by J.M. Coetzee
Disgrace Men and Masculinity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Abuse: he was waiting for the word. Spoken in a voice quivering with righteousness. What does she see, when she looks at him, that keeps her at such a pitch of anger? A shark among the helpless little fishies? Or does she have another vision: of a great thick-boned male bearing down on a girl-child, a huge hand stifling her cries? How absurd! Then he remembers: they were gathered here yesterday in this same room, and she was before them, Melanie, who barely comes to his shoulder. Unequal: how can he deny that? (6.70)
OK, so just to get things straight, here we get David thinking about a woman thinking about things from his male perspective. Got it? Good. This moment is revealing of gender-guided biases from both sexes. David thinks that it is ridiculous for a woman to play on any pre-conceived notions of what men do to women in a situation like this – that is, until he realizes that Melanie has spoken to them already. What is interesting about this scene is the way he envisions Farodia picturing him as a "shark" among "fishies" – a ruthless, powerful predator that goes after someone small, helpless, and weak.
"I thought I would indulge myself. But there is more to it than that. One wants to leave something behind. Or at least a man wants to leave something behind. It's easier for a woman."
"Why is it easier for a woman?"
"Easier, I mean, to produce something with a life of its own."
"Doesn't being a father count?"
"Being a father…I can't help feeling that, by comparison with being a mother, being a father is a rather abstract business." (7.37-41)
What David seems to be trying to say is, men pretty much go around spreading their seed, while women carry a child. Being a father, from his point of view, is as simple as having sex; mothers get more credit for producing "something with a life of its own." It seems that David wants to produce his opera as a way of creating and carrying something to term that he can call his own – something that he nurtured every step of the way.
The men will watch the newspapers, listen to the gossip. They will read that they are being sought for robbery and assault and nothing else. It will dawn on them that over the body of the woman silence is being drawn like a blanket. Too ashamed, they will say to each other, too ashamed to tell, and they will chuckle luxuriously, recollecting their exploit. Is Lucy prepared to concede them that victory? (13.38)
Here's another example of the way that male/female oppositions play out in Disgrace. David imagines the satisfaction that the intruders will get from not being charged with rape – and also from beating Lucy into a silent, shameful submission.