Blog #6: The Universal Wallpaper

After reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, it was absolutely clear to me that this story depicting a subordinate “sick” housewife, depicts the paradox’s in our everyday life. Although Gilman’s book depicted a woman who was restrained from pursuing her motives, goals, ambitions, and ideological beliefs, it clearly shows how an entity with clear authority over another entity, can mold that subordinate entity’s life path.

The narrator who was perceived as being “sick”, was treated as a subordinate by her husband who ironically was her doctor. Although her husband’s intentions were to relieve her from her sickness, his actions and motives were the main causes for the narrator’s decreasing mental and physical health. This paradoxical result shows how hegemonic values and beliefs such as the “resting cure” do not always fit every individual. That many times an entity with authority always pursues what is in their best interest, often neglecting the aspirations of individuals that their authority rests upon. Unfortunately for the narrator, she in this book was treated as the “other”, “the second sex” as Simone de Beauvoir would call it. De Beauvoir believed that a woman is not born female, but becomes a female due to her being shaped by historical socio-political processes.

This “molding” is also relevant in society today. We as individuals are shaped by economic, social, and political processes. When viewing the film inside job, it is clear to me how our economic aspirations are molded by our society’s obsession with the accumulation of wealth. This accumulation of wealth directly leads us to greed which allows us to exploit other individuals, without any regard to their feelings or aspirations just like the narrator in Gilman’s book. These financial moguls were the ones that directly caused the financial crisis in the late 2000s, fueled by the idiotic idealistic views of Alan Greenspan.

The repercussions have led to changes in the political spectrum. A large shift in the House of Representatives has led to our country having immense political instability. creating a stagnant political agenda, and a polarizing democratic America. As you can see, we at times are the narrator looking at the yellow wallpaper wondering how we can escape the nonsense and stupidity that our world “leaders” and innovators have caused. We to want to escape this sense of hopelessness as our aspirations are to climb the social ladder and achieve our versions of the American Dream. It is just sad to see the paradox’s of society, and the importance that authority has in our political and societal agenda.


2 responses to “Blog #6: The Universal Wallpaper

  1. Once noticed, it is incredible to see how much power certain people have over our lives. Whether its the government, parents, friends, or husbands, there is always someone or something that has dominance over us. I wonder if this will ever change!

  2. Excellent work drawing from seemingly different cases to make some general propositions about authority and to raise questions about what constitutes *legitimate* authority. As you note, the husband/doctor in The Yellow Wallpaper assumed he knew what was best for his wife/patient. He based his authority on basic principles of patriarchy (traditional authority) as well as *claims to expertise* (rational authority). Just like the financial and political elites in “Inside Job,” they had supreme confidence in their expertise and were resistant to criticism, even feedback, from outside their “expert” social networks. In the end, their “treatment” made the “patient” worse, in both cases. Both cases of harm were also enabled by the “patients,” in a sense, in that they submitted to authority, thereby lending it legitimacy.

    Central among the “experts” at the center of the financial crisis were academics in the fields of economics and business. Despite the economic devastation arguably wrought by his policies, your description of former Fed chief Alan Greenspan as “idealistic” is on point — at the basis of his policies was an extremely idealistic vision of the market, the “ideal” of a self-regulating market.

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