Relativity in The Semplica Girl Diaries

Pam’s Father = farmer in small town. Had biggest farm on edge of small town. So, relative to girls on smaller, poorer farms, Pam = rich girl. If same farm near bigger town, farm only average, but no: town so small, modest farm = estate (137).

In this portion of The Semplica Girl Diaries the father is reflecting on how previously he has only bought new clothes for Pam and the kids. He reflects on the wealth Pam’s family had growing up and the guilt that he has regarding not giving her the best of everything and ensuring she is well dressed. In this section of longing for and placing value in material items, the father inadvertently brings up the relativity of wealth. This family, specifically the father are always looking at people wealthier than them and worrying about what they do not posses. They are constantly aspiring to be wealthier (more cars, more clothes, more vacations), when in reality they already possess some wealth. Especially in the eyes of less well off people or in this context the “smaller, poorer farms.”

The point is that although the family in the story is not wealthy by any means, wealth in general is relative. There will always people that have far more money than they know what to do with, and yet there even be people who have more money than them. There is always something to aspire to and be jealous of when you compare your life to others. On the other hand your “average farm” may be an aspiration for another farmer who holds you in the same regard that you have been viewing the “richer” farmers. There will always be people that have more but there will also always be people that have less.

Movie vs Book: Escape From Spiderhead Island

There is one conversation that can always divide avid book readers : When your favorite novel becomes a film, or say you see a film and realize its a book, which is better? Personally I tend to stick with “the book’s better so much more detail and allows you to really chew on the after math of the book” but that was until I watched Spiderhead on Netflix. Escape From Spiderhead Island is a short story by George Saunders with scifi undertones. This book explores the what if of if our emotions could be controlled by the tap of a button. Those on spiderhead island are the testing subjects and are forever bonded with a “Mobi Pack” the Mobi Pack injects chemicals into your blood streak to invoke a reaction from you for a short period of time. These reactions range from lust to mania to anger and even self reflection. Yet the book lacks detail on the subjects, why they are on this island they cant leave, and the true intensity the chemicals when put into the characters blood stream.This is where the movie comes in. 3 weeks prior to reading escape from spiderhead i watched the movie on Netflix. The characters in the film provide depth, purpose, and vividness to the story that the book simply could not etch across. For instance, within the movie, the audience sees why our main character is on spider island. Which is incredibly interesting as through the movie’s explanation subjects on spider island are incarcerated individuals serving time. The movie also outlines the rules, procedures within spiderhead day to day life , and functions of the Mobi Pack. In addition, the movie shows a darker side of Abnesti that the book doesnt really portray. So is this movie a win for books v movie adaption? Its a yes in my book.

Applying Jessica Benjamin’s Theory From Bonds of Love to the Real World

Benjamin’s theory makes clear what I always knew was there. I always knew there were relationships like teacher and student, man and woman, adult and child but now Benjamin’s theory is making me realize that these are binaries and there is more behind it than I thought. She says that in order for someone to have power over another, someone has to submit therefore, there needs to be domination and submission. For example teacher and student. The dominating role is the teacher and the submissive role is the student. With good grades or gaining knowledge as an incentive, students will listen and do what their teachers say. Teachers technically can’t tell the student exactly what to do but the students choose to listen because they know it will benefit them. This gives overwhelming control to teachers and can dictate a lot in students’ lives. Benjamin’s point is important to understand because there have been many times in my life that I have unknowingly submitted to power which is not necessarily a bad thing but sometimes these relationships can turn harmful. Therefore understanding this concept I can choose to not submit if it is unhealthy, causes me harm or is unnecessary for me to succeed.    

Jessica Benjamin’s Master Theory of Mutual Recognition

Jessica Benjamin’s, Bonds of Love, encourages the reader to rethink the world, by understanding individualism through binary thinking. Individualism allows you to not only thrive but also inspires you to separate yourself from others. I am me because I am not you gives rise to all manner binaries, where one thing is defined by another. The utmost hegemonic binary in our society is that women are subordinate to men. In this case, men are imposing a situation of hierarchy through dominance, while women remain submissive to this authority. A lack of mutual recognition results from an unequal balance of separation and connection, inevitably leading to a “power struggle” or dissatisfaction of one person/group. In order to prevent complete domination, it is necessary to have healthy subjectivity. The universal theory of mutual recognition helps administer self-identity and controlled connections. 

