Feminist Criticism of Sexism -or- The Mysteries of Dallas

Laura, American 28 years old

I was working my first day at a pizza shop as a waitress. I got the orders from the first 2 tables when I was asked to go into the back to get more dough. When I walked through the back door, I was in a brothel, and my sister was laying on one of the beds, only she was about 400 pounds. (She is 170 in reality) I walked back out into the dining room of the pizza shop and found the manager. I demanded that they release my sister and when he said no, I quit my job. The manager wanted the uniform back so I stripped it off right there in front of all the customers, to which I discovered that I had on only a black bra and no panties. But I wasn't embarrassed. I felt proud. Then all the other employees stripped off their uniforms too and quit. I proudly walked into the back to ask my sister to come with me and she refused. Then, I was walking on the sidewalk (fully clothed) and it started to rain. I went into a sporting goods shop to use the phone to get a ride. I was going to call my husband when I remembered that we were divorced. So I picked up the receiver to call a friend to come get me when I realized, I had noone else to call. At this point I felt very upset and lonely. I went out of the store and continued to walk in the rain until I came to a patch of woods.

I was homeless and living in a tent there, although I did not know this until just now. There was also another tent set up with a homeless man sitting out front. It had stopped raining and the sun was shining through the trees. He told me Watch out for the little boy's dog. Immediately after I saw a blonde boy running though the woods, about 6 or 7 years old and he was being chased by a rust colored Bordeaux (breed) dog I grabbed the boy and put him in a tree behind me and faced the dog, who was snarling and foaming. I tried to calm the dog by talking calmly to it but it didn't work. When it lunged at me, I dived in to my tent, and the dog ripped the tent up around me and left. I was sitting Indian style in the mess when a woman with reddish hair showed up just then, who had a little blonde girl about 3 or 4 years old and another dog with her. with her. She told me to stop bothering her dog. I started to cry and told her I was homeless and had noone to turn to. At this point I felt hopeless and upset and extremely alienated. She took pity on me and said You poor thing, stay right here while I run to the house and get you something to eat. She turned to leave and called both children and both dogs to follow. The smaller dog, which was a yellow, Corgi type dog stopped in my lap and gave me a lick on the nose. Then the little girl who was also blonde but had curls in her hair walked to me. I thought she was the sweetest thing I had seen because of the way the sun shone through the trees and into her hair gave her a halo. She gave me a big warm hug, smiled and walked after the woman. I started to cry again. That is when I woke up.

My husband and I have been separated for about a year, but he is my best friend. I work nights as a bartender. I do not know what I feel about that dream. I am not sure what I felt about it but I woke up feeling very sad/lonely. Which is not really accurate as I moved in with my boyfriend and got full custody of my 2 children right before then.

Mr Hagen's Response; The Mysteries of Dallas -or- I Am Woman

"Between a sacred courtesan and a call girl there is the same difference between a priestess who offers holy wine and a bartender." Maryse Choisy Psychoanalysis of the Prostitute

If the text of a dream has a literary surface and depth dimensions, then the question that can be asked is where does a persons mind enter into the story of the dream? Your dream has many inter-connected literary points of entry. Your femininity is an important point where the empathic mind can enter into your imagination. For example, in the text you state, "I only had on a black bra and no panties, But I wasn't embarrassed. I felt proud." From a feminist film perspective the dream could be viewed as a "chick flick". From a literary perspective, it may be dealing with feminist criticism of alienating thought, language and the literary social realities of sexism. I'll say more about these perspectives later.

Another point of entry is to view the text via the keywords that express your sentiments, your feelings, your emotions such as "pride, pity, hopelessness, loneliness, crying (sadness, despair), alienation" and so on. A further point is that in reality you work as bartender, yet in the dream you work as a waitress. The metaphor appears to poetically read, food and drink as an entry point in understanding what drives and motivates people. This idea is further reinforced by the change from the restaurant (Pizza shop) scene to the brothel scene via the back door which provides access to the grotesque. This idea was already given voice for us by the 19th century French writer Eugene Sue.

