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​Binary Structure  in M.Butterfly: Women as a Second Class Characters

M.Butterly mainly emphasized its plot in binary structure; binary opposition (also binary system ) is a pair of related terms or concepts that are opposite in meaning. Binary opposition is the system by which, in language and thought, two theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off against one another. Emphasizing the lesser role of women and east part countries as the object of colonialization to the western. This issue especially brought up in the M.Butterfly, as it is cited from the article, Performance and Perception: Gender, Sexuality, and Culture in David Hwang’s M. Butterfly, below:

  “M. Butterfly (1986) tackles the very foundation of Western identity by questioning and troubling its reliance on binary opposition.”

“The fetish of cultural authenticity” and setting “one side of the binary against the other, porn against art, Orientalism against Occidentalism, private against public, autobiography against theory-to produce an intellectual slippage that holds the binary contradiction at one moment of visible simultan.” 

The concepts brought up in the article and as well further discussed in the class that as well in line with the group findings about the issue that binary concept basically put women only in the inferior side. Women and Eastern people depicted as possessing a trait of feminity; submissive, can’t think for themselves and Men and Western people are possessing a trait of masculinity: aggressive and dominant. The issue of transvestism and cross-dressing are as well explained and discussed in the class and group findings. Robert Stroller distinguishes the two terms:

Transvestites “put on clothes of the opposite sex because the clothes are sexually exciting to them.” While “cross-gender homosexuals cross-dress because they want to be feminine or masculine without actually wanting to be male or female. 

It is quite hard a task to define which one Song is justly labelled since the motive of her doing the act is initially pure performance but he carried on the role consciously as a perfect women for political and personal purposes without actually wanting to change himself to be a woman but instead to be love for who he is by Gallimard at last. If there is anything missing from the article is the talking about its genre since the focus of the article is on its theme; gender, sexuality and culture, but it was briefly discussed in a class and in group findings that has the discussion dragged the genre of the play is contemporary play, judging by the year of its production (1986). There isn’t as well further digging into the background of the author, David Hwang, as a born Chinese descendants who lived himself in a different culture of America and its impact on his writing the play, this issue brought up in a class discussion as it is basically represented David view towards binary structure of East vs West, Feminine vs Masculine that becomes the concern in the play.

Women as a second-class characters in literary works

From the three discussed literary works: Frankenstein, Monkey Beach, and M.Butterfly all of them put women -rather intentionally as a secondary characters. Women with its historical construction of feminity positioned as a characters of lesser significance, even though it goes the reverse in Monkey Beach, with the portrayal of its protagonist, Lisa as a rebel and rather masculine in a way she did what commonly did by men; smoking, drinking, and consuming drugs.  M.Butterfly especially makes it obvious by the insignifant roles of the few females characters who appear in minor, supportive roles are caricatured and ridiculed: Helga, the neurotic wife, Renee, the man eater, and Chin, the butch woman. Garber further explained this seemingly misogynist portrayal: 

What is really at stake here, it seems to me, is a subconscious recognition that “woman”  in patriarchal society is conceived of as an artifact- and that the logical next step is the recognition that “man” is likewise not fact, but artifact, himself constructed, made of detachable parts. 

The binary structure, to put greater emphasize in Men vs Women, in Literary works are indisputable even now, feminists are struggling still for the same spotlight, and its forward formed preconceptions that puts the latter in disadvantages. 


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