Pieces of Herself

“Pieces of Herself” is an obviously feminist e-lit narrative that utilizes multimedia (still imagery, moving video and audio clips) to illustrate different ways that women see themselves against a backdrop of an idealized American culture. I felt that this was a unique way of exploring the female character, in that it allowed me to go step by step, using different environments to help me understand how women see themselves in relation to those environments. I’m sure that my female colleagues will see this interactive differently than I do and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in class.

The opening imagery is small – almost like a doorway. The way the images can be slid across the screen and transferred to the cutout of a person made me think of germs (especially in the bathroom) and I thought that the metaphor was somewhat apropos in that the imagery piled up. It was as if the aspects of their character (as discovered in the various environments) became stuck to them and difficult to shake. A lot of the symbolism and clips referenced self-doubt or personal insecurities, particularly about their bodies. One clip referenced gray hair, another referenced not wanting her children to see her naked. Interesting that you don’t actually see any women at any point in the entire narrative except for the back of one woman in the bathroom scene.  In the bedroom, the references are to a woman who is missing (either physically or mentally) and the voice of a man is predominant.  There is nothing sexual or intimate or romantic or even very personal about the bedroom scene which I found interesting. In fact, the imagery seemed very impersonal although the audio clips were.

 

Going outside, we see a number of what I believe are “beginning of life” references – the baby, the monkey that turns into a man (a symbol of evolution), the apple in the tree that meshes with the church.  (The apple reveals a sermon about conception – talks about pain and a man ruling over her – not a very uplifting message about having kids and a family.) The song, “Que Sera Sera”, I took as channeling a woman’s mindset of saying whatever will be will be as it pertains to actually having a child. The imagery here is kind of a standard checklist of the bedrock of American family life – the 4×4, the flag, the house with the basketball net (implying a family) and the playground for kids. But the audio clips – both from the sermon which talks about the man ruling over the woman and the woman saying “i always said i would give my child the best that i could possibly give them” – seem to position the woman as subservient to her environment, even her family, putting the husband and the children first. In fact, the statement from the woman felt to me to be as much a promise from the protagonist as a challenge to her – making her feel guilty about the possibility that she wont be able to fulfill that promise.

 

In the kitchen, the voices that speak – the one talking about a recipe and the one talking about wanting to be spicy – sound like voices channeling the voice or thoughts of the so-called ideal wife and mother – appealing to her husband and making something delicious for the family. (also telling her kid to wash their hands and talking about underwear that makes her look skinny revisits the idea of body consciousness)  The imagery is all black-and-white – giving it a very 50’s feel – a time in America when the family units were elevated and expectations for husbands and wives were more (publicly) clear-cut.  I get the sense that those are the expectations that some women believe they are still fighting against.

In the living room, the clip is of an contrary view in which the woman goes through a whole list of what she wears and what she drives but says none of it matters to her. The whole thing is rather contradictory. A note that none of the environments represented are overly lavish. The fact that the TV is tuned to Oprah speaks to the middle class and middle class striving to have more, even while (as the woman does in the clip) saying that material goods don’t really mean anything.  I don’t think we can take her statement at face value. The sex toy under the pillow adds an interesting wrinkle – hiding something they are ashamed of?

In the office, its about limitations for women – not being able to show emotion.  I found it fascinating that the spine and brain are located here in the office, not at home. In other words, the office is where the spine and brain come in handy or get used, not at home. But there is imagery here that speaks to the outdated old-fashioned roles for women in the workplace as well – the desk and the filing cabinet, for example. The dialogue box here says “where she fought to keep them all”, which I took to reference the difficulty in balancing all of her tasks, both at work and at home.

Outside  again, we hear a teacher talking about how education tends to take a back seat to social issues – like looks. There’s imagery here to back that up, including the image of a breast at Dairy Queen where the message is about girl trying to be beautiful or attractive in social situations.  I wondered here if the author was remembering how it was in high school for her – or is it an “idealized” or stereotypical version of what’s going on in American high schools across the country.  This was not quite as groundbreaking to me – the imagery and message was more blunt than it was in other scenes, although the idea that looks are prioritized over education in the minds of women and girls is a troubling one (and all too prevalent I’m sure).

I found this to be an extraordinary way to demonstrate how women see themselves personally and their place in American culture. In addition, it seems to me that the point of doing this was to show how women continue to fight against outdated stereotypes, even if in some cases it is women themselves consciously or unconsciously fulfilling or perpetuating them. I thought that this was less e-literature (there’s very little writing) and more of a multimedia presentation, but it made great use of – not only imagery and sound – but color, image positioning, backgrounds, etc…

 

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