Pygmalion PR

“Pygmalion” written by George Bernard Shaw is a book based off the Ancient Greek myth about the artist who fell in love with his own sculpture. While reading this play and watching the movie adaptation I often found myself comparing the main antagonist Henry Higgins to Torvald Helmer in “A Dolls House” written by Henrick Ibsen. This comparison brought up many questions such as How do men treat women in society?  These questions and the thoughts they provoked caused me to think about my own place in society and my own feelings about the gender war.

Torvald Helmer and Henry Higgins are men that have many of the same qualities. The first similarity is their own superiority complex, they both believe that men are far above the likes of women. For example, in “A Dolls House” Torvald does not trust Nora with any business because he believes her to be incapable.  An example of this is when he says,

“I would not be a true man if your feminine helplessness did not make you doubly attractive in my eyes” (p.95).

Similarly, Henry also sees women as inferior to men, for example when he says,

“women might as well be blocks of wood” (p.28)

objectifying Eliza. The second comparison is how they addressed their female companions. Henry always called Eliza by her first name even though the proper etiquette was to say Mrs. Doolittle. Instead, by calling her Eliza, he showed his disrespect and how he viewed her as a piece of art to be studied rather than a human. Similarly, in “a Dolls House” Torvald’s pet names for Nora objectified her and showed how Torvald viewed her as a child that needed to be controlled.  Lastly the scariest comparison between the two characters was how they treated women like dolls. The phrase of the protagonist women being treated like a doll came up in both books. In “Pygmalion” Mrs. Higgins says to Henry and Pickering

You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll” (p.35).

This reoccurring concept in both plays raised many questions and personal feelings.

I previously used the word “scary” to describe the similarity of women being treated like dolls by men because the concept scares me. Seeing this idea appear in two plays consecutively really brought my attention to it. How are women treated by men in society? Both plays were set in the past, so it is easy to dismiss the sexism as an “old problem” or something that is irrelevant in today’s world. But I don’t think that is the case. Everywhere I go little examples of sexism are presented right in front of me whether it’s a remark made under their breath, or a questionable social media post. I think that “scary” can be applied to how men treat women in all of society’ s past and present. This question raised many personal feelings and thoughts on how this affects me. As a woman, I sadly wasn’t surprised by this. This dehumanization is a constant battle I must face every day for the rest of my life. These plays really solidified that fact.

Side note: obviously not all men are like this please don’t get offended or come at me for this post.