Rosie Thinks This


This is my blog. I am Rosie. These are things that I think.

Some Thoughts On Hamlet And Gender Stereotyping

So, here’s a little rant about something that’s been bothering me lately. In a couple of weeks there will be a production of Hamlet at the student theatre in Cambridge, which I’m sure will be perfectly good since I have friends involved with the show (although most Shakespeare I’ve seen here has been awful) who are all very talented and lovely and hard working.

The difference with this production is that they have cast a female actor as Hamlet. This is in no way a bad thing in my eyes, although I do find it a little odd that instead of just casting a girl in the role they have altered the script to suggest that Hamlet is actually female within the text, making the love affair with Ophelia sapphic and the relationship with Gertrude very interesting indeed, I would imagine. All this seems very intriguing, and I like intriguing takes on Shakespeare, although from what I’ve heard they seem to be trying to make Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia much deeper and much more romantic than it is (to me, at any rate).

The problem for me came when I read an interview by a female journalist in one of the student newspapers with the girl playing the lead, asking her about whether the role was difficult, if she felt the pressure of history behind her and so forth, and what was making this production interesting and different. The part I took exception to in this interview was the agreement between the journalist and the actor that it did, in fact, make much more sense to play Hamlet as a woman, since he is so emotionally articulate. Because men can’t be emotionally articulate. Because Hamlet is not manly. Because, since he whines about his problems all the time, he is feminine. Hmm.

This sort of generalisation hurts people of both genders: in this case it was used to valorise the feminine and suggest that the masculine is lacking, but it was also taking a male fictional character who is willing to talk about his thoughts, feelings and philosophies and suggesting he is “not masculine”, and perhaps even “effeminate”. If we see a character like Hamlet, who is at times, of course, flawed and misogynist and very inconsiderate towards others, but is also eloquent and able to discuss his feelings, and characterise him as ‘feminine’, won’t we be detracting from a man’s ability to take these good qualities from this character, and continuing to feed the mythology that men just can’t talk about their feelings, women have to do all the talking, women just always want to talk, how annoying of them.

Hamlet is an interesting case when considering masculinity: he is often all talk and no action, but at the end of the play he does do what he believes he must, and that is staged in the form of the fencing battle with Laertes. His uncle, Claudius, is the one who kills with poison and works undercover; Hamlet murders with a sword and faces his own death head-on. His varying attitudes towards the women in the play are questionable, and there is not time to consider them here as examples of why Hamlet may or may not be either misogynist or pro-women (I am reluctant for many obvious reasons to use the word ‘feminist’ here). Is it really just because he talks about his feelings that we now see him as a non-masculine character? Because he isn’t Macbeth, or Coriolanus, or Othello – characters who all fail, essentially because of their inability to fully articulate their inner workings, which ultimately drives them to insanity. But these more masculine characters do talk about their emotions, sometimes at length; are they only more masculine because they are warriors? Can Hamlet not be a vision of what it might mean to be a man because he is an intellectual?

I don’t want to say here that Hamlet is or isn’t masculine – that’s not the point, the point is that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ shouldn’t, in the twenty-first century, be characterised by such outdated generalisations as I read in that newspaper article. It was a subtle case, but it demonstrates how such stereotypes permeate every corner of our social thinking without us even realising it. In a backlash against the rise of a new wave of feminism, media and advertising seem to have headed towards more extreme portrayals of masculine and feminine ideals, and these need to be debunked immediately. An individual’s choice or predisposition towards being what we might term ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ should have nothing to do with their biological gender. I like science fiction and action movies, but I have pink hair and wear make up and high heels and frilly skirts because I like those things. I’ve been told I write my essays in a ‘masculine’ voice, but I often write feminist criticism of texts. So what? I know plenty of women who cannot articulate an iota of emotion – that doesn’t make them failures as women in any way, nor does it make them ‘masculine’. They just are themselves, in whatever way they are happiest. It doesn’t help anyone to say, “This is masculine behaviour, ergo all men should behave like this or they’re like women,” or, “This is feminine behaviour, ergo all women should behave like this or they’re not women.” It seems an obvious point, right? So why do we still see that kind of logic everywhere in our society? And when is it going to disappear?

