Beauty and Power! Who will Survive?
The word equality has become one of the terms on which society puts an honorable coat. Modern American society seems to believe in gender and racial equality and its social implementations, and the rhetoric of equality is a key concept repeated in politics, education, and even in advertisement. Is gender equality a reality, or is it a fashionable idea that people merely love to mention and rarely practice? Today, gender and racial equality have only been partially implemented in American society. In his novel Coyote Blue, Christopher Moore illustrates these concerns by portraying the journey of Samuel Hunter, a Crow Indian who struggles to define his own identity in modern times. The author uses his characters to demonstrate the concept of gender and racial inequality and illustrates how the hegemonic ideology of white males continues to perpetuate these inequalities and promote the inferiority of women and minorities. Throughout the book, the socioeconomic and cultural entity of hegemonic dominance develops from the negative submissive stereotypes of women and minorities roles in religions, body expectation, family, and class. The methods that Moore utilizes in this novel include shifts in logical paradoxes, metaphors of exploration, and contrasting allusions to argue that the socially constructed hegemony creates a sense of white males privileges that oppresses women as well as minorities and constructs negative stereotypes that make these groups seem inferior. In doing so, the author advocates a society that will recognize and address these forms of social oppression.
Moore demonstrates that American society allows undeserving individuals to possess white male privileges simply because they are white. To promote his arguments, the author uses the character of Enos Windtree, a tribal police officer. Moore describes Enos as a half-breed, which is to say half-white. Thus, Enos is racially superior to the Crow by being half-whites, but racially inferior to other white by being half-Crow. As Enos interrupts the Crow dance, he attempts to put his free hand under her [Ellen Black Feathers] shirt because she must submit to his racial superiority (104). After Sam pushes Enos into the dam, Sam faces great trouble that changes his life because Enos is an apple, only red on the outside (111). Even though Enos is not completely white, he feels he has the power to disrespect women and minorities because the white-male hierarchical power structure grants him the authority and superiority. The metaphor of an apple shows that society gives advantages to anyone who can be assimilated into these figures and become white on the inside. Emphasizing the white part of his ethnicity, Enos has more power in the Crow society and utilizes it to intimidate his own people. The author establishes the oppression of women and minorities and the social advantages given to white males. As a result, Moore implies that the hegemonic dominance of white male is a product of social bias that has destructive influences on women and minorities.
Using descriptive language and metaphor, Moore attempts to claim that male dominance promoted by religion negatively affect women by forcing them to be submissive. The author makes this argument convincing by describing Calliopes childhood. As a child, Calliopes mother forced her to convert to Islam which emphasizes the concept of guilt, self-flagellation, and modesty (62). This changed Calliope into someone who allowed men [to] replaced religion, and accepted their seductive lies with the same open wonder she had given to the gods (62). In effect, Moore emphasizes the stereotypes of some religions that paint women as passive individuals. Women in these religions have to force themselves to follow a set of sacred rules that maintain a patriarchal society. Ultimately, these restrictions generate a less independent environment for women to practice both their faith and freedom. By emphasizing descriptive words such as guilt, self-flagellation, and modesty, the author highlights the values that religion instills in women and how they promote a lack of self-confidence. Moore illustrates that some religions such as Islam are oppressive to women. Describing how Calliope uses men to replace religion, the author underscores that society creates male privileges and promotes the role of men as oppressors of women. Like religion, men set up guidelines that limit womens potential because they both construct women into submissive individuals. In addition, Calliope accepted this submissive role in her life. This behavior further emphasizes the acquiescent role of women. Instead of recognizing that men oppress them, women in this novel follow the traditional role that society dictates them. As a result, men have the power to set their priorities on women who are forced to be submissive. While implicitly criticizing the stereotype about the submissive role of women, Moore emphasizes that religion based on the male hegemony facilitates gender inequality in modern society.
To further illustrate the negative impact of male hegemony and religion on women, Moore describes how female characters may lose their identities because of religion. One of those characters is Adeline, a Crow woman who converts to Christianity as a result of social pressure. This leads to a point of identity confusion:
She wanted the owl to go away and take her bad luck with it. But to a good Christian, an owl was just an owl. Only a traditional Crow believed in the bad luck of owls. A good Christian would just go out there and shoo that old owl away. Adeline had come to Christianity the same way she had come to sex and smoking: through peer pressure. (157)
Moore essentially states that while religion can help to create an individual identity, it can also destroy some identities in women who are submissive as mentioned above. The quote exemplifies how women can become victims of religions. First, by comparing religion to sex and smoking, the author demonstrates that women such as Adeline acquire their identities based on social pressures that their family, friends, or society create. This is a sharp contrast to men such as Sam who chooses to refuse his own religion later in his life and who is able to wonder whether [his] religion was a waste of time (91). This idea strongly reflects the religious freedom that men obtain in a patriarchal society. As a result, women are passive in society because they lack the ability to have freedom to choose their beliefs while men do not. This example also shows that patriarchal society takes on the role of oppressor to women. Second, by converting into a new religion because of social expectations, women can fabricate new identities that ultimately leave them unfulfilled in a society where men are the oppressors. Using the metaphor of an owl, Moore illustrates these ideas through the struggle inside Adeline who attempts to create a superficial identity after her marriage. As a result, the readers can see an unhappy and confused Adeline who does not even recognize herself as a Christian or a Crow. Moore borrows the image of Adeline to clarify how women are victims of the religion emphasizing the male dominance that occurs in society.
