Women and Commodities Essay

Pages: 4 (1498 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

The narrator suggests that Strephon could be happy if only he could "learn to think like me, / and bless his ravishst Sight to see / such order from confusion sprung, / Such gaudy Tulips rais'd from Dung" (Swift 141-144). The narrator is advocating a kind of willful ignorance regarding the role of women in society by suggesting that one should simply appreciate pretty things without bothering to question where they come from or how they are made (with a further demotion of women in the implicit claim that they are merely pretty things to be looked at in the first place). Thus, not only does Swift's poem engage in the commodification of women, but it actually serves as an argument against challenging this process of commodification by suggesting that anyone who investigates the assumptions upon which patriarchy rely is doomed to a life of unhappiness.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Essay on Women and Commodities in Both Assignment

The opposing ideological work done by either poem is seen most clearly in who is ultimately punished. In "The Lady's Dressing Room," Strephon is punished for investigating what actually goes in to producing the commodified "beauty" of women, so the poem is clearly working to support and reinforce the dominant power structure which relies on the subjugation of women through a nominal kind of "respect" that really only values women for the visual pleasure they can provide to men. In "Goblin Market," on the other hand, Laura is punished for engaging in a marketplace that relies solely on the commodification of women and their bodies. Laura loses all agency and power when she does this, because by allowing herself to be commodified and traded, she begins a process of disintegration that saps her energy and keeps her from being able to do anything. The only reason she is saved is due to Lizzie's intervention, who is rewarded for challenging the dominance of the goblin men both by suggesting that she has a right to engage with them commercially as an equal by using money instead of her own body, and further by claiming that the goblin men have no authority or right to dictate where she chooses to take the things she buys. Thus, Lizzie does not only retain authority over her own body, but she stakes a claim for herself in the marketplace that has as much authority as any goblin man.

Although Jonathan Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room" and Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" both deal with the commodification of women, the poems could not be more different in terms of the ideological positions supported. Swift's text serves to reinforce and justify the (still) dominant patriarchal hegemony which attempts to commodify women and control their bodies by constraining the socially acceptable roles available to them. The poem treats a woman like a product, and the majority of the text is simply a list of what goes into making that product. The main character is ultimately punished for his curiosity, and the narrator suggests that ignorance really is bliss, because understanding what goes into maintaining this perverted social order will ultimately lead one to unhappiness and discontentment. Rossetti's "Goblin Market," on the other hand, directly challenges this commodification of women by demonstrating how allowing one's body to be used as a means of commerce ultimately serves to rob one of agency. Laura is punished for participating in this form of social control, and is only saved by Lizzie, who is critical and brave enough to directly confront the patriarchal dominance represented by the goblin men. Thus, comparing these two poems reveals the way in which literature may either serve to reinforce control and social authoritarianism, or else confront it in a noble and altogether revolutionary fashion. In the end, one may read Swift's text as the same kind of sycophantic propaganda used today to glorify the rich and powerful by suggesting that "success" is the highest ideal regardless of the means by which it is achieved, whereas Rossetti's poem is representative of the only kind of cultural production that is ultimately worthwhile, because it serves to dismantle preexisting methods of control and liberates the oppressed from outdated, ignorant, and destructive beliefs.

Works Cited

Rosetti, Christina. "Goblin Market." Loudlit. Loudlit.org, n.d. Web. 24 Oct 2011.


Swift, Jonathan. "The Lad'ys Dressing Room." Rutgers University. Rutgers, n.d. Web. 24 Oct

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