Tag Archive: social justice


Validation Through Any Means Necessary

By Isaac Gallegos R. villon.promethee_grn_Words have historically been used to oppress deviant individuals, however, unbeknownst to many, the very diction used to oppress can be reclaimed, therefore empowering the socially deviant.  Trans activist Jessica Fisher, in her article, “I am Frankenstein’s Monster: An Echo of Susan Stryker’s Call to Action”, demonstrates how oppressed trans people can reclaim transphobic diction to empower themselves. And in context to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the action of reclaiming an oppressive word for empowerment can allow for a deeper analysis of the Creature and it’s critical character progression, while simultaneously supporting Fisher’s claim trans reclamation.

Jessica Rae Fisher, as a transgender female, understood the potential malice words could contain; as a queer adolescent, Fisher was victimized by her father for her difference and remembered him calling her a “commie pink bedwetting faggot”(Fisher). Fisher also came to recognize this as a systemic issue, not a personal problem: transgender people everywhere experienced a type of communal ostracization. Not only were transgender individuals outcast by their heteronormative counterparts, but also by the queer communities they sought refuge in. And if action wasn’t taken against this systematic transphobia, transgender individuals, like Filisia Vistima, would continue to suffer.  That is why, according to Jessica Rae Fisher and other trans activists, participating in ‘transgender rage’ was essential for the wellbeing of transgender individuals. Transgender rage, a phrase coined by Susan Stryker, is the “emotional response to conditions in which it becomes imperative to take up […] a set of practices that […] seeks to maintain itself as the only possible basis for being a subject”(Stryker, 249). In other words, transgender rage allowed for the survival of trans people in a highly transphobic society, through the skillful use of repurposing their rage and emotions for something productive and beneficial. An example of transgender rage was the active reclamation of transphobic diction, and even changing the connotations associated with them; Fisher and Stryker believed that it was critical for trans resistance to reclaim words like “creature:’ “monster:’ and “unnatural”, consequently allowing trans empowerment.

The reclamation of oppressive diction to empower an oppressed individual applies to the trans community, but it can also be observed within the character of the Creature, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (excerpt below):

“My feelings were those of rage and revenge. I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me;  from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.”(Shelley, 121)

The Creature was created as an “unnatural body”, a product of “medical science”, and was “perceived as less than fully human due to the means [of it’s] embodiment”(Stryker, 238). And like trans people, the Creature was oppressed by all society, even by ones it expected support from the most (i.e., Victor Frankenstein, queer community). The Creature, subjected to violence and rejection, would have succumbed to its injuries if it had not been for a critical shift in conscience. Instead of allowing itself to be victimized without consequence, the Creature decided to embrace its role as “arch-fiend” and “monster”; consequently, this reclamation of diction helped the creature shift the power dynamic between itself and Victor Frankenstein so that it could be the one who held the power. It didn’t matter that the Creature was viewed as a monster by society or by Victor, what mattered was that this “monster” identity allowed the Creature’s presence to be noticed and validated. And for trans people, like Fisher and Stryker, that is all they want — to be validated.

 

Samantha Shapiro

Within Frankenstein, a large focus within the novel revolves around Victor, which cannot be avoided due to the nature of Victor being a primary speaker and self-centered perspective.

We see this through the approach of Justine’s seemingly unfair trial and later execution, in which she doesn’t receive any justice from a justice system. As the focus with Justine’s death is how it relates to Victor, the reader sees how Victor’s inner processes centralize his guilt, creating a situation that he can’t get out of. Victor victimizes himself through Justine’s situation, and we see this through the overall focus of the text. Due to this nature of the excerpt, as well as the nature and connection to William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, much of the passage appears to respond to core ideals found within Godwin’s work, especially in relation to suffering and the pursuit of humanity.

A primary focus to Godwin is that we have two major duties in order to perpetuate justice for humanity’s happiness: to focus attention to reason and communicate, or bring to light a way to “do justice to our principles,” and to do so peacefully (ECPJ 789-790). Justine, in giving a false confession to murder, did to to “obtain absolution,” but instead entered the courtroom knowing to have lied, but also now in the presence of a system, where “all looked on [her] as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition” (F 83). Her suffering in falsely communicating her reason correlates with Godwin’s view of a “tendency towards the equalization of conditions” through the eyes of Victor (ECPJ 791). Victor takes it upon himself and identifies with Justine’s feelings of “ignominy and perdition,” or even feelings of being dishonored due to his pursuits of science. Godwin notes that the followers in the pursuit of knowledge submitted to “servile dedications” and could only escape from this slavery with the “gradual revolution of opinion,” knowing that independence and ease are in reach, but he fails to look onward to other emotions, such as guilt and negative views of being brought to light (ECPJ 792, 793). Frankenstein is a “obsequious” and “servile” follower in character, to both science and his loved ones, and would “spend each vital drop of blood for [their sakes],…spend his life in serv[itude]” (ECPJ 792, F 85). However, the guilt of his pursuit of science and a fear of rejection leads to his guilt in creating, what he sees, as a violent monster. He loses a part of himself, and gains hopelessness when he feels like he isn’t even belonging to other humans, but a creator of a demon-like murderer. Victor sees himself as lost due to having a “never-dying worm alive in [his] bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation,” or guilt—while Justine can have resignation from suffering in death, his suffering of guilt, a metaphorical “never-dying worm” ate at him constantly due to his regrets in his pursuits (84).