Hegemonic domination is not limited to the religious sphere of life. By using contrasting descriptions, Moore illustrates that physical appearance is one of the factors that the patriarchal society uses to create prejudice against women. The character of Gabriella, Sams secretary reflects this fact. In his novel, Moore describes Gabriella as qualified secretary, who lacks beauty,
He spied his secretary, Gabriella Snow, and was awed for a moment by just how tremendously, how incredibly, how child-frighteningly ugly she wasIf not for her gruesome appearance, an unpleasant personality would have been her dominant feature. She was good on the phone, however, and Sams clients were sometimes so relieved to be out of her office. (32)
Gabriella represents women who are judged by unrealistic expectations of beauty that the male hegemonic dominance sets up in the society. Although Gabriella possesses substantial skills by being good on the phone, she does not rewarded with any success, fulfillment, or promotion in her job. The descriptive language such as tremendously, incredibly, child-frightening, gruesome and unpleasant exaggerates the unattractiveness that Sam sees in Gabriella. His criticism of ugly women comes from the definition of beauty that the hegemonic society sets up. The author illustrates that unattractive working women can negatively affect the image of the company by stating the clients are so relieved to be out of her [Gabriellas] office. The author suggests that these clients are accustomed to the standards of good-looking women. Within the hegemonic ideology, the media generates the belief that beautiful people should have a great sense of confidence, extroversion, fulfillment, all of which lead to success. Moore constructs the ideas of male hegemonic prejudice against unattractive women because of beauty images men created.
While illustrating that womens physical attractiveness is indispensable to social success, the author also comments on the negative stereotypes of feminine beauty. Moore illustrates society condemnation at beautiful women through Sams thoughts about Calliope who was trouble. Too young, too goofy, probably too attractive (173). Through drawing these thoughts in his characters mind, the author articulates the social bias against feminine beauty. In his novel, Moore shows how men impose their own standards on judging feminine beauty. As mentioned above, unattractive women cannot achieve personal success because of social requirements on beauty. However, readers can see that society often considers beautiful women as unsuccessful, unintelligent, and trivial individuals. By relating the definition of attractive to the concept of goofy, this idea also trivializes the image of attractive single mothers as unproductive individuals when Sam focuses on Calliopes social shortcomings as a single mother. Through this contradiction, the author generates the idea of dominance which men utilize to judge women. Men with the influence from hegemonic ideas make a narrow standard of beauty for women to fit into. On the other hand, Moore does not mention how physical appearance affects mens success in this novel. The author describes Aaron, a successful man, as short, fifty, balding, face shot with veins from drink. (34) This descriptive phrase shows that society does not judge men on their outside because it is strongly influenced by the patriarchal system. By creating the paradox about the concept of beauty, the author implies that the patriarchal society set up a narrow concept of beauty for women to fit themselves into in order to achieve success, happiness, and respect in life.
The male hegemony not only influences the social expectations of womens appearances but also social concepts in family roles. In his novel, Moore shows that conventional family role oppress women. This ideology is reflected by the family of Lonnie, Calliopes ex-boyfriend which includes his girlfriend, Cheryl, and his son, Grubb. The author portrays Lonnie as a patriarchal father who considers Cheryl, as you were the one that said youd make a good motherThrow me a towel. (211) As Cheryl resists him, Lonnie threatens her by yanking her head back and telling her You clean up the kid now or Ill snap your f**king neck. (211) Lonnie represents a man who utilizes his power to terrorize women in order to get his way. He equates a good mother with a person who is doing all of the dirty work at home. Moore depicts that family roles help men to preserve their power in a patriarchal family. In these families, women obey the commands from males who have the power to set up everything in the house. If women do not follow the house rules, men use physical threats to assert their superiority over women. The descriptive languages such as yanking her head back describe the physical sufferings that women have to deal with domestic violence caused by men who attempt to enforce their superiority. Men mentioned in this quote utilize their physical powers to establish their rights inside the family; therefore, they consider women as submissive individuals who have to follow their commands. Ultimately, Moore informs the readers how male hegemonic dominance can influence conventional family roles which consider men as superiors in their family. In addition, women become submissive victims who endure the negative impacts from this type of beliefs.
