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Caged Humans: A Study of Violence against Women

 


Caged Humans: A Study of Violence against Women

Dr. Tania Baloria

Lecturer

Department of English

Govt. College for Women

Parade, Jammu

Jammu and Kashmir, India

Abstract:

This research paper will try to focus on the violence against women in the works of the Irish Chick Lit author, Marian Keyes. It will discuss how violence is used, in all its forms against women but still our Post-feminist heroines are carving their way towards success and rising high in their lives in this male dominated society. Chick lit is a genre which intends to talk about the issues related to women who are in their twenties and thirties, living in the urban areas. Being the young professional contemporary women, they do not leave men out of their lives. It is somewhat similar to the age old romance novels with a post-feminist angel. This genre purely deals with the female related issues and topics. The books have a funny tone and discuss the women related issues frankly. So, this research paper will discuss the theme of violence against women in the chick lit context particularly in the works of Marian Keyes.

Keywords: women; violence; patriarchal society; chick lit

Chick lit is a genre which intends to talk about the issues related to women who are in their twenties and thirties, living in the urban areas. Being the young professional contemporary women, they do not leave men out of their lives. It is somewhat similar to the age old romance novels with a post-feminist angel. This genre purely deals with the female related issues and topics. The books have a funny tone and discuss the women related issues frankly. This research paper will try to focus on the violence against women in the works of the Irish Chick Lit author, Marian Keyes. It will discuss how violence is used, in all its forms against women but still our Post-feminist heroines are carving their way towards success and rising high in their lives in this male dominated society.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the meaning of the word ‘Violence’ means, “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something” (Essay on Violence). And when one talks about ‘Domestic Violence’ it means, “Violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner” (Domestic Violence: Definition of Domestic Violence).But these days the meaning of the word ‘domestic violence’ does not restrict to the physical violence, it can also be mental or economical and is especially against the females.

Chick lit is known for portraying love affairs and these relationships hold a very important place in the chick lit plot. But apart from portraying marriage and long lasting relationships, chick lit also features the bitter reality of life that is relationship breakdowns in terms of separation and divorce. But some relationships are even more damaging as they cause emotional and physical destruction so much that a person is not able to focus on anything productive in his/her life. The mental and physical abuse that is given to women by their male partners in a relationship is the reason of such destructions whether mentally or physically.

Discussions on topic like domestic violence makes it clear that chick lit is an important genre and the claims that chick lit only deals with superficial and unimportant topics are all false. Infact this genre through its light tone gives voice to the silenced subjects. Marian Keyes presents the heroines who belong to mediocre families and are suffering at the hands of their so-called life partners. With such representations, she focuses on the fact that abuse can happen in any relationship at any time, no matter how good the relationship was.

In one of her novel, The Brightest Star in the Sky, Keyes, focuses on the sensitive topic of rape in relationships. Through her protagonist, Maeve, she shows how she is brutally raped by her ex-boyfriend. The novel is full of the details that can shock as well as shake a reader to the core. Marian Keyes discusses how such cases where the rape takes place in a marriage or in a relationship go unnoticed and not given much importance. In a survey called “Women against Rape”, it was shown that many such cases were ignored because of the petty reasons. It said:

 The charges were dropped for the flimsy reasons: because a woman waited two days before reporting the case; because she had drunk two vodkas; because there was no independent witness to attack; because one witness, who was a friend of the assailant, had not supported the victim’s story(The Guardian)

Same reasons were used in the novel The Brightest Star in the Sky. Even when the protagonist, Maeve, gathers her strength to report the case against her ex-boyfriend who raped her, she is shocked that there was not a single person who would trust her. Instead she was the one who was tortured by the unlimited filthy questions as what she was wearing at the time of rape etc. Instead of the sympathy that she deserved at that crucial time, she was questioned so ruthlessly as if the rape was her own mistake. And later on the case is dismissed as there were no strong evidences that could support the allegations.

Similar experiences are seen in another novel, but in a different light and context. In the novel This Charming Man, Keyes raises the topic of mental and physical abuse in a marriage. She talks about the marital rape and mental torture that the protagonist, Zara, has to go through. It is shown that when Zara reports the case, police does nothing and shrugged off the case by calling it a “personal issue” and convinced her that reporting such things to the police is a “big mistake”. In the same novel, the depressing and helpless tone is told through the character of Grace Gildee, who is a journalist by profession and has seen many cases like this. She says, “‘no one cares about domestic violence’. In such works, Keyes deals with the topics and the issues that a common woman is facing in her day to day lives and cannot be overlooked just because they are not celebrated models, actresses, politicians etc but a simple middle class woman who is struggling to keep a balance between her personal and professional lives.

