Updated: Aug 28
"A cultural subversive, she admits she [Jacqueline Rose] is “always on the lookout for those moments when mothers get to speak the unspeakable, trash the expectations laid upon them, play with other ideas”. She finds such a moment in Ancient Greece, when the demand for a herbal abortifacient was such that it became extinct."1
Margaret Atwood writes in the Atlantic 'Based on the reproductive arrangements in Genesis—specifically, those of the family of Jacob—the wives of high-ranking patriarchs could have female slaves, or “handmaids,” and those wives could tell their husbands to have children by the handmaids and then claim the children as theirs.'
and 'Silly me. Theocracies do not only exist in the past.'2
Mothering is give little value in courts. If a woman says that she has been violated, abused, or that her children are being abused, judges treat this as badly or worse than a false claim. The other party may lie outright and admit this to a judge but not be challenged.
"All human life…is born of woman…[and] there is much to suggest that the male mind has always been haunted by the force of the idea of dependence on a woman for life itself." (Adrienne Rich]3
In university last year I learned by experience that the bible is a grouping of short stories. Professor Cheu read parts of it to us (by video conference) and I felt like when I was a child and someone read to me. I lay down on the floor and just listened. The course was Rhetoric in Film and Image.
One of the films we studied was Inherit the Wind, starring Spencer Tracey. The Scopes Monkey Trial took place in Dayton Tennessee in 1925 and the film was made in 1960, as an answer to McCarthyism. This is from my exam so it is painstaking to prove I get the concepts.
In the film, the Bible is claimed to be the words of God. The Bible doesn’t present itself to be the words of God. It is not a book, but a collection of articles, open to interpretation. ‘The Origin of the Species’ by Darwin in 1859 is the book left out of the discussion at the trial. Bert Cates is on trial for teaching evolution from this book in school. Evolution is already in textbooks but in Nebraska the state law is not up to date.
“Would the court admit evidence, expert evidence on a Book known as the Holy Bible?” says Colonel Drummond (Spencer Tracey) for the defense (of Bert Cates)
Linguist Kenneth Burke says humans are symbol making and symbol misusing. The bible is not factual. The crowd has loyalty to the bible as a ‘solid reference’ in the chaos of life.
Drummond (Tracey) understands the frame of mind of the audience (ethos).
In this beginning Drummond is using the bias of Colonel Brady, the judge, and the congregation – Overconfidence Bias.
Drummond begins by apologizing humbly to the judge to show his character and to set the stage for his argument. He must first admit wrongdoing in order to show respect for the revered Bible which is coming next. He knows what will keep his audience happy – respect for their revered text and their perspective. The crowd has assumed certain values embedded within the bible. (Pathos) Drummond continues to use their overconfidence bias by asking permission of the court to examine the words of the Bible and an overconfident judge and prosecuting attorney take no issue with this. Brady says, “the prosecution will take no exception” and continues saying “he is well known to have ridden hobby horses before,” suggesting that he already acknowledges his win. Drummond asks the prosecuting attorney to take the stand and testify as an expert witness. Colonel Brady plays right into Drummond’s hands because he is overconfident. He agrees.
He does not see any trap because his ego is invested heavily in his own rightness. He has already shown he will use a young woman’s trust to win his case. He has used his false consciousness as a reason to betray the preacher’s daughter’s confidence. Brady will do so again earlier in the scene in the courtroom. That is how strong the overconfidence bias is – he will lie to someone, a young woman who trusts him, in order to win and put aside his own morality.
When Drummond is not allowed to bring in any Darwin text, he reverts to the Bible and painstakingly makes a dialectic with the language (rhetoric) of his audience.
His ethos is using the language of his audience, the people in the stands, the judge and the prosecutor. Starting with Jonah and the Whale, Drummond asks if this really happened. “Everything in the Bible should be accepted exactly as it is given there,” replies Colonel Brady.
Drummond says that Genesis has only Cane and Able and how does the woman appear? “Where did she come from?..Was there another Creation in the next county?”
“I trust my Creator.” Says Brady.
“It frightens me the stock of the world if everyone had your curiosity!” Drummond begins to knock down Brady in systematic and logical questions to show that Brady believes that he himself is a prophet and decides who and what is right and wrong.
