Citrus Grove

Citrus Grove is a running comentary on politics and society in Israel and the world through my eyes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Feminist Critique of Rosemary's Baby

Last night I watched the Roman Polansky film, Rosemary's Baby. More than a horror film, it is a feminist nightmare. A young woman who barely leaves her home comes to believe that her elderly neighbors are conspiring against her. One evening, she suspects that the woman laced her chocolate mouse with hallucinogenic drugs. She falls into an entranced state where she sees herself being raped by a satanic cult. In the morning, she awakens to find her body scratched up, and her husband admits that he had his way with her when he was drunk. She suspects that he has become involved in satanic worship under the influence of the elderly neighbors. She becomes convinced that her hallucination was in fact reality, and when she becomes pregnant, begins to suspect that her creepy neighbors want to harm her baby. When she is struck with debilitating stomach pains, her doctor dismisses her symptoms and forbids her from reading information about pregnancy. When she insists on switching doctors, her husband and neighbors forbid her to do so. When she seeks help from another doctor, he summons her doctor and husband, who threaten to have her institutionalized. She is forced to give birth under duress, and while unconscious, her baby is taken next door, where he becomes the new idol of the cult. When she awakes, she is told that the baby died, but she soon discovers that he is living next door. When she finally sees her son, he has the eyes of a devil, and she realized that she had, in fact, been raped by Satan.

Despite the fantastic elements of the story, it has a lot of value as a feminist critique of the mid-1960's, when the film was made, and in some senses, of our society today. Rosemary was systematically isolated by her position as a house-wife, and discouraged from seeing her female friends who offered her the only sane advice so that her only sources of information and support came from her conspiring husband, doctors and neighbors.

She was maltreated, disempowered and betrayed by her doctors, one who treated her satanic baby with strange herbs, dismissed her sharp pains, discouraged from learning about pregnancy, delivered her baby under duress and then told her he had died, and the other who betrayed her confidence to her husband and the conspiring doctor, and then threatened to have her institutionalized.

And of course, her husband betrayed her on so many levels. He agrees to deliver Rosemary’s first child to a satanic cult in exchange for help advancing his career. He casts a spell on his wife’s confidante, which sends him into a permanent coma. He participates in this wife’s rape, and in manipulating her into thinking that her suspicions are unfounded.

Back to reality. Woman are not likely to fall victim to satanic conspiracies. But they regularly isolated by abusive partners, discouraged from reading, disempowered, dismissed and told they are crazy. And that’s no horror film. It’s our world.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

All this discussion of war got me wondering if indeed this conflict meets the legal definition of war. I am sure that there is some internationally-recongized defintion of war, but without knowing exactly where to find that, I went with one trusted source.

Princeton.com defines war in the following ways:

1. The waging of armed conflict against an enemy; "thousands of people were killed in the war". This definatly describes the present situation.

2. A legal state created by a declaration of war and ended by official declaration during which the international rules of war apply. There has been no declaration of war by the Israeli Knesset, nor do I think that there ever will be.

The other definitions refer to metaphorical wars, but they both apply to the current situation.

3. an active struggle between competing entities; "a price war"; "a war of wits"; "diplomatic warfare"
4. a concerted campaign to end something that is injurious; "the war on poverty"; "the war against crime".

Both in the literal and the metaphorical planes, each side is waging a war for its ideal of justice. In this sense, the metaphorical definitions are the most relavent to the current conflict.