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Ask me something!

That's ominously similar to some of the reasons I gave up acting at Cambridge in 1967.

Oh dear. I at least had some faith in the fact that there might have been some glory days once…

Rage against the (acting) machine…

[Disclaimer: obviously I met a lot of people who were very nice while I was trying to be involved in the theatre scene here. They’re very nice. The system they’re part of is not. And nor is that system as important as it pretends to be either. It’s about time other people realised that, I think. I’m not intending to make any personal attacks or cause any offence with this post. This is just my experience. To reiterate, people good, system bad.]

Quitting something you love is hard. Sounds obvious, but it doesn’t quite hit you just how difficult it is until you’re actually doing it.

In my case, it’s theatre. I love the theatre. I love reading plays, I love acting, I love directing, I just love the very idea of having these people in front of you, telling you a story, and you believing them, or at least listening to them, while they do it. I’ve studied drama for a long time and the theatre scene is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Cambridge. I wanted to do Footlights comedy, take part in interesting new writing, go to Edinburgh with my fellow thesps, get recognised, become the next Stephen Fry, or Sir Trevor Nunn, or whatever.

I’m begging you, don’t fall for that stereotype the way I did.

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Link: Please click here.

As this link explains, the treatment of bears in Chinese and Vietnamese ‘bear-bile farms’ is disgusting. Reading about it last night nearly made me sick. Take a few moments to read and sign a petition, and please reblog this and share this link if you can.

The BBC have some more information and some shocking images here.

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Link: All these things about me, you never can tell...: It's Shakespeare's 448th birthday today.


And look at what he’s given us. Seriously. I can think of very few people who have made such a contribution to society as he has - sure, he’s had more time to do it than anyone contemporary because he’s had 400 odd years to make that impact, but it is amazing what one man can do.

His plays were…

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Reblogged from bushbabygirl

Another Thing David Cameron Just Doesn’t Understand.

I was recently reading the rather interesting article produced by the Guardian in which celebrities and leading experts in their fields were invited to pose any kind of question they liked to David Cameron. Some were rather simple - Miranda Hart asked what his least favourite part of his job was - and others were intense; Cameron handled some well, but mostly, in my opinion, he sounded completely out of touch. Now, being very left-wing politically and economically, I was of course biased against Mr Cameron before I’d even begun to read his responses to the questions, but one issue struck me in particular, and that was the argument raised by David Blanchflower, the economist. He asked,

There are one million youngsters under the age of 25 currently without a job. How are you going to prevent them becoming a lost generation?

and Cameron answered,

"As David knows, there is no simple answer. You’ve got to improve the quality of education so you don’t have children falling out of school at 16 without skills, you’ve got to have proper apprenticeships that take people from school into work, you’ve got to make sure that there are training programmes to help those who can’t find jobs. Youth unemployment went up in the years of economic growth as well as recession, so this is a deep underlying problem with the British economy that we have to solve."

which made me groan in frustration and disappointment. I don’t know why I expected Cameron to answer this better, and I don’t know why I thought he might possibly be a bit more in touch with the issues and concerns in the country he is in charge of in this case, but once again he has failed to address what seems to be the real problem here.

Let me get one thing straight: I have no problem with apprenticeships. They are very good, and necessary for getting the youth to work, and I am very aware of the fact that university education just doesn’t suit everyone - some people have different aims in life and apprenticeships and similar courses which address those aims should be promoted and funded heavily. What I’m going to say next may be completely wrong, informed only by my position as an undergraduate and my experience of helping my graduate boyfriend look for work.

