Discussion Questions on Masquerade: Lola Clairmont

Do you agree that “Female performers do not conceal their identity. There is no secrecy”?

In reference to performing ancestry (70), Bettelheim thinks women perform self in reference to their ancestry. Does this statement coincide or disagree with what we read about the lineage of authorship in African pots from our last reading?

Bettelheim seems to have a very literal interpretation of “hiding” oneself in masquerade, i.e. men hide themselves with a literal mask. Do you agree with Bettelheim’s literal interpretation of masquerade?

Do you think that our perception of the masquerades of other cultures is tainted by our Western ways?

By Bettelheim’s logic, women who do not cover their faces in a masquerade take control of their sexuality and are therefore outside of the conventions of the patriarchy.  Are modern day sexualized dancers (read: strippers) outside the conventions of the patriarchy?

 

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6 responses

  1. I’m still a little hung up on the difference between masquerade and performance. I’d like to discuss our thoughts and what Bettelheim thinks in class.

    “One could argue further that these sexy (or sexual, as the case may be) performers ‘expose their bodes in order to reclaim them, to assert their own pleasure and sexuality denying the fetishistic pursuit (by men)…'” (69) This quote goes along with the last question. I think this will be a really interesting point of discussion.

    I definitely think that our perceptions of the masquerades of other cultures are tainted because we are westerners. This is just another topic where we can discuss “other-ing”.

  2. One element of masquerade that I think is very important (that is stressed particularly in in the Sande tradition) is that masquerade serves to remind onlookers of the powers that the society has at its disposal. Does performance have the same potency? I think in certain cases it does. I hope that we will discuss Bettelheim’s treatment of Josephine Baker and the idea of agency in her case.

  3. I really enjoyed when Bettelheim referred to the women performers as “producers” since it recalled what Chadwick was speaking of in the introductory chapter of her book (69). Although in the act they may be seen as subjects or potential objects of the male gaze, the idea that they are making their own art sort of counteracts this.

    The idea that the women dance as a way of reclaiming their bodies also strikes a chord with me, as that was similar to an essay by French writer Hélène Cixous entitled “The Laugh of the Medusa,” where she tells women to write about their body in order to gain their freedom. Here’s a link to the essay if you want to read it: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3173239

    The question of sexualized dancers today is a tricky one. I think it depends on the woman’s mindset and reasoning. In the specific case of a stripper, she is rewarded with money and often interacts on a very personal level with her customer. I haven’t witnessed any of these masquerade dances myself, but I don’t think they get some sort of monetary reward at the end. The idea of a stripper rewarded with money sort of counteracts the idea of a sense of empowerment in my opinion, since she is is more of a performer than a producer. Essentially, she does a dance routine to delight the audience and not necessarily herself. However, I’m sure that some could argue the exact opposite.

  4. I think that a western viewpoint taints our interpretations everything. I, too, am a little confused at the nuances in terminology. I am also excited to hear different opinions on your last question. I think the key to answering “Are modern day sexualized dancers (read: strippers) outside the conventions of the patriarchy?” is for whom are the individuals preforming.

    I would also like to discuss literal interpretations of “hiding”. I wonder if seeing this so literally actually limits our understanding of this form of performance art.

  5. Like Natalie, I think our western viewpoint does influence how we perceive just about everything.

    I was initially confused by the distinction being made between masquerades and performances, but this point has been clarified a good deal by previous comments.

    I am interested in Bettelheim’s discussion of Josephine Baker: “Did Baker, through her own choreography, costume design, and photo sessions, liberate herself from male hegemonic structures, or was she oppressed and constructed by male patronage, as in the stereotype of the exotic entertainer? I believe she was firmly in control, using her sexuality as an oppositional practice.”

    I admit that I don’t know a great deal about Josephine Baker. I’m willing believe that Baker’s performances were ‘”liberat[ing],” but I’m not convinced that that excludes the possibility that Baker was “was she oppressed and constructed by male patronage, as in the stereotype of the exotic entertainer.” From what I know, and what Wikipedia tells me, Baker’s “exotic[ness]” definitely had something to do with her appeal. I’m not quite sure how to ask what I’m trying to get at here, but I’m interested in discussing this part of the reading in class!

  6. When I first read the question about the difference between masquerade and performance my immediate response was “ritual.” But upon further reading of the article everything she seemed to discuss included ritual, so now I am less sure. Regardless, I think it is an important element to be discussed.

    I would also like to discuss whether it is possible for women to reclaim their bodies through sexuality. A part of me screams YES. Another part of me argues that by using their body they are only reinforcing the importance men place on the body, thus not radically challenging patriarchy.
    For example, one argument that can be made against bell hooks’ transvestism is that when one cross-dresses they are accepting the social norms for the members of the opposite gender, thus reinforcing those norms. When a man dresses up in a pink dress, high heels and a blond wig he is defining womanhood as that. So while he may be crossing gender lines, he is in fact enforcing gender lines for women.
    But I’d like to hear which argument people think is more potent and whether one can reclaim their body.

    I agree with everyone else that our perceptions are most certainly influenced by our own Western culture.

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