When the violence and abuse starts spreading its claws, women are not able to come in terms with the truth that how can such thing happen to them or in their relationship, when a while ago everything was going great. They are caught up in this confusion of the so-called happy relationship and the present abusive relationship, because this is something which happens to other people. In The Noughtie Guide to Feminism, Levenson stresses on the reasons women give when the abuse takes place in their relationship. She comments

What would you do if your partner hit you? It’s easy to say, when not in this situation, that you would leave any such partner immediately. Or to say that once may be because you provoked him, because he saw red, or because he didn’t know what he was capable of doing and is truly shocked at himself, and that you’ll forgive once but not twice so if it ever happens again then you’ll definitely leave him.(The Noughtie Girls' Guide to Feminism)

In this extract, Levenson talks about the fact that people do not take such issues seriously as they are under the impression that such things cannot happen to them as they are living their best lives, “when you are in the middle of it, there’s world of difference until eventually even the once-strong woman has no fight left in her” (The Noughtie Guide to Feminism). A victim of domestic violence in Keyes’s novel said, “My indignation had died and the time when I was strong enough to leave him had passed.”(“What’s Love Got to do with it?”)

Marian Keyes makes an effort to remind the readers that such abuse whether physical or mental can change a victim’s personality altogether. They are so much abused that they think any outer help would never change their lives for better and they start living with the problem for lifelong until death embraces them.

This was all about the physical violence. Now talking about the mental and emotional violence, Keyes’s novel Watermelon can be discussed. It’s a novel centered a protagonist who is a single mother, Claire Walsh. She is left by her husband the very day when she gives birth to her first child. Her husband leaves her as he is in love with another woman. But here in this novel, after all the crying and cribbing, Keyes presents Claire as a strong, independent woman who handles her life with utmost care and maturity. An element of empowerment can be seen here.

While concluding, it can be said that Chick lit is called a filthy genre by the learned critics and writers. They say there is nothing literary about it. But every woman is not a writer or a critic, every woman doesn’t come from a literary background. Chick Lit discusses the lives of the common woman who worries about her weight, her job, her love life, her children and everything that revolves around her small circle. It would not be wrong to say that there would be huge change when more writers would address such issues, as they try to throw light on the sensitive issues of a common woman. In The Brightest Star in the Sky, Maeve’s elderly neighbor Jemima, on realizing that Maeve has been raped, stresses that: ‘Your body belongs to you. Not to that man, whoever he was. Take it back from him’ Jemima’s words echo the voice of feminists such as Cixous and de Beauvoir, who have urged women to re-claim control of their bodies, as their bodies belong to no one but them.

Thus Chick lit encourages women to speak out about issues they read within the pages of these novels, they will achieve a lot and may help to eliminate the trend of women issues being censored. And it will make it easy for others to understand that women are also human beings and not mere mannequins with emotions. Women need to stand for themselves, they need to react and make people realize that they are strong independent beings and can make their way towards success.

Works Cited

“Domestic Violence: Definition of Domestic Violence by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com Also Meaning of Domestic Violence.” Lexico Dictionaries English, Lexico Dictionaries, www.lexico.com/en/definition/domestic_violence.

“Essay on Violence.” Bartleby, www.bartleby.com/essay/Violence-F39VCSZVC.

“'I Was Violently Attacked but My Case Was Dropped Because I Had Been Drinking'.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Jan. 2016, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/18/i-was-violently-attacked-but-my-case-was-dropped-been-drinking.

Genz, Stephanie and Benjamin A. Brabon.Postfeminism: Cultural Texts and Theories. Edinburgh University Press, 2009.

---.Postfeminities in Popular Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

 

Keyes, Marian. Last Chance Saloon.Penguin UK, 1999.

---. This Charming Man. Penguin UK, 2011.

---. The Brightest Star in the Sky.Penguin Books, 2009.

 

Levenson, Ellie. The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism. Oneworld Publications, 2009.

Ryan, Mary. “What's Love Got To Do With It?: Family, Sex, and Domestic Violence in Contemporary Irish Women's Fiction.” DisClosure: A Journal of Social Theory, vol. 20, no. 12, doi:https://docplayer.net/74735821-What-s-love-got-to-do-with-it-family-sex-and-domestic-violence-in-contemporary-irish-women-s-fiction.html.