The Issue Of Oppression In The Secret Life Of Bees And The Help

Kanye West, one of the most influential artists in rap music, may not always express popular political views. However, West does have a statement towards oppression which others may agree upon: “All these walls that keep us from loving each other as one family or one race – racism, religion, where we grew up, whatever, class, socioeconomic – what makes us be so selfish and prideful, what keeps us from wanting to help the next man, what makes us be so focused on a personal legacy as opposed to the entire legacy of a race.” West is depicting how metaphorically “walls” of race, religion, or class is separating our society, and how our race makes us self centered and prideful. The only thing keeping us from helping others or loving others is the barrier of our race and our selfish focus on our personal legacy. Rather than, the legacy of our century or race. Nevertheless, racism and oppression is still present throughout our society today, approximately 60 years later. The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd’s fictional book, and “The Help” Tate Taylor’s historic, dramatic and romantic movie, depicts the different forms of oppression in the American South during the 1960’s.

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There is an array of oppression that comes in many forms, including racism and sexism. When May died suddenly, a police officer came to the calendar sisters house to investigate her death. The officer shows more interest in the fact that a white young lady like Lily is staying with three African American women. As he questions Lily, the officer “He smiles and puts his gigantic hand on Lily’s head like we were two white people with a secret understanding”. Kidd deliberately wanted the audience to feel uncomfortable by this interaction between Lily and the officer. The descriptive language used, helped the audience have a perception of the situation. The adjective of “gigantic hand” made Lily and the audience feel uncomfortable and overpowered. The officer might’ve reminded Lily of T. Ray and his controllability over others. Lily was acting naive towards the officer because he abruptly told her to get her out of the house because she’s staying with “colored people”. The officer is clearly the common white man in the 1960’s. The “secret understanding” depicts how whites have a certain understanding that the whites are above the African Americans in society. The officer is prejudice and racist towards the calendar sisters, the police officer is questioning Lily more than the tragic death of May. This type of oppression is still seen in today’s society. It’s harmful towards our society because there is a certain perception towards a certain group or society, and the stereotype or prejudice against them is often difficult to change. Especially the African Americans, they’ve been faced with racism since they arrived in North America in 1619. Nearly, 345 years later the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimntaion based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Many people in the society of 2019 haven’t accepted African Americans who’ve been part of America’s history since it first became a country. An additional type of oppression presented in The Secret Life of Bees is sexism. Lily had to live with her sexist and doubtful father. Lily is not your usual 1960’s teenage girl, she is insightful and determined to have a future as a writer. Mrs. Henry Lily’s teacher told her “Lily could be a professor or a writer”. This triggered a lightbulb to go off in Lily’s head. Mrs. Henry lent Lily her private books in the summer. T.Ray, Lily’s father is greatly opposed to women having a college education and believes in the “stay at home life.” If Lily as much as opened a book around T. Ray he would exclaim “Who do you think you are, Julius Shakespeare?”. This illustrates the irony of Lily, a fourteen year old, is smarter than T. Ray. Lily is being oppressed by her own father and is scared to correct a minimalistic mistake that would end up in a punitive punishment. Sexism has torn the courage and self esteem from Lily, and she struggles to regain a mindset of “I can do anything, if I put my mind to it.” Sexism is still seen throughout our society today. The gender role and expectations stereotype are still set in society. But, the present society today has taken a considerable step forward in disposing the benchmark gender stereotypes and expectations.

“The Help” directed by Tate Taylor, set during 1963 in Jackson, Mississpii is told from three first-person perspectives of Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson, and Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan.Throughout the prominent white households, African American women are the backbone of Jackson, Mississippi and throughout numerous households in the United States at the time. “The Help” is the reference to housemaids are the reason many white families were kept bound together. Housemaids did majority of the work in the house, raised families children, and knew the children they raised better than the ones she had back at home. Skeeter is an anew writer waiting for her debut. Skeeter is tired of being underestimated, and doesn’t want to live up to the stereotype of a woman who is supposed to marry a southern man and have children with him. Skeeter also wants the world to know what it really is like being a housemaid in a segregated community in the 1960’s. A scene in “The Help” that proves segregation and discrimnation is when Minny needs to desperately use the bathroom, but it’s storming vigorously outside. Ms. Walters, Hilly’s mother told Minny she could use the bathroom inside. But Hilly opposes strongly to that idea she explains “Oh, for crying out loud. It’s just a little rain. She can go get an umbrella up in William’s study!” Minny fakley accepts the fact that she can’t use the bathroom inside. Minny said she was going to get Ms. Walters and Hilly some tea. But seconds later, is in the bathroom Minny is taking care of her business. Hilly quickly realizes what is going on. Hilly angrily expresses “And just what are you doing?” Minny’s eyes narrow. She flushes the unused toilet. Hilly beats on the door. Minny slams down the toilet lid to further antagonize Hilly. “Get off of my toilet! You are fired, Minny Jackson!”. A simple everyday task that is opposed in a house because of the color of your skin is straight up discrimnation and racism. Minny didn’t even get the chance to use the toilet, but she still flushes it to antagonize Hilly. This shows the confident and bold side of Minny. Many housemaids at the time wouldn’t have the confidence to do this and that made them prone to getting kicked around more. This proves that it isn’t possible to live in a world without stereotypes and racism. Ms. Walters didn’t mind Minny using the bathroom inside, but there is still a fraction of people like Hilly in today’s society. The situation released Minny from a strain she’d been under her whole life. Nobody would hire Minny besides Celia Foote is Jackson, Missippii’s raised poor girl. Celia hires Minny because she doesn’t know how to cook and wants to impress her husband. Sexism is shown throughout the film. Skeeter is not the usual feminine figure in Jackson, Mississippi. After her successful debut of her book “The Help”, Skeeter got backfire from her boyfriend Stewart. Skeeter wrote the domestic columns in the newspaper which he was fine with, but on the other hand stewart let go of Skeeter because she destroyed their relationship. Accordingly, Skeeter was getting involved in social justice. This exhibits the sexism women faced in the 1960’s. Skeeter was driven by the fact that nobody had ever written a novel about the perspective of the segregated community and life was like. Other women could find sexism something to bow down to and find no way out. But, Skeeter diversified from the pack and wanted AFrican Americans stories to be heard.

Kanye West has a statement towards oppression which states the reason we’re so self centered. “All these walls that keep us from loving each other as one family or one race – racism, religion, where we grew up, whatever, class, socioeconomic – what makes us be so selfish and prideful, what keeps us from wanting to help the next man, what makes us be so focused on a personal legacy as opposed to the entire legacy of a race.” Even though the history of oppression in America is greatly negative than it is positive. Society today has improved lives affected by racism or sexism. Our global community is getting diverse day by day. People are moving past the fact of color of your skin, and moving to what’s on the inside is what matters.

16 August 2021

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