One of the moments, in Act 4 of King Lear specifically, that stood out to me was during Albany and Goneril’s argument during Scene 2. Albany and Gonreil are persistently throwing insults at eachother left and right from calling Albany a “milk-livered man” in line 62 to saying Gonreil is not worth any more than the dust that blows in her face in line 39. However, towards the end of the argument, Albany states “a woman’s shape doth shield thee”, implying the only thing protecting Gonreil from catching Albany’s fists to her face is the fact that she’s a woman.
We see this idea implemented everywhere and even in present day. It has always been an overarching rule of thumb that all of us have grown up with. My brothers used to get bullied by our female neighbor. She would throw things at them, kick them, and punch them but they could never defend themselves and punch back because she was a girl. Is this because females are seen as weaker? Is this because, for some reason, it has been assumed that a man’s defense will always, 100% of the time be stronger than what the female has done? This rings true even in cases of domestic abuse. People always seem to be surprised when the man is the one abused. The woman is the one that caused the blacks, blues, and broken bones. Why have we been taught this?
In Albany’s case, his wife was found having an affair with sneaky little Edmund and even after all the offenses and the fact that she was cheating on him, he feels as though he cannot “get her back”– solely because of her gender.
Am I saying that females deserve to be able to be slapped back? Not at all. But, am I saying that there should be more level-headedness when it comes to allowing males to express emotion and feel revengeful? Yes. I look at OPRF as another example. Females are taught self defense our sophomore year. A week dedicated to defending ourselves against particularly men that have the potential to abduct us. Not once was it said during my week of self defense class that the person trying to abduct us could potentially be female. Not once was my 100% female P.E. class shown the “target spots” for defending ourselves against a femle abductor, only taught how to knee a big scary man in the balls. The police that were brought in for the demos, all men.
Then I look at my brother again. He is in what is called “step back” in his P.E. class. Are the boys here taught self defense? Nope. Are we assuming that all teenage boys know how to defend themselves already and just need to be taught how to “step back” from conflicts? I guess so.
Regardless, I believe that there is extreme discrepancy and inconsistency in the power dynamic when it comes to gender and all things revolving around this idea of women being weaker than men. And the fact that it has been occuring long enough for Shakespeare to write it into his plays and it still rings true to this day calls for nothing but acknowledgement and change.