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Why “A Doll’s House” is still relevant today

By Jonathan Martin

“A woman cannot be herself in modern society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess female conduct from a male perspective.”

The above was written by Henrik Ibsen as he worked on his play, “A Doll’s House.” When I read the quote – prior to my initial reading of the play – my male perspective slightly scoffed.

“Hyperbole,” I thought.

Less than two weeks from opening night, it’s safe to say I’ve changed my mind. Ibsen wrote “A Doll’s House” after a dear friend defrauded a debtor to pay for a life-saving trip to Italy with her sickly husband. The main character of “A Doll’s House,” Nora Helmer, commits fraud for a loan and attempts to justify her actions by explaining pure intentions to her confronting debtor, only to be told about the law’s disinterest in motives.

Ibsen saw injustice in the 1870s; in 2016, injustice and judicial inequality still exists.

We’ve made progress, but the discussion of gender in society has never been more prominent. Right now, there are 362 men in the House of Representatives and only 76 women. The Senate boasts an even lower percentage with 83 men and 17 women.

Our country’s laws are being created and debated by overwhelmingly male groups. How does the lack of gender equality at the governmental level affect the other 50 percent of the population?

As a man, I cannot hope to truly the know the answer. I suspect it varies on an individual basis, but the fact remains: gender inequality can’t help but affect women of all backgrounds.

I believe, firmly, that God gifted people individually. Generally, men and women think, act and express themselves in different ways. There is no fairness or equality in governing from the viewpoint of a single gender. And I’d say there’s no fairness or equality in governing from a single point of view, regardless of attributes.

While the political landscape remains heavily unbalanced, Ibsen’s observation remains: how can a woman act and express herself under the male perspective of law and judgement?

To push it further, how can various ethnicities, cultures, genders and backgrounds act and express themselves under the wealthy, straight, white male perspective of the lawmakers in the U.S.?

At its core, “A Doll’s House” focuses on the struggle between the men in power and the people who live under their rule. Almost 150 years later, the struggle still rages on.

As a person whose background puts me in the societal position of power – straight, white, male, etc. – my response must be education and understanding. My role is to listen and learn from the people who are different than me, so I can learn to respect them, even if I disagree. I encourage all people, particularly students attending a diverse university like Oklahoma Christian, to do the same. Harmony and community can only exist when we listen and respect each other.

 

Jonathan Martin is a junior at Oklahoma Christian University. 

The opinions of guest columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Talon or Oklahoma Christian University. Guest opinions are presented to foster public debate on important topics and comments should be respectful and signed.

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