As human beings, the need for power is as strong as a need for love or belonging. In The Naked Citadel by Susan Faludi the students grab this power from women or even other students. They are stripped down to nothing and the only way they see to regain this power is through dominating the opposite gender and even violently taking control of their own gender. Through Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi the male government and male figures in their lives oppress the women, and they ultimately find refuge in a literature class that break down these gender barriers.
In both articles the constant search for true identity of a broken down human being forces, whether good or bad, a search of an important form of power. Having a woman cadet was seen as a challenge to The Citadel’s firm traditions. One of the cadets said- “she would be destroying a long and proud tradition”(Faludi 82). The Citadel’s administration and cadets simply follow the traditions and reject her. According to their beliefs, strength and bravery is men’s territory. They thought they were teaching men to protect women, because women needed protection from the rest of the world.
But in reality they were teaching them to hold power over women, to beat them and overreact if these women didn’t do exactly what they wanted. One of the cadets admits, “the great majority of guys here are very misogynistic…all they talk about is how girls are pigs and sluts” (Faludi 82). This showcases the student’s need for domination, and over-empowering of anything they feel is beneath them. Their egos are also under attack. The President of the Citadel admits if women were enrolled there would be “a different form of intimidation- not wanting to be embarrassed in front of a girl”(Faludi 83).
Bringing women in will further these hidden insecurities of the cadets, and it is seen as a threat to the men’s power. Many cadets find the need to be in control. If they are no longer able to have this control over women, they will find the next most vulnerable persons to dominate: underclassmen. These ‘newbies’ are tortured in many different ways. “Much of the violence was aimed at star freshman athletes”(Faludi 84). These are the cadet’s that upperclassman were threatened by.
They had talent and power and because of the vicious cycle the upperclassmen needed to take this away from them. Not only do they take power over underclassmen but they take power over a fellow man that is deemed inferior: Black men. A cadet “wearing Klan-like costumes left a charred paper cross in the room of a black cadet”(Faludi 86). The performances of abuse in the academy are a result of the pressures applied by our modern day society. Many of the men struggle through it and become defenders of the system that hurt them.
This need for power comes from the lack of confidence these men have in themselves. They are blinded by what they think they are being prepared for and can’t see what’s really going on. In truth, “The Citadel has no connection with the United States Armed Forces”(Faludi 82). They are being trained for discipline and wartime mentality, and then just thrown into the real world. They come out with expectations that all will respect them, and that they have power over everyone. But in truth the world takes them and a graduate “may find himself busing tables at Wendy’s”(Faludi 85).
The women in Reading Lolita In Tehran have many restrictions to their lives that it seems they have no control over. At the University where the author worked, there was a obvious discrimination against women, “female students were getting penalized for running up the stairs when they were late for classes, for laughing in the hallways, for talking to members of the opposite sex”(Nafisi 252). The Iranian government and social system has beaten down women, and forced thoughts of domination of men and the submission of women.
One of Nafisi’s at home students was “jailed for five years because of her affiliation with a dissident religious organization”(Nafisi 255). Women didn’t even have the right to stand up and speak for something they believe in without getting severely punished. The very way these Iranian women dressed were a sign of the power that was being held over them. The women are dressed “in according to the law of the land, dressed in black robes and head scarves, covered except the ovals of their faces and their hands” (Nafisi 248).
The nation tries to specifically degrade women to prove male dominance in an extreme way. Even though they were allowed an education, “the regime that ruled them had tried to make their personal identities and histories irrelevant. They were never free of the regime’s definition of them as Muslim women”(Nafisi 265). It is a classic example of abuse of power and how men in society use this power to dominate over the ‘lesser’ being. The women that Nafisi teach however find a way to gain a little bit of this power back.
Nafisi begins this process by letting the women take off their robes and allowing them to wear causal everyday clothing, she explains, “gradually each one gained an outline and a shape becoming her own inimitable self” (450). By stripping the women of what dominates them, she opens a world of individuality and power over oneself, allowing the women to come in touch with new aspects of their own lives. They find this power in the books that they read and discuss as well. Nafisi picked books that would specifically relate to the current situation of the women in the room.
She admits, “those of us living in the Islamic Republic of Iran grasped both the tragedy and absurdity of the cruelty to which we were subjected”(Nafisi 262). By opening up her home, and having such an intimate environment even if only once a week, the women gained something that they had never had before. Nafisi acknowledges “our class was shaped within this context, in an attempt to escape the gaze of a blind censor for a few hours each week…we rediscovered that we were also living, breathing human beings”(264). Though not gained through societal ways, the women did conquer power ever week for a few hours.
The expedition for identity can lead to an arduous fight for individuality. Constant oppression of the opposite gender forced the women of this society into a never-ending battle towards equality. While the men in the Citadel’s need for identity was so great, they inflicted unwanted power over those deemed lower than the men. Both articles grasp this power, if only for a short time and not always in the right way. However, there is no true lasting solution for either party, yet they find identity through power for a short amount of time.
Faludi, Susan. “The Naked Citadel.” The New Humanities Reader. 4th ed. Bost: Wadsworth, 2012. 77-109. Print. Nafisi, Azar. “Selections From Reading Lolita in Tehran.” The New Humanities Reader. 4th ed. Bost: Wadsworth, 2012. 247-267. Print.