In addition to its pervasive effects on women, male hegemonic domination also creates a simultaneous oppression of minorities in modern society. The author uses his characters to demonstrate the nature of the hegemonic dominance of the superior male on minorities. This patriarchal prejudice against minorities is addressed when Sams neighbors attempt to force him to move out of his townhouse. Everybody seems to hate Sam: the doctors and lawyers hate you because you make enough money to live herethe married guys hate you because you are singleThe old people hate you because you are young (79-80). The repetition of the word hate emphasizes the negative judgments of the dominant male on the minorities which are represented by Sam. What the author conveys here is that, due to human nature, people usually want to be around others who are like them. Therefore, they develop hatred towards the minorities in their communities. Old, married doctors and lawyers in this quote are described as professional white males who possess a high socioeconomic status. As a result, these people who come from the dominant group establish a sense of superiority over the minorities. The author implies that these men try to be around other men who are of the same race, occupation, age, family and economic status. They expect the minorities to act as inferiors who submissively accept jobs that dictate low socioeconomic status. In this novel, Moore depicts Sam as a victim of this hegemonic ideology despite that fact that he is a member of the male group. Once again, the concept of hegemonic dominance defines the role of majority and minority in society, draws a clear divided line between races, and creates negative stereotypes about minorities. With a superior role, majority males will have positive standing in society because they have the power to degrade minorities. Consequently, the contrast of majority males and minorities in society that Moore elucidates in his novel conveys the prejudice of majority male towards minorities in contemporary society.
Besides examining the nature of hegemonic dominance against minorities, Moore explores the stereotypical oppressions on minorities from this ideology with descriptive language. The author describes that Sam finds it easier to be Mexican while working in the restaurant, but he gradually becomes invisible to the affluent Santa Barbara customers, who spoke openly about the most intimate details of their lives (119). The author portrays the Mexican figures as typical menial laborers by relating to working in the restaurant. Moore presents the negative stereotype about minorities are the products of the majority male hegemony, which emphasizes the role of white males. The minorities in American society has to face many financial, cultural, and language barriers. Therefore, they have fewer opportunities to obtain high salary jobs. However, the majority males, who have advantages from the concept of white privilege as mentioned above, utilize this fact to promote themselves as superiors in society and create negative labels for their minorities counterparts. This ideal is strongly emphasized by the word invisible, which Moore uses to describe Sam in the eyes of his white customers. By using the allusion of invisible man, the author implicitly illustrates the oppressive role of majority males in modern society. They consider the minorities as submissive individuals who cannot even understand what they say and therefore are not a part of the society. The author also shows the disrespect that the majority males have towards the minority workers by stating that these customers discuss their most intimate details of their lives in front of Sam. Consequently, Moore observes the color lines which are drawn by the hegemonic dominance of the majority males. He also connects the ideology of white-male hegemony relationship to the systematic racism in American society by revealing the attitude of white male towards minorities.
Moore also discusses the economic oppression that minorities, especially immigrants have to endure. The author addresses this issue by describing the lives of illegal Mexican immigrants. One character in the story is Coyote who smuggles illegal aliens. His characteristic in this novel constructs a typical oppressor, who takes advantage of fears, poverty, and power,
At the end of each week he paid his men in cash, after deducting a healthy amount for food and lodging, then drove them all to the post office, where he helped them buy money orders to send homeleaving them nothing for themselves. In this way, Coyote could keep a crew under his thumb for three or fourth months. (117)
The immigrant workers in the above quote create an image of the poor minority who are hopelessly working in American society. They have no working future under such extreme conditions, get paid a minimal wage, and have nothing for themselves in the end. Unlike these workers, Coyote utilizes the fear of poverty, deportation, and financial issues to earn his profits. His status which is described as a white cowboy figure allows him to take advantage of that. The author also introduces the paternalistic idea through these immigrant workers. Coyote becomes a mastery person who has the power to deduct the salary, drive the immigrant workers, and help them to send money to their families. As a result, these workers develop a sense of economic dependence on Coyote. By contrasting the immigrant workers to Coyote, Moore suggests that minorities are forgotten individuals who are victims of forced labor, job discrimination, and denial of economic equality. Because of their citizenship status and financial obstacles, minorities become targets for majority males such as Coyote to prey on. Simultaneously, the author implies that the hegemonic dominance oppresses the minority and keeps them getting economic independence in the land of opportunity.
In his novel Coyote Blue, Moore uses descriptive language, vivid metaphors, and logical paradoxes to illustrate the development of undeserved white-male privileges in society and the resulting oppression of women and minorities. Women are described as submissive victims in religions because the patriarchal system portrays them as passive individuals who lack the ability to choose their faith. Moreover, hegemonic dominance fabricates a social pressure for women to fit themselves into beautiful images that are unfairly based on male expectations. In addition, Moore demonstrates that women are made to follow the male desires and serve a submissive role in family. Beyond its negative effects on women, this hegemonic dominance also oppresses minorities. The author reveals that white males with their undeserved privileges develop hatred towards minorities in their communities. Moore also conveys the stereotypical oppression in which the majority males consider the minority as a visibly different part of society. Furthermore, the white-male hegemony ideology perpetuates the economic dependence that the minority has to endure. Having illustrated the problematic nature of hegemonic domination and oppression of women and minorities, the author creates the impression that society stimulates the racial and gender inequality by emphasizing the social segmentations which prioritize some individuals over others. Moores argument about the existence of oppressive mechanism seems to constitute a recommendation for change. The author encourages young individuals to look beyond their immediate surroundings and appreciate the racial and gender differences that contribute to modern American society. Thus, Moore questions and challenges the American ideals of equality and their social implementations.