Slut-shaming, Mansplaining, and Murder… Oh My!

Feminism. It’s an eight-letter word that is the source of many internet fights across Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. For some reason, this simple word sends many people into an unnecessary flying rage. However, don’t fret if you are one of the poor souls who believes that feminism is the downfall of society. If you spend your evenings browsing through the comment sections of the YouTube videos for channels such as Buzzfeed’s Ladylike, waiting to start a pointless argument, I have discovered a wonderful piece of literature catered specifically for the misogynistic dregs of the world- Othello. While Shakespeare lived in a time where women were burned for supposedly practicing witchcraft, his characters in Othello, one of the Bard’s most famous works, are notorious for filling the entire play with acts of misogyny and slut-shaming.

Not surprisingly, a play that features a woman being conspired against by a villainous cretin, only to be killed by her own husband due to his unfounded distrust of her, is problematic. Even though Desdemona, Othello’s dutiful wife, expresses her love for Othello several times during the first act of the play, Othello still chooses to trust Iago over Desdemona. When Desdemona must decide between staying in Venice or leaving with Othello when he is called to Cyprus, she declares, “let me go with him” (I. iii. 170). Furthermore, even after Desdemona leaves her home to be with Othello and endures the wrath of his mistrust and speculations, she still asks, “tell me, Emilia—/that there be women do abuse their husbands/in such gross kind” (IV. iii. 67-69). Additionally, a few lines later in the scene, Emilia outwardly asks Desdemona if she would cheat on Othello, and Desdemona responds, “no, by this heavenly light!” (IV. iii. 74). These lines make it evident that if Othello had just talked to his wife instead of speculating and calling her a “subtle whore,” multiple people wouldn’t have been murdered (IV. ii. 23).

Once again, Shakespeare has written a play filled with despicable male characters and underappreciated, abused female characters. However, I can’t blame the Bard for that one, as he obviously wasn’t exposed to many women’s liberation movements. Even then, I still feel bad for Desdemona. It is apparent that she is naïve and innocent, possibly a bit airhead-ish, and I believe that over the course of the play she is genuinely trying to have a happy marriage with Othello… until he slaps her in the face and then smothers her. The biggest takeaway from Othello is that communication is key in a relationship, and if a character is talking in numerous asides, they’re probably up to no good.

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