Mary Wollstonecraft challenges the popular concept of beauty put forth in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France 1790 in her A Vindication of the Rights of Man, illustrating how its idealizations of complacency and silence, in all people not just women, creates an ugly society that makes it difficult for individuals to fight for their grievances. The consequences of its preservation are manifested during Justine Moritz’s trial in Frankenstein where Justine’s confession speaks volumes about established societal pressure to conform and let others have the victory. Wollstonecraft argues that in order to incite change, one must make themselves and their demands heard, even if it means breaking from “beautiful” social values and being demonized. In contrast to Burke, it is insinuated that there is beauty in being vocal and disagreeing with the tenets of the ruling society instead of submitting to their rules and beliefs. Wollstonecraft states, “Weak minds are always timid. And what can equal the weakness of mind produced by servile flattery, and the vapid pleasures that neither hope nor fear seasoned?” (Wollstonecraft 49). One cannot be complacent and stand by the actions of government or other high members of society when they, along with others in their community, are personally affected by their laws and unjust practices. If the impoverished French population during the late 1700s would have stayed silent about their suffering instead of revolting, just to be a part of an imbalanced utopia that favored the rich and be “beautiful,” law-abiding citizens, they would have never made their power and demands evident to the thriving French aristocracy, much less overthrow them. Instead they demonstrated the beauty of defying government and fighting for one’s right to be acknowledged as an individual and their rights.

Justine, unfortunately, submits to the latter philosophy when she confesses that she murdered William, even though she did not and makes her conviction and execution certain. She later regrets her decision as she tells Elizabeth, “I confessed that I might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier in my heart than all my other sins” (Shelley 83). This moment indicates that Justine wants to achieve absolution not only by God and secure a place in heaven, since the confessor would not excommunicate her, but also be absolved by society by complying with the court’s agenda and not putting up a fight to clear her name. She simply agrees with the accusations and hoped for the rest to solve itself. Rather than embrace the beauty of agency and rebellion that would come with vocally rejecting the claims against her and asserting her innocence Justine “commits [her] cause to the justice of [her] judges” (Shelley 80) and allows the court to have all the authority in the matter. As a result, she maintains beauty in the aspect of social order and submission to government but at a great, fatal cost.

-Wendy Gutierrez

By: Katherine Hernandez

Political writer, Mary Wollstonecraft depicts the nature of humanity on the basis of genders.  In the novel Frankenstein, the reader is exposed to the death of many characters, both men and women, however none of these question social justice quite as much as the death of Justine. Despite not being the main character Justine’s death impacts Victor’s moral compass in a detrimental way. The fact that Justine is portrayed in such an innocent manner leads her to confess to a crime that she doesn’t commit. Wollstonecraft makes the direct distinction of explaining how women are seen as “little smooth, delicate [and] fair creatures” (47) by nature, thus showing how Justine’s word means nothing to the eyes of humanity because women are regarded as beautiful beings instead of humans who have their own way of thinking. This displacement of equality shows the death of social justice in the novel. Women are not given a platform from which to speak, they are in a sense, soulless creatures whose purpose is to beautify and balance the world we live in. Women are confined to certain molds during the era of the French Revolution and because of these roles, they are not able to express their human desire, unlike men. Women are expected to sit there and look pretty. And that is exactly the role Justine is forced to take; because of the prejudices of this era Justine’s thoughts, emotions and once is worth nothing because of the stigma that women are not capable of having such coherent stream of consciousness.  As regarded by Wollstonecraft, the only way to make a “glorious change [is to] produce [a sense of] liberty..” (48) This liberty is never given to Justin; Victor had the chance to provide this sense of liberty for her but he’d rather coward in his own fear than provide a platform for an innocent women to tell her truth.

Tania De Lira-Miranda

justine_in_prison

In his political pamphlet, Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke wrote against the French Revolution. He specifically talks about how because of the revolution, the age of chivalry, “the sum of the ideal qualifications of a [person], including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arm (dictionary.com)” would come to end. He explains this in his pamphlet that before the revolution, when he saw the queen of France, she “hardly seemed touched, a more delightful vision…glittering like the morning-star. full of life, and splendor, and joy” (75) but that now because of the revolution “disasters [falls] upon her in a nation of fallen men” (76) which shows that the age of chivalry is gone.

The idea that the age of values such as bravery, honor and great gallantry toward women were held in high esteem is no over can be seen in Frankenstein. In the novel, Justine Moritz is being accused of murdering William Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s brother. While mostly everyone in the town believes that she is guilty, only two people other than herself think otherwise: Elisabeth and Victor. But of those two, the only one who truly knows that Justin is innocent is Victor. He knows that the actual killer is the creature as when he saw the creature in the Alps, Victor realized that “Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact.” (75) But even though Victor knew that Justine was not the murderer, he did not tell anyone of the creature’s existence or of the fact that it was the creature, not Justine who killed William. Instead of coming forward to defend Justine’s honor, Victor just let the town kill Justine. It is only to himself at the graves of William and Justine that he admits that they are “the first hapless victims to [his] unhallowed arts.” (85) By staying quiet, Victor is cowardly in the fact that he did nothing to stop Justine’s unjustly death. His actions were not chivalrous thus proving Burke’s points that the age of chivalry is gone.