Nabokov’s take on good readers

Vladimir Nabokov has a strong stance on what makes a good reader. He makes many good points such as good readers are good deceivers, re-readers, and observers. What really struck me about his argument was that a good reader has impersonal imagination and artistic delight. Nabokov highlights that in order to have these traits as a reader, one has to detach from the story and stay aloof while also taking pleasure in said aloofness at the same time. When I read that part of “Good Readers and Good Writers,” I wasn’t sure that I agreed with that argument. However, through the analysis of his argument and further thought on it, I now see where he is coming from. When I have read in the past, I have found myself getting so consumed in the literature that I don’t necessarily enjoy it. His point that a good reader knows when and when not to use their imagination has stuck with me because I find myself looking too much into what the author means literally and not using my imagination. I think the pleasure in the aloofness of a reader is key as well because if a reader is simply just detaching from the story without pleasure, it is difficult to enjoy or imagine things. He concludes the paragraph by stating, “We must see things and hear things, we must visualize the rooms, the clothes, the manners of an author’s people,” which essentially argues that the artistic delight aspect allows the balance between the author’s mind and reader’s mind (41). Paying close attention and using imagination when reading these details allows the reader to visualize the literature without getting too consumed.

To what extent is domination enabled by both parties?

To understand this obscured question one must understand Jessica Benjamin’s theory on Mutal Respect & Domination. In Bonds of Love, Benjamin proposes a seemingly normal question: Why don’t we have gender equality when society wants it? Benjamin goes on to explain how gender stereotypes, binary norms, and expectations feed into this unnatural dynamic of Domination/Submission. Elaborating that when looking at identity most people look at negotiation and conflict which creates the unnatural power struggle. This idea leads to a controversial take on domination and submission. While it’s noted that this power dynamic is not only unnatural but unhealthy it’s also emphasized how in certain regards it is allowed. Benjamin notates how domination is a two-way street and in some capacity, the one being oppressed is allowing for the dynamic whether it be consciously or unconsciously. However, a possible solution is proposed and that solution is the concept of mutual recognition which essentially moves out of the binaries and deconstructs unnatural power dynamics through connection, understanding, and respect.

Where do I stand?

I feel that Benjamin has a very different and interesting perspective in regard to the power dynamics of society. While I agree to some extent that domination/submission bias is allowed by both parties, I also believe that there are instances where the dynamic is not allowed and happens forcefully. Of the aspects I agree with I have gained an understanding of how certain power dynamics are allowed like teacher/student and parent/child. The respect given to an extent is out of societal expectations, however, part of it is also genuine respect that is constantly changing through experiences. Benjamin’s ideas have led me to contemplate the idea of mutual respect and really work to get rid of those biases I carry whether it is something simple or complex.

Mutual Recognition In “The Semplica Girl Diaries”

In George Saunders’ short story, “The Semplica Girl Diaries,” Jessica Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition is explored. In this story, Saunders fashions a world similar to the one we live in today. The one major difference, however, is that it has become popular for wealthy people to have “Semplica Girl Arrangements,” where girls from underprivileged countries are strung up by their heads as a form of lawn décor.

Saunders’ story follows a family who recently came into wealth after winning the lottery, and has bought four Semplica Girls. One of the children, Eva, is the only one who sees anything remotely wrong with society’s usage of Semplica Girls. In a piece of artwork, Eva drew her family’s four Semplica Girls with speech bubbles saying, “OUCH! THIS HURTS,” “THANKS LODES,” and “WHAT IF I AM YOUR DAUHTER.” She then, in an act of bravery, releases the Semplica Girls in the middle of the night.

Eva is the only one who has recognized the Semplica Girls as something other than objects. She sees them as human beings, not as simply lawn decorations. Even though she is the one in a position of power, she chose to equalize the power dynamic and allow the Semplica Girls freedom. We are not told, however, if the Semplica Girls also recognized Eva, to complete the circle of recognition. 

Though Eva appears slightly naive in that she released the girls into the night with no plan of where they would go, or how they would survive, and cost her family $8,600, her intentions were good. She witnessed something that didn’t sit right with her, and she chose to fix that thing. Her bravery is admirable.

Benjamin’s Mutual Recognition and the Role of Age

Benjamin’s Bonds of Love is a psychoanalysis in which she introduces mutual recognition and its cruciality in maintaining relationships. She presents this theory in many forms, especially in gender polarity and relationships within a family. This book gives people an understanding of how these dynamics in relationships occur and why they’re accepted. There are many constructs to which this can be applied, age being one of them.

Age has always played a significant role in if or how much people recognize, give credibility or listen to another person. It’s preconceived that the older someone is, the more education and wisdom they have because of their experiences.

I have always recognized the power dynamic between myself and another person because of our difference in age. (Others must have too or else our society wouldn’t be largely structured on it.) From when you are young, the respect and obedience towards those older than you are instilled and many times ingrained in your head so much so that it’s a habit to defer power. This practice creates a distinction between the two parties and the roles each fill in the relationship. The older of the two typically holds the power while the younger one usually steps into their role as compliant and subservient. Although these binaries make us separate from others which Benjamin believes we need, it also creates an imbalance of power that many (older or those with power) use to their advantage. Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition, if applied, could help to reset this present problem in relationships.