Black Panther – Hidden Messages and Why You Probably Should Know about the Oliphant

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La Chanson de Roland  – 11th C French Poem

When I read La Chanson de Roland, as usual, I was lost in a whirlwind of unfamiliarity and confusion over why this middle age French poem matters. While the protagonist of the poem needed to blow an ivory tusk (Oliphant) for the French king Charlemagne to come to his army’s rescue, simply because the Moors, (their opponents) had gained an upper hand over the French army, Roland delayed blowing the Oliphant due to his pride and disillusionment of singlehanded victory over the Moors. Roland finally blew the Oliphant but, rather unfortunately, he does it too late. He loses his own life and his army with him.

The Oliphant is a horn made from the ivory obtained from predominantly male elephants found in Southern Africa and parts of Asia. By extension, the Oliphant represents masculine fervor, conquest, and hegemony. This post will dwell mainly on the Oliphant’s representation of male dominance and how it is overturned in the Black Panther movie.

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Roland and the Oliphant in La Chanson de Roland

The political tyranny of Killmonger leads to a division of sorts that leaves Wakanda in two divisive wedges. Though Okoye swears her allegiance to the throne, she ends up fighting on the side of T’challa though technically Killmonger is the current king (occupant of the throne Okoye swears loyalty to).  This act on the part of Okoye causes a battle that resides on sexual factions. The battle is between the male and female sexes in the kingdom. Okoye, the commander in chief of Wakanda’s army of women, Shuri and Nakia, all women, against the insurgents, Killmonger and his new aide and right-hand man, Wakabi, and the army of cloth wearing men fighters.

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Okoye and the army of Women

The scene with the summoning of the kingdom’s store of rhinos which Wakabi gathers by blowing the Oliphant is representative of the exertion of masculine control. Of all the animals to opt for defense, why the rhino? The rhino is sturdy, towering and strong, it is symbolic of what a warrior should be. The rhino is the personification of Wakabi and is summoned to help the men’s army win the battle yet, the irony of the situation leaves viewers shocked because the indefatigable rhino suddenly freezes in his tracks when it sees Okoye. In addition, it licks her face, crumbles at her gaze and finally bows at her feet. Needless to say, this freezing of the rhino is vaguely reminiscent of how T’challa freezes in the opening scenes when he sees Nakia. These parallel scenes show a lack or at least an exaggeration of the seemingly impermeable nature of the male species.

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Wakabi and the Rhino both bow to Okoye

A few comparisons between Roland of La Chanson de Roland and Black Panther’s Wakabi are –

*In both situations, the male actors needed to blow an Oliphant to save their situations.

*Both actors, ie Wakabi and Roland display some disillusionment, Wakabi’s at the mere thought that Wakanda needed a new King with more revolutionary ideas and Roland’s, the fact that he thought he could conquer the Moors single-handedly without the help of Charlemagne the French king.

*Both scenes in both works of art revolve around war or battle and actually take place on a battlefield.

*Both characters blowing the Oliphants are male.

*The Oliphant is used as a means to an end, in both scenarios, the horn is blown as a recourse.

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Book Review, Bell Hooks – Feminism Is for Everybody (Work in Progress)

Capture d_écran 2018-05-24 à 4.57.59 PM Dr. Negash assigned this book in our 7000 writing class and like any flustered grad student, I decided that I’d read an article or two about it and read the real book later. The one thing that made me come back to this book outside of course my professor’s swearing by it, is the confusion that surrounds this concept of Feminism. Whether you are indifferent, repulsed or simply really wondering what these Feminists are about, it comes as no surprise to me especially because recently, I shift uncomfortably in my seat when I read posts online while feeling increasingly anxious to call myself Feminist or engage in the distracting conversation that surrounds Feminism. Reading this book has been both an enriching and tedious experience and this post’s main aim is to demystify Feminism with the help of this amazing writer, Bell Hooks, while attempting to keep readers on track and constantly reminded of the concept’s core motivations ( the elimination of sexism ) as well as the introduction of all the many fundamental and motivating factors for the naissance of this movement. (In plain language, it is a lot to take in, but while reading, keep main ideas in mind, main ideas like the fact that Feminsim isn’t anti-male therefore trends like #MenAreTrash do not equal Feminism) I will highlight the core ideas Bell Hooks presents based on the sequence they’re presented in, in addition to connecting theory with examples from society.

What is the Aim of Feminism?

Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression ;the movement isn’t anti- male, rather it addresses sexism; which implies that all of us, male and female have been socialized to accept sexist thought and action from birth. As a consequence, females can be just as sexist as men; the patriarchy’s other synonym is institutionalized sexism;- a system that males benefit more from because of the assumption that they are superior to females and should rule over us….

In feminism, men will find the hope of their release from the patriarchy that holds them bondage too. A vision of mutuality is the ethos that must shape our interactions. – Paraphrase from Bell Hooks

For the purposes of this post, I’d state that this conversation revolves mainly around the theme of heterosexual relationships.

Half the time, the connotation of oppression is this vision of a person in chains. The truth though, is that oppression can still happen in subtle ways through the policing of bodies and the indirect or direct compulsion placed on individuals to conform to what is ‘right’ or ‘acceptable’. Your dressing as a female can be policed, your personal sexual reproductive choices can be policed, your conduct at work or at home can be policed, examples are endless. Women can be as sexist as men and this manifests itself in a myriad of ways including your baby brother or another male waiting for you to get home to clean a sink full of plates because mom or some female told him it was your job/role to do ‘those’ things around the house simply because you are the female. Faux feminists present essentially as women who are sexist knowingly or unknowingly. Those women that feed into the idea of pleasing the patriarchy. My mom has told me over and over again about the need to exercise, not for the sake of my health, but because men don’t like hanging bellies. 🙂 My mom has my interests at heart but is unknowingly placing it in my mind that my fitness goals need to be out of the need to look appealing. To who though? Though men have their unique struggles, this post is mainly to demystify Feminism because often, it is seen as an anti-male train and remains daunting and antagonistic in the eyes of society. Bell Hooks suggests that we all become feminists, not literally label ourselves feminist while actively engaging but to at least have a basic understanding that though idealistic, aiming for the elimination of sexism can help everyone including men find the hope of their release from the oppressive tag of ‘masculinity‘.

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Feminists are not angry

 

That type of oppressive masculinity that tells men not to cry because they are men. Needless to say, crying is a human phenomenon. That norm that suggests to women to feel less ‘feminine’ if they are unable to cook three square meals or that voice that tells a man who does most ‘womanly duties’ around the house that he isn’t man enough or the other perception he has of not being ‘man enough’ if he’s unable to financially provide or if rather, unfortunately, his partner earns more than he does.

Sexism conditions us to act in certain ways only due to our sex and from that point, it places oppressive expectations such as the ones mentioned which limits individuality or in this specific context, favors one sex ( the male sex ) over the female sex.

Summary

Feminism isn’t anti male; it is rather anti – sexism

Feminism wants to eliminate sexism which is the lifeblood of the patriarchy

The patriarchy’s other name is institutionalized sexism

The patriarchy favors one sex over the other; which means both sexes are affected by sexism yet one (male) benefits more from the system than the other

If we all become feminist aka subscribe to the idea of eliminating sexism, men can also benefit through the elimination of their own unique and imposed struggles that society thrusts upon them ie not being ‘men enough’