“Are we to forego progress because all this Brady now frightens us with a fable?” as he speaks to the audience of the other side of Brady’s idea, that one cannot think for themselves because God’s word is there in the bible.
Drummond (Tracey) says “A price is paid,” for knowledge. A woman cannot hide in her skirts after she has won the vote and birds are not so full of wonder when you can fly in a plane. This is the price of progress, but Brady wants to be an authority, rather than allow this thinking to take place.
At the end, Brady admits that ‘God tells me’ and there he reveals his ignorance. Brady also agrees that a man has a right to think, like a sponge, and therefore, says Drummond, the defendant, Bert Cates may also think? Here logic takes hold. “How long was a day…could it have been ten million years?” Brady cannot answer as he has revealed his overconfidence has blinded him to logical reasoning.
His ego has been shown, his outdated ideas of being the one who decides right and wrong. His love for the bible is a way to have power. Being uneducated has been shown to be a protection of his power.
His conservative overconfidence bias is all out for the world to see. Colonel Drummond has discussed the illogic of reading the bible as a complete source of knowledge indicating an overconfidence bias in Colonel Brady. Brady keeps his ego intact, by not questioning his ideology.
Ideology is a false consciousness, the result of how we live. Ideology depends on how we earn our living according to Marx; it depends on our material conditions, how we create in the world the way we survive.
In this film, ideology is about knowing less and less so that nothing changes. (1984 film also has this tool -- the vocabulary is becoming smaller and smaller)
This creates a power structure and the structure reproduces itself by denying education. This is how the town has historically survived and it knows nothing else. Colonel Brady’s ideology is based on his authority as an interpreter of the Bible (proven by Colonel Drummond).
The townspeople are uneducated, particularly about science, as they also have the ideology that the Bible is fact. Their ideas are interpreted by Colonel Brady and he has in fact tried three times to be President. This attests to his belief that his position of authority is real and deserved. Brady did not win in his attempts at the presidency. He had a narrow world view.
This ideology is based on loyalty. Those not loyal to the ideology are shunned or in this case put in jail for alternative thought on science.
Reversal of RvWade is a case in point.
The thoughts of the teacher character Bert Cates are not new outside of Nebraska.
They are embraced in 1925 generally in the world.
Ideological meaning comes from what kind of culture creates an ideology.
Material circumstances determine ideologies.
The people of this town are uneducated.
They feel safe and historically have shunned education, preferring their authority figures; in this case Mayor, Colonel Brady, to interpret the world for them.
They are not easily swayed. They live in Nebraska in a rural area without much interplay with urban centres, or learning. Probably many of them are illiterate as well.
Part of their ideology is ‘we don’t think’, ‘we don’t question it’. They use a literal, superficial interpretation of a book that isn’t fact and is a collection of stories written for the times they were written in.
This from Hannah Arendt, “Only sheer violence is mute.” “[It] punishes the woman for the limitations of human power”
She coined the phrase, “impotent bigness”, a “Rule by sheer violence [that] comes about when power is being lost.” 1970a 53
She continues, “When a state starts to devour its own children power has disappeared completely” and “[E]very decrease in power is an open invitation to violence—if only because those who hold power and feel it slipping from their hands…have always found it difficult to resist the temptation to substitute violence for it.”
Arendt wrote in the 1970s, these ideas.
My interpretation is that patriarchy encircles because it does not have solutions for remaining in power -- that it values. History shows us many many examples of this encircling, in courts where women are fighting for their rights, often denied finances to hire good legal counsel but also denied the rights they have already won. I had in my hand a restraining order signed by another judge but (Silly Me Moment), the judge of that day refused to read the whole page. He read only the first sentence and said, it happened a long time ago.
I believe that what we are seeing begins inside the home, this power training, and is part of the reason we see so much violence by young people who are being denied their selves, to grow up in a peaceful home. Children act out in self harm and other ways because their voice disappears. They are unheard.
The encircling now creates the invisible woman who's life is being subsumed for an ideology -- to support the material circumstances of the authorities.
The immense work of raising a child is as invisible in the current culture as is possible. It is the last topic on the table, it is in fact, two blocks away from the table.
All to avoid the newness of the child, Arendt --"new beginning arise and raise its voice in the world’. 4
1,3 'Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution was published in 1976' Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty
Author: Jacqueline Rose
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Guideline Price: £12.99