Thursday, February 03, 2005

On the story "The Summer Solstice"

"In spite of all the pseudo-scientific gossip about marriage by capture and the cave-man beating the cave-woman with a club, it may be noted that as soon as feminism became a fashionable cry, it was insisted that human civilisation in its first stage had been a matriarchy. Apparently it was the cave-woman who carried the club." -G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man


The story "The Summer Solstice" (which we were assigned to read in school), written by the late Nick Joaquin, is about a woman who, through an ancient pagan festival called Tadtarin, finds her "true self" and basically turns into a dominatrix, finally succeeding in making her husband crawl on the ground and kiss her feet in adoration. You may read the whole appalling thing here.

The main premise of the story is that in the beginning society was matriarchal, that the female was the dominant gender, that men used to adore and worship women, and that this dominance never really disappeared in women but was merely repressed by the emergence of the "chauvinist" Judeo-Christian society. This is shown through the way two of the male characters in the story are portrayed. One is a wife-beater who suddenly becomes superstitiously afraid of his wife after she returned from the Tadtarin utterly deranged (oh wait, was I supposed to say "empowered"? *sniggers*). The other is the husband of the main character, whose "chauvinism" is supposed to be manifested by his not taking his wife seriously, and ends up paying for it dearly by being subjected to her sudden expertise in psychological torture.

Well, frankly, if I were to choose between an insufferably indifferent and macho ego-centric and the kind of lunatic "alpha-female" portrayed in the story to reign all-powerful in the world, I'd take the ego-centric any time; at least it would be a saner empire. But really, I'd rather choose neither, because both of them are highly unpleasant persons I'd rather not meet, and because in my mind this "battle of the sexes" is no more intelligible, necessary, or beneficial than, say, the "quarrel of science and religion". The truth is, the confused male chauvinists of the past collided with the confused female chauvanists of the present and left utter chauvanist confusion in their wake. I suppose that's why the story's called "The Summer Solstice"; the longest, hottest day of the year, after all, is the perfect time to lose one's head.

Speaking of losing one's head, I find it weird that St. John the Baptist was depicted as the symbol of "male pride" in the story. As far as I know, St. John never spoke about gender dominance. He never spoke about gender at all. He was not known (in his very short life) to have treated women badly. Of course, he did make Herod Antipas' wife/niece mad. Herodias (who in turn became the symbol of the Tadtarin women in the story) was mad at John for condemning her wedding with her uncle, and wanted him executed, though Herod merely imprisoned him. In due time (after effectively tricking her husband with a pedophiliac lure), she did eventually get her wish: St. John's head on a platter...

Thank God for the Judeo-Christian society.