This Essay Is A Critical Comparison Of Adrienne Rich And Patricia Williams, One As An Idealist And The Other As A Realist

1457 words - 6 pages

Adrienne Rich and Patricia Williams are two very distinct voices, the former being something of an idealist, and the latter a realist. Adrienne Rich's voice taking idealistic positions on how society, more specifically, women can regain self-control and self-knowledge if they look back, "re-envisioning" the past. This way, women can ultimately revise it and render it differently, for the better, in the present and future. Patricia Williams, on the other hand, understands the concept of revising the old viewpoints of past assumptions and biases, however she would claim it to be ultimately futile to attempt to do so because of the way society constructs the person. Revision cannot occur ...view middle of the document...

She describes "race" as a "phantom" word. This indicates that it no longer exists as a labeled action, but is merely stripped of an identifying title, and shrugged off. Society is led to believe the problem has been solved. Williams and Rich differ in that respect, for one believes the problem to arise from society, and the other from the individual.Williams finds fault in the "social construction of black women," not the woman. The woman should not be blamed for the constraints that she is forced to weather by society. Instead, the woman is sought and convicted for the way she is allowed to let herself be treated, as was the case in Tawana Brawley and even Patricia Williams herself. Both suffered great injustices. Tawana Brawley was cruelly tortured and raped and left for dead, and yet society allowed itself to pass over the judgement of the killers. Instead, Tawana Brawley was reprimanded for existing as the type of female she was, instructing her that she was to blame for the sick behavior of the men. Tawana Brawley was blamed, she was the explanation herself, and society tried to justify the actions of the rapists by stating Tawana as having provoked the men herself for being a "lusty black female." (Williams 702) This type of behavior cannot be revised, it can be stopped, but the real crime is the mentality and reasoning behind the crime.Rich would respond to Tawana Brawley's situation by telling her to "overcome" the problem.A change in the concept of sexual identity is essential if we are not going to see the old political order reassert itself in every new revolution. We need to know the writing of the past, and know it differently than we have ever known it, not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us. (Rich 551)Rich sees the problem more within the individual, telling women to be strong and rise up over the domineering, patriarchal society. But how does a fifteen-year-old black girl overcome six white grown men, blazing with KKK fury? How do you tell a young girl who has been kidnapped, burned, tortured and raped that she must learn to "know the writing of the past?" Rich's methods may apply at times, but the patriarchal, white male dominated society women live in has such a strong "political order," that revision cannot occur merely within the self, or the individual as posed by Rich, but the society itself. The social construction of the individual must be reverted to the individual construction. We must revise our own selves.The crime committed against Patricia Williams, was not singularly against any one person, in fact the crime of the shopkeeper in the notorious Benetton shop was actually the crime of following what society expected him, or her to do. The crime was committed by society, for planting the idea that this shopkeeper could conduct himself in such a disgusting manner. The other perpetrators committing a similar crime against Williams were her editors and publishers. How exactly does a woman separate...

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