Eugene Sue's "Mysteries of Paris" point of entry into the literary depths of the plotting of a nation, a city, a people uses the metaphor of prostitution as a vehicle of the imagination to penetrate, travel below and descend beneath the ingraciating (persona) surface rituals of society. Sue's melodramatic fiction, opens up the lurid and grotesque details of sexuality, money and deviance to our vision. As a human hyperbolic plot of the grotesque body, we are invited to see both as a spectator and as a witness the melodramatic contrasts of urban life, of civilization and its discontents. Why you place your sister into the brothel is most likely known to you and is harder for me to understand without further background information. Remember, we are told mainly by men, that for women, prostitution is the "worlds oldest profession".

The feminist point of entry that the text seems to focus on, is where you state, "At this point I felt hopeless and upset and extremely alienated." This appears to be the itinerant (travel) point of the mind, from which to poetically structure your text, your thoughts, feelings, desires, relationships and more generally the literary plot of your life. The fact that you melodramatically get to the point of hopelessness appears evident in the text. You want to call your husband, but you remember that you are divorced. You want to call a friend, then realize you have noone to call. Friends, family, the boss, no one is there for you, the social boundaries of your life have left you feeling, lonely, homeless and alienated. The American sociologist David Riesman "The Lonely Crowd" has discussed the itinerary of thoughts and feelings that are expressed in your dream. As well, the American sociologist Peter Berger "The Homeless Mind", also addresses your melodramatic and apparently tragic sense of alienation from life. 

Returning to the earlier comments about film, femininity and feminist criticism, your dream reminds me of the film Norma Ray (see video trailer). In the 1979 film, Sally Fields plays Norma Rae who is a minimum wage worker, who becomes a union activist protesting and fighting for workers rights. Fields won best actress for her role in the film that year. The award winning popular song from Norma Rae It Goes Like It Goes sung by Jennifer Warnes seems to fit the sentiment of your dream. As does the feminist anthem from the 1970's Helen Reddy's I Am Woman.

In your dream you make demands (to close the brothel, in which the Pizza shop is just a cover, a front) of your boss (the manager) who promptly denies this will happen. In protest you quit your job and strip off your clothes in-front of the customers, you appear to be making a political statement. Your co-workers support you (they take off their clothes as well) in your actions. I am uncertain why you strip and have no panties, yet are wearing a black bra? It does occur to me that you are from another generation of feminist women and movement, back in the 60's women burned there bras in poetic political protest.

The Blue Angel -or- Debbie does Dallas

The only film that I recall using the plot device of (no) panties, is Sharon Stone, in the film Basic Instinct (see film trailer). I just recalled, that a number of years ago, evidently there was an incident with Madonna using her panties on the David Letterman Show (see TV segment). It also finally occurred to me that panties as a plot device for fetishistic erotic desire was used long ago in film. The Blue Angel staring the archetypal femme fatale Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich) who sang the signature song Falling in Love Again (watch film video). One thing is for sure, sexuality is one of the oldest weapons of the mind, body and imagination used on both sides of the battle of the sexes. It also occurs to me, that your dream may also represent a feminist criticism of pornography.... You live in Dallas, an influential porn film (not made in Dallas) of the 70's was "Debbie does Dallas" starring Bambi Woods.

There is much more I probably could say. The scene with the dog, the little girl, the hug you received are all points that deserve attention. I hope that I have given you some ideas as to the nature of your dream. A last note is, that you say you ex-husband is your best friend and that you are living with your boyfriend who apparently is nowhere to be found in your dream. They therefore appear emotionally unavailable as supports for you. As for your tragic sense of life, you do have your children and children are to found in your dream, especially the little girl who appears to radiate angelic innocence. That is the real tragedy isn't it?... of the world of childhood, light and beauty and the secret grotesque and ugly dark pornographic world of adults. Love and hug your children, as much as you possibly can.


Mark H


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.