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The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao By Junto Diaz: Male Dominance In The Dominican Republic

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After reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junto Diaz, the emphasis and implications of gender roles became evident. The extreme “machismo” attitude that is expected of Dominican men has arguably caused or contributed to the degrading of women to the point where they are seen as nothing more than a piece of meat. Machismo is commonly described as a strong sense of masculine pride. These machismo characteristics is synonymous with Latin American males and was derived from the Spanish word “macho” which literally means male or masculine. Although this story takes place in New Jersey, America, the Dominican culture is still prevalent throughout the book. Understanding how Dominican culture affects the characters, motives and actions of many of the individuals throughout this book becomes more complete. Beli and Lola, among other women, ‘suffered’ verbal abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of the machismo stereotype of Dominican men. An explicit example of this is when Beli was younger and they put hot oil on her back. The book and the additional study of this culture underlines the degradation of women by manifest masculinity that males are raised and encouraged to embrace. Men continually use their masculinity as a form of superiority. Even during adolescence, men maintain dominance over their female counterparts. Even after emigrating to the United States, the land of the free, where ‘justice and freedom for all’ greatly favour women, Dominican women still allow their country’s culture to dictate their lives. The ability to be a good mother and the physical appearance of these women is the only thing that matters: they have no voice and are objectified. This is seen in the book, Beli having received a lot of attention for her younger appearance and as she slowly grew older, her only responsibility in life was to raise her children to Dominican standards. Because of the great influence on the physical appearance of women, Dominican children learn to consider them as sexual conquest. This type of behaviour is very early introduced in the minds of young people. This is reflected in the Dominican culture where young children are allowed to run naked and indifferent to the enjoyment of family members, while girls dress with great consideration for their physical attributes. This type of behaviour, although apparently trivial, clearly favours this behaviour at an age when children do not even realize the concepts of gender. Just as boys have been educated to pursue and copulate with as many girls as possible, girls have been taught to flaunt their physical appearance, making them ‘dress provocatively, wear high heels and make up excessively’. This type of social interaction lacks more than appearance and appearance, and is a rather superficial process to choose a possible wife or husband. In addition, this type of behaviour shows how men and women generally fall into their roles without questioning how degrading the whole culture is. It seems that the men and women of the Dominican culture do not care about personality, ability and intellectuality; the main determination is simply whether the member of the opposite sex looks good or not. Like history, if Dominican men are not the soft ones, the ‘conquerors’, like Oscar, are prepared for failure throughout their lives in this culture and always consider themselves less than a man.

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Throughout the book you can see that Oscar has many good qualities, but none of this matters to his culture, since he is not a handsome man who has sex with many attractive women. Women in the Dominican culture obviously put a lot of emphasis on their appearance, since it seems that no one cares about their feelings or intelligence. In addition to the excessive makeup and provocative attire, women fight for straight hair. As if it were not bad enough to be just women, they should also try to look ‘whiter’, since this is considered more attractive in this culture. Throughout the book it becomes clear that it was more desirable to have a lighter skin. Words like ‘mulatto’, ‘darkie’ and ‘yellow’ show the emphasis that was placed on the color of the skin. It was noticed very early in the book that it was better to have a lighter skin due to the perception that it represents a more refined beauty, more wealth and more whiteness. Even though people like Lola lived in the United States, where all races and ethnicities flourished, it was still important to look whiter because this is what the Dominican culture had embedded in their mind. While men are taught to have a machismo mentality, women are expected to be Marianismo, which means that women are supposed to act like the Virgin Mary. Men are taught to conquer sexually as many women as they can, but women must be pure and innocent virgins until they are married, and when they are married, they are not allowed to have extramarital relationships. If some logic is applied to this practice, there is only one unanswered question: how can these men have sex with as many women as possible? However, when they decided to settle down and get married, they expect to find women they have not slept with? As women reach middle age in Dominican culture, they put less emphasis on their physical beauty and place themselves rather on their ability to be good mothers. Although women become somewhat more significant in middle age, they still lack respect from their husbands or males in general. A wife generally cooks, cleans, maintains the house, takes care of the children and puts her husband’s needs above his own. If you are an educated professional woman, you must set aside your career to support your husband’s career, and your voice in family decisions is silenced in the presence of your husband. An example of this is clearly seen when Beli does everything possible to take care of her family in history. Women marry so they can sacrifice everything they have for their husbands, but husbands are usually the opposite. It is not uncommon for Dominican men to have lovers. Having a lover as a Dominican man is also seen as a sign of prestige. Dominican men see lovers and extramarital affairs as their ‘right’, but, of course, women do not have this right. This is seen in the book that begins before marriage, since Yunior often finds himself cheating on Lola.

The book tells how Oscar’s grandfather had a lover named Lydia and this was simply acceptable. Although mothers have suffered this sexism throughout their lives, they seem to do very little to prevent their daughters from suffering exactly the same pain and pain. Mothers simply ignore the pain and sexual domination their daughters face. Even when Lola was raped, Beli did nothing to help defend Lola and protect her. This example of the book also lends itself to Dominican culture, where rape, trafficking of women and sexual abuse are not taken very seriously. In a culture that is so laden with sex for men, it is difficult to know where to draw the line of sexual harassment. Along with the idea of sexual harassment is domestic violence; In the Dominican Republic, domestic violence is due to the overtly aggressive behaviour that these men have come to embrace. You cannot be sure how many Dominican women are abused by their husbands each year because of the lack of information about the abuse, even; According to the Index of Social Institutions and Gender, it is estimated that ‘up to a third of women have suffered physical violence at the hands of their husbands or other men and half of the victims did not receive help’. Through weak laws in the Dominican system, it is difficult to bring a case of domestic violence to the judicial system, and men often go unpunished. Throughout the book, the emphasis is placed on beauty and sex, but it becomes evident at the end of the book, that the important facets of Dominican culture become a lethal mixture. People like Oscar who do not fit into these cultural norms are criticized for not fitting in, and as in the book they died as a result of trying to fit in. Understanding how gender roles and society play in the book, allows a better understanding of the characters and the decisions they made. Each character in the book struggled to be the best he could be according to Dominican standards, while trying to achieve his own happiness and personal identity. It becomes clear that their culture is so deeply intertwined in their lives that even when they move to a new country, they cannot be separated from the culture in which they were born. After reading the book, it becomes clear that the gender roles imposed on these men and women were destructive and degrading. The book revolves around the culture and the effects it had on the characters and it seems that Junot Díaz has highlighted to his readers some of the implications of unbalanced gender roles.

Works Cited

  1. Brown, Isabel Zakrzewski. Culture and customs of the Dominican Republic. Westport, Conn: Greenwood, 1999. Print. Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007. Print.
01 February 2021

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