Gender 101 in Blood Wedding by Federico García Lorca
by Edyka Chilomé
Gender in Context:
An 80-year old play set in Europe, Blood Wedding deals with topics important to contemporary discussions of gender. In this play we witness the struggles of women whose fates are dependent on their husband's. We also witness the violence that comes with strict cultural expectations of gender that are connected to honor, pride, health, and economy. The mother of the groom is protective of her son and passionate about her expectations of “a good woman” who will help her son and her create a more prosperous life. Throughout the play we learn that a good woman is one who works hard without complaint, does not speak much, has many children, confines and isolates her life to submissively serve her husband and children, and does not go out to the street. In contrast, the expectations of men in the play are to be assertive, mobile, proud, aggressive, and even violent. The groom is advised to correct any “uppity or standoffish” behavior from his bride by giving her “a hug that hurts her a bit, un abrazo fuerte [a strong embrace], a bite, and then a gentle kiss. Que ella no pueda disgustarse, [Not to annoy her,] just to make her feel that you are the man, el macho, el amo, el que manda [the master, the one who gives her the orders]”. Men are also celebrated for being a “Man’s of man” or rather being open and assertive with their sexuality, a contrast to the honor and value attached to the bride's virginity. What similarities or differences do we see in the gender norms presented in Blood Wedding and in our present day lives? Do you agree with these gender norms? Why?
Gender as Power:
Blood Wedding is a story set in a patriarchal reality where traditional gender norms are expected to be followed. In this context men hold a culturally accepted form of power inside and outside the home. As a result we see the women in Blood Wedding, although adhering and even policing these norms, ultimately suffering because of them. The mother of the groom is left a poor widow with no children due to violence at the hands of men. Leonardo's wife is also left heartbroken and eventually widowed with young children due to her husband's promiscuity (a male characteristic that is celebrated throughout the play). And finally, the bride is left feeling like there is no acknowledgement of her own desires, feelings, and experience stating “Dark clouds. A cold wind here inside me. Doesn’t everyone feel it?” Recognizing the power disparity between women and men as well as the fate of her own mother, the bride comes to state “Haven’t I done a man’s work? I wish I was one”. Why would the bride want to be a man? In what ways does the bride challenge "traditional" stereotypes of how women should behave in a patriarchal society? Why might the other woman characters, primarily the groom's mother, support gender norms that hurt women?
Gender as Construct:
Throughout the play we see that gender is taught by family, friends, and cultural traditions that explain what it means to be “a good woman” or a “good man”. This socialization often influences and or in many cases, such as with the bride in Blood Wedding, contradicts our own desires and preferences. In present day, the growing visibility of trans and gender nonconforming people have sparked contemporary conversations on how gender is not fixed, permanent, or limited to a man/woman binary. Instead we are beginning to acknowledge that gender is fluid in its presentation, expression, and meaning. What does gender look like in your life? In what ways do you or people in your community challenge traditional gender norms like the ones presented in Blood Wedding?