Friday, July 4, 2014

William Golding's Opinion

William Golding in 1983
Sir William Golding (1911-1993) was a British novelist, playwright, and poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983.  For Americans, his most famous novel is Lord of the Flies (1954), which was required reading for my sophomore year English class in high school.  I vividly remember Mrs. Wilder asking questions about the pig scene toward the end of the book, and feeling sick to my stomach about that scene.  While I've re-read some of the books I read in high school, this is not one of them.  It is a powerful story about the disintegration of civilization.  To this day, I think of Golding having a very pessimistic view of humanity, and men in general. 

So, I wasn't surprised to see posted on Facebook recently a photo of him with a quote by him, posted by VR-Zone:

The quote, to my thinking, was totally in line with what he wrote in Lord of the Flies.  I re-posted it to my Facebook wall where a male friend noticed it and responded to it.  Not happy about Golding's generalizations, he suggested that I substitute "whites" for "women" and "blacks" for "men." I understood immediately what he was objecting to, but why bring racism into it?  Why bring an entirely different issue into the discussion?  Why not address the issue at hand with specific objections?

Well, this is Facebook, and it's easy to write a quick post and move on.  But I value a good discussion.  I value other people's opinions even if I don't agree with them all the time.  But when I objected to him bringing racism into it, my male friend apparently believed that I had not understood what he was trying to do, so in his next post he explained it to me.  I found that offensive.  I got it the first time.  Then I realized he was once again deflecting away from the gender issue. Huh. 

I know this friend's wife well, and I don't believe he harbors old patriarchal beliefs about men and women, i.e. that men are superior to women and must take care of and control them for their own welfare.  My father did.  I grew up in a house in which women were not valued as intelligent individuals who can think for themselves, take care of themselves, work the same jobs as men and do them as well, and be an equal partner in a man's life.  The message pounded into my brain from an early age was that a woman's purpose in life was to serve a man, her husband, have children, run a household, and defer always to her husband.  She was her husband's property.  I knew otherwise.  I found this belief deeply offensive, and it was especially painful that my mother believed in it, too. 

I believe that my male friend objected to Golding generalizing "women" and "men."  We exist on a continuum, after all.  I object to the words "superior" and "inferior," the latter was implied in Golding's statement.  The other thing I object to is Golding's apparent belief that women are pretending to be equal to men.  Sorry, but there's no pretending. 

My male friend has two young boys.  I understand his concern about their position in society, and the way the culture views men.  As long as he brings up his boys to respect women, accept them as human beings and not servants whose only purpose in life is serving men, I believe they'll be just fine.  If more parents were concerned about bringing up their boys in a way that will be equal to, respectful and accepting of women as human beings, maybe we -- we -- can finally eradicate that old patriarchal belief system for one that is more humanist. 

Men and women are different.  We complement each other.  We can help each other live well and learn and grow in this crazy life in the 21st century.  But it will take the end of perpetuating those old beliefs.....


Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks for taking this on. The Golding quote always strikes me as one of those "women on a pedestal" moments.

Gina said...

Yeah, Golding definitely appears to put women on a pedestal with this comment. I have only read "Lord of the Flies" and not any of his other books, both fiction and nonfiction. That novel kind of turned me off from his writing....