October 26, 2012

prompting awareness or strictly a (feminist) critique?

If you weren't aware this project was a critique of the prison system going in, you were readily made aware after Daniel's introduction and various interviews. In one particular interview with inmate Misty Rojo, she says, "You can always remember a point where somebody said, 'I need help' and they didn't get it," as she goes on to talk about her experiences getting busted as a kid. She explains that when she was younger and would get taken home by the police, they would question her why she didn't just "stay home and do what your parents tell you?" She would respond with claims that she was being emotionally abused - but that wasn't enough and she would get mocked and ignored.

Daniel's main critique is not only that we're relying on prisons to fix our society's issues that we refuse to deal with ourselves, it's also the unfair and demeaning treatment of the women in the prisons. Her editors note explains in detail the process that she goes through entering and exiting the prison and the process that the inmates go through after she's gone.

Miller claims that genre is a social action; Daniel's project clearly falls under the "genre" of a critique - but is it also a call to action? She's asking us to be aware of what's going on; it's like the virtual reality given to us by Bolter and Gruskin. We can go through our day in this virtual reality, pretending that society is well and that all the bad people are locked away and that we're doing our job. But eventually, like the person experiencing that reality, we're going to come face-to-face with something that's going to make us aware that we're completely wrong and that our prison and "justice" system is not doing what we think it is.

Rojo gives us the perfect example of this: she claims that her husband got locked up for beating her, a legitimate crime. But because she had a drug relapse that was discovered by the police, all the charges against her husband were dropped because, "I guess they thought I just wasn't worth protecting." How is this fair? How is this just? They decided that a completely unrelated crime made it okay for her husband to beat her - how can we force ourselves to ignore that? But even more disturbing, are we allowing ourselves to ignore that because she was a woman and therefore, it was more severe when she messed up? (But don't get me started on this subject because...well, this post will just get longer.)

Then she gives us Valerie Biedler's interview where she recalls an instance where she's at a court date watching a man and a woman get sentenced for the same crime. The woman had never been in trouble but the man had - and the judge gave her more time (five years versus sixteen months) to "teach her a lesson." She then later goes on to say that she thinks this is happening because society thinks that "women are more manageable." Have we all come to think that as a society?

I'll acknowledge that there may be some bias in this because it's a piece on women written by a woman; but is there really? Society has taught us that our place is second, that we are meant to be submissive, that it's our deed to be morally righteous and that if we're not perfectly suiting a man's needs, then we're not doing our jobs right.


Angela M said...

However, I feel like the same could be said for men. I don't think that they thought she wasn't worth protecting because she was a woman but because she had a relapse. If she had a relapse doesn't that go to show that she had done something prior that isn't being mentioned. I don't mean to say she deserved what she got because she didn't and the person who beat her should have been more severly punished but there are a lot of questions here without any answers. There is only one point of view being voiced in this article.

rachel rivera said...

I don't know, I disagree. I think that Biedler was right when she said that women were being punished more severely because they think that we can be controlled, that we're able to be put away and taught our lesson because how are we going to fight back? There's more of a stigma attached to women being vulnerable than to men.

I do think that could go both ways, though, the whole vulnerability thing. Men are meant to be seen as stronger - we can't emotionally abuse men but we can be emotionally manipulated and tricked and abused because we're weak and fragile beings.

This has gone on a different tangent but the point is that I think there is a certain discrimination here happening not just for females but maybe for people in lower-class families/areas and people who have gotten into trouble before. We're not ready to deal with them in society, we don't know how to "fix" them, so we put them away, treat them terribly, and get shocked when they turn bitter and end up repeating their offenses.

We're choosing to be blind to these people's cries for help, literal in Rojo's case, and then we're surprised when they tell us this. We're in that virtual reality and this is that TV or computer or other form of media that makes us aware of the issues we're facing as a society.

Natalie Andrade said...

This is a very interesting take on the reasons behind the mistreatment of women in the prison system. Although, I believed they were harsher on her for relapsing it is a point I didn't take into consideration when you say we are still secondary in society. We have come along way with women's rights but we are talking about an atmosphere where our rights are taken from us and are at the mercy of those above us and their beliefs.

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