Monday, September 27, 2010
Vacant Inner Space: Internalized Oppression and the Female Form
What struck me about this book is the extent to which the main character recognizes the extent of her oppression yet perpetuates that oppression through self-deprecation. I believe negative self-awareness is the product of internalized oppression. In the binary of colonizer and colonized, the former works to instill a subversive mindset in the latter in order to establish hegemonic rule. By asserting their own political and cultural superiority, the colonizer systematically places the colonized in a subaltern state. The colonized then judge themselves in relation to their perceived "superiors," thereby internalizing the notion that they are lesser. This internalized oppression seems to be evident in the behavior and thoughts of Magda. Her own perception of her body indicates a degree of self-deprecation through oppression: "I move through the world...as a hole, a hole with a body draped around it...I am a hole crying to be whole" (41). Magda uses the image of a hole as the central focus of her bodily construction. She asserts that the female reproductive organ stands as a signifier of lack. The vacancy inherent in the female anatomy translates to a feeling of insufficiency. She craves a male partner in so far as he will make her whole by filling this physical void. By comparing herself to the figure of her father, whom she describes as "a knifeblade cutting the wind, or a tower with eyes," she defines herself as inherently lesser. The phallic descriptions of her father's form implies a measure of internalized oppression. Because she requires a male organ to be physically whole, Magda cannot recognize her female form as being anything other than a "protectrix of vacant inner space."