Machinal written by Sophie Treadwell in 1928 and Clit Notes written by Holly Hughes in 1996 are two plays half a century apart yet bring forth the female body upstage and center. I see Machinal bringing attention to the societal machine that takes control of the focal character, Helen, from the first act. Clit Notes shows how a woman’s body could be removed from its first society, her parental home, simply for existing in a body that refuses to fit in a patriarchal box that is designed according to its perception of what that body should be doing. Regarding the patriarchy in both texts and performances, Clit Notes and Machinal becomes a lurking evil in the background of both plays. Both have the traditional gender role whip over the female body; one as a wife and a mother, and one as a daughter.
My colonial reading of these two plays exposes the patriarchal control over the female body even though there is half a century between the two. Treadwell’s Machinal offers a nuclear family setting where the female body is abused and oppressed through the presentation on stage and in the text. As for Hughes’ Clit Notes, I will focus on her argument of gender representation and oppression on the female body from her unique, lesbian perspective.
Hughes outs misogyny and the patriarchy and took it as far as pointing the finger at the absurdity in not only society but also the medical field and politics of course. In Machinal, the only way Treadwell can fight back after witnessing many injustices as a reporter, is by showing how toxic the patriarchy is to women.
In both plays, colonizing the female body through violence and abuse be it physical, emotional, and/or psychological is the foundation these plays are built. Oppression is evident in both works. My approach to this reading and analysis will use resources regarding violence against women, colonial theory, which I will apply to the focal female characters in both plays, and the use of staging.
Patriarchal Colonization of the Female Body in Machinal and Clit Notes.
The Graduate Review, 7, 69-80.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/grad_rev/vol7/iss1/10