing the money, the gravity of their actions sank in and the couple began to feel the guilt. 

 As the movie progresses, the couple’s son is kidnapped and Marsden receives help from a random male stranger, who informs him that he too received the box and his wife was the one who inevitably pushed the button. The movie ends with Marsden having an incredible dilemma, whether he should shoot his wife or they could all remain alive, but his son’s sense of sight and hearing would be taken away forever. The young son was locked in the bathroom at the time, in a very vulnerable state as he could not see or hear and he was confused about what was taking place. 

The character portrayed by Cameron Diaz was responsible for the catastrophic events that changed the family’s life forever. It was explained during the narrative that every time a person died due to the button being pushed by a stranger, that stranger was a woman. A woman would always be shot by her husband, with their child locked in the bathroom. In other words, in every scenario where the box was given to a couple, the wife pushed the button and chose to die, as she could not live with the consequences of her child losing his senses. 

This particular psychological horror is not the first time we see that one woman is responsible for the complete destruction of a society or displays irresponsible acts with catastrophic consequences, as the movie Antichrist (2009) had similar traits. When the end of the world is a severe possibility in most Hollywood films, there is always one man, one undeniable hero who will defend the entire human race against whatever that threat may be. Whether it be an alien attack or a meteor that is about to hit the planet, or in some cases even supernatural beings attacking and threatening the end of the human race, the occurrence of just one man saving the day has become so overwhelmingly popular that the ridiculous nature of how improbable it really is is often ignored. When these men die in their efforts to save the world, their hero status is raised to an even greater level and they almost always succeed. In most cases in the film industry however, if the woman is placed in a position where she does have to save the world, it was due to her erratic actions that jeopardized the planet's existence in the first place… Eve ate the apple, Pandora opened the box and Cameron Diaz’s character pushed the button.

The Danish art film Antichrist (2005), portrayed similar misogynistic traits, in a more intensified, shocking manner. A married couple played by William Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg retreat to a remote cabin in the woods after the death of their infant son. The death of the son was particularly disturbing, as it was the opening scene. The film starts with a highly erotic scene where the couple are making passionate love and are too distracted to notice their son crawl and jump out of a window and ultimately fall to his death.  The narrative progresses in a highly unsettling manner, resembling the structure of a typical horror movie and evoking fear within the audience. It is at this cabin that the couple both experience strange phenomena. The wife, Gainsbourg, displays bizarre and erratic behaviour, with an increased appetite for violent, sadistic sexual acts, while the husband, Dafoe starts experiencing unusual visions. One of the major contributors to the daunting nature of the film is the fact that it is divided into four chapters that become more unnerving as each one unfolds. With each new chapter, the tension in the film intensifies the condition and general nature of the woman, who becomes increasingly unfavourable. The two characters, who are never named, remain as man and wife, with the husband portraying the patient, understanding role towards his psychologically disturbed wife. The crude nature of the film received mixed reviews; for some it was perceived as a crass picture, featuring unnecessary violence and disturbing sex scenes, that did not seem to have any real significance to the story entirely but just added a bitter taste to the couple’s tragedy. Others saw it as an artistic portrayal of misery and grief. The wife’s character in particular, however, changes immensely, from depicting the grief-stricken mother who had just lost her son, to a sick, sadistic woman whose behaviour is confusing and unsettling. 

In the first chapter we discover that the woman has become quite obsessed with gynocide and is currently writing a thesis on the topic. This serves as quite a striking development in the narrative, as they went as far as mentioning gynocide, also referred to as femicide/ feminicide, which is the killing of women. Diana E.H. Russell defines it as “the killing of females by males because they are females.” The purpose of the thesis was initially to criticise femicide and all those who have gynocidal beliefs, however, by the third chapter we see that the wife had started to believe in the concept, and she believed all women were in fact evil. 
Over time, the wife becomes increasingly erratic and needy, she fixates on the idea that her husband is about to leave her, so she drills a hole in his leg and shoves a heavy grindstone through his leg and tightens it with a bolt. 

At a later stage in the narrative, the prologue is shown again, from a different angle, where it now appears that the wife did in fact see that her son was about to jump out of the window but she did not say anything to warn her husband or do anything to prevent her son from dying. Whether the alternative view of the tragic event is in fact what happened, it is not clear, as it might be a manifestation of her guilt. This alternative view however, did evoke a certain disgust towards the woman. The events of the narrative were peculiar, with violence, intensely disturbing sex scenes and an undeniable misogynistic intent. The movie ends with the husband on top of a hill, while hundreds of women are running towards him, with blurred faces. The way in which the scene is constructed portrays the man in a very fragile and weak state, grossly outnumbered by so many women, who were running towards him; it is strange and unsettling, a rather peculiar ending. It is not quite clear why, but the woman in the film was undoubtedly the villain in the narrative, displaying characteristics of a psychotic, unbalanced nature, and she rightfully earned the title of the film as “The Antichrist”.  


We live in a patriarchal society, that much is evident; however, the constant slander and exaggerated negative characteristics of women, that inevitably cause the end of the world in some films in mainstream society, are arguably sexist and damaging to the female gender. This might actually be causing subconscious feelings among men to act violently towards women or even develop an unfounded hatred towards them. With popular expressions such as “Opening Pandora’s Box” that are quite prominent in society, who’s to say when such an underlying hatred towards women will end?