The real problem with unemployment for the under-25s seems to me to be the high rates of graduate unemployment in recent years, not those of school leavers. This problem is both cultural and economic - I’m not pretending I know how to solve it, but I am stunned that Mr Cameron can’t recognise these issues in his own country. I suppose as someone who relied on family and school connections to guarantee all his positions of employment thusfar in his life, he has little experience of the reality of the graduate job market. And who can blame him? Everything in our society points towards the ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ attitude: if you have connections and contacts, use them and milk them for all they’re worth.

The flaw with that view is, though, that unless you’re lucky enough to be born with such connections, it is incredibly difficult to get anywhere simply by merit. So how does a university student go about making those contacts? Unpaid internships, of course! If you subscribe to this blog then you’ll have heard me wax lyrical about internships last week, so I’ll try not to repeat myself here, but there are many, many, many faults in the system and culture of internships. Their very presence convinces many undergraduates, particularly those wanting arts and media careers, that they are completely necessary to getting paid jobs in the future, and in some industries they have been. Searching for paid graduate jobs with my boyfriend, not a single one allowed an applicant to have no industrial experience. If you can’t get that experience whilst being paid, then internships it must be! But how are you supposed to survive while taking part in one? The laws are unclear about whether unpaid interns can collect unemployment benefits: they are not being paid a wage, so in that respect they need benefits to live on, but at the same time they are not available for work, so they are technically not allowed to collect these benefits. This limits the kind of student or graduate who can take part in internships: those with parents with a comfortable salary, who have probably supported them through university and will now support them through months, years of unpaid work in order to allow them to pursue their desired career, or the kind of student who can push themselves to work full-time internships as well as night shifts in restaurants and bars to pay their rent. Considering that most internships are located in London, paying rent is no mean feat. Thankfully, many companies will pay travel expenses for their interns - how generous! Recently, the legality of internships in the House of Commons was brought to question, as it was revealed just how many hours those interns were asked to work. As I said last week, it really is a form of middle-class slavery that we are deceived into thinking is both necessary and voluntary simultaneously.

What I am saying here is that Mr Cameron should be focussing his apparent efforts into reducing youth unemployment to the issue of graduate unemployment. There is a strange thought culture surrounding graduate careers: I have already said that virtually no job will consider an applicant with no industry experience, but there is also the issue of graduates not getting what might be termed more menial jobs because they have a degree. We have succeeded as a nation in producing a generation of workers who are under-experienced and over-qualified: they feel they are justified in feeling entitled to a well paying job, since that’s what they were told a degree would be able to provide for them, but at the same time many companies have been complaining lately that degree courses don’t teach graduates the right skills for moving into the workplace. Some might say that graduates now have unrealistic expectations of their careers, and this may well be very true, but that still doesn’t solve the problem.

Mr Cameron’s total ignoring of the issue of graduate unemployment doesn’t make economic sense by Conservative standards either. Particularly with the upcoming changes to fees, the government will be owed a huge amount of money by current and future graduates alike in the form of student loans. Graduates only begin to pay off their loans when they are earning over a certain annual threshold, and if this is not reached within a certain number of years, the debt is written off altogether. Surely it would make financial sense for the Tory government, who will soon be loaning out £9,000 a year to the majority of undergraduates in the country, to encourage graduates to get well-paid jobs as soon as possible so that the money circulates back into their own pockets (and then, one would hope they would spend it on improving social services, free education and welfare, but it’s the Tories, so they won’t)? Surely it would be in the government’s best interests to get rid of this culture of internships and required experience? It would make graduates happy because they start earning quickly and get what they were promised when they decided to do a degree, it would make the government happy since they’d get back some of this money they keep complaining about not having, and it would make the rest of the population happy because the money paid back by graduates might help to temper some of the ridiculous cuts made in light of the recession.

So why, Mr Cameron, can you not see that your focus should lean towards helping university graduates before helping school leavers? I’m sure there are many, many people who will say that this is an elitist view to take, and I’m not denying that I have some bias here, but it makes economic and cultural sense to fix this imbalance.

I’d love to hear some of your suggestions or opinions, if you have any, on this issue - reply to this post or send me an ask and I’ll publish any responses I get.

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