Laura, of “notorious virginity,” seeks primacy and independence, but finds herself constrained by Braggioni’s forwardness and privilege. Taken for granted by her students and hemmed in by Braggioni’s sexual advances, she fears she will become a prisoner akin to Mrs. Braggioni. Misogyny on the part of her comrades means that Laura is seen more for her looks than her loyalty to the Zapatistas and other left-wing workers, foiling her attempts at attaining equality for all. “Flowering Judas” shows how misogyny—both culturally and on the individual personal level—creates a harmful environment in which women are not considered for their actions as much as they are for their looks.
Laura’s individuality is second to her sexuality in the eyes of Braggioni, and she feels herself becoming something less than human while she’s around him. Braggioni even admits that all women are the same to him. After staring at Laura’s breasts and speaking of her eyes, Braggioni tells her that “One woman is really as good as another for me, in the dark.” This dehumanizing behavior is typical for Braggioni, and he acts as though he is paying her compliments when he forgives her for being a “gringa” or “gringita,” a disparaging term for a white woman in Latin America or Spain. This is the lack of respect and the emphasis on feminine sexuality that a culture of misogyny has wrought.
Braggioni makes it further clear that he thinks of all women as the same when he talks of trying to drown himself for the love of a girl in his youth, something he says he has made every other woman since then pay for. This is hatred of an entire gender that belies how Braggioni thinks of himself as a romantic troubadour, “a judge of women,” or savvy seducer of young girls. Forced to fend off Braggioni nightly, Laura has been worn down. This constant intrusion disgusts her, even as she must depend on his money. Misogyny gains a great deal of its power from making women dependent on men, or dismissing their capabilities, just as Braggioni does here.
Laura is contrasted with the long-suffering Mrs. Braggioni, who fights for the welfare of women who work in cigarette factories but feels ruined by her marriage. Mrs. Braggioni retains the spark of progressive zeal that has completely left her husband, and so she works in picket lines and gives speeches. However, she cannot “be brought to acknowledge the benefits of true liberty.” Given the overarching structures of misogyny that imprison her, such freedom seems impossible, if not absurd. Braggioni waves off discussion of his wife by calling her an “instinctively virtuous woman” and says if she weren’t, he would lock her up. The suggestion that a woman can only be virtuous or else expect imprisonment demonstrates gross misogyny on his part. But it is also something that Mrs. Braggioni has become accustomed to, and thus she cannot understand Laura’s expectation of something better. And yet, Mrs. Braggioni appears to have something like love for her philandering husband, even as she cries at home constantly and laments her fate, which alarms Laura. Laura fears for her independence, which Braggioni has already taken steps to hamper. Mrs. Braggioni is the kind of woman that Laura dreads becoming, little more than prop for men.
Outside of her interactions with Braggioni, Laura’s gender hinders her mission in Mexico more generally, and she feels unsafe as she carries out her daily meetings and visits with prisoners. This reflects the specialized and limiting role misogyny forces women to abide by. Laura wants to be more than her sexuality or gender, but even men who share her political ends, like the Polish agitator, hope “to exploit what he believes is her secret sentimental preference for him,” while the Romanian agitator “lies to her with an air of ingenuous candor, as if he were good friend and confidant.” It is clear that no woman can be anything other than a woman in the eyes of the story’s men.
Laura feel unsafe at night, sure that she will be killed or mutilated. Her fear has almost become a part of her. Misogyny is partly the enforced threat of violence, and it is certain that any of these horrific ends really could happen to her. As a foreigner, Laura is something of a celebrity in town, but the locals can’t understand what she’s doing in Mexico, so she essentially becomes a subject of gossip or seen a prize to be won, as does the young Zapata soldier who tries to lift her out of her horse’s saddle, but only succeeds in scaring the horse. The irony is that Laura is experienced on a horse, likely more so than this would-be “rude folk hero.” The Zapata soldier goes on to declare his love for Laura and ignores her capability, just another would-be-suitor blind to Laura as anything but a woman. His childishness is underscored when Laura thinks to herself that she should send him a box of crayons.
The limitations placed on a young girl abroad in Mexico are painfully apparent in the story, as again and again, the brilliant and sensitive Laura is reduced to her gender. Braggioni benefits from misogyny, both with his wife and Laura, whom he continues to pursue despite her lack of interest in him. Laura, meanwhile, has been left exhausted and has come to question herself due to the many barriers to her revolutionary work, which includes the very threat of danger she feels crossing the street. Unable to be accepted as a full comrade rather than an object of (often lascivious) attention, she feels her freedoms dissipating. In “Flowering Judas,” Porter draws a vivid portrait of a woman being denied all that she deserves even as she soldiers on, with which Porter communicates the reality of misogyny, and how any one woman risks being dragged down by the narrow definition of what a woman can say, do, or be. Like many women prized only for their beauty, locals like Braggioni, completely overlook her mind or spirit.
Misogyny and Femininity ThemeTracker
Misogyny and Femininity Quotes in Flowering Judas
Laura, who haunts the markets listening to the ballad singers, and stops every day to hear the blind boy playing his reed-flute in Sixteenth of September Street, listens to Braggioni with pitiless courtesy, because she dares not smile at his miserable performance. Nobody dares to smile at him. Braggioni is cruel to everyone, with a kind of specialized insolence, but he is so vain of his talents, and so sensitive to slights, it would require a cruelty and vanity greater than his own to lay a finger on the vast cureless wound of his self-esteem. It would require courage, too, for it is dangerous to offend him, and nobody has this courage. Braggioni loves himself with such tenderness and amplitude and eternal charity that his followers—for he is a leader of men, a skilled revolutionist, and his skin has been punctured in honorable warfare—warm themselves in the reflected glow, and say to each other: “He has a real nobility, a love of humanity raised above mere personal affections.”
“I am disappointed in everything as it comes. Everything." He shakes his head. "You, poor thing, you will be disappointed too. You are born for it. We are more alike than you realize in some things. Wait and see. Some day you will remember what I have told you, you will know that Braggioni was your friend.”
“If you will throw him one little flower, he will sing another song or two and go away.”
She is not at home in the world. Every day she teaches children who remain strangers to her, though she loves their tender round hands and their charming opportunist savagery. She knocks at unfamiliar doors not knowing whether a friend or a stranger shall answer, and even if a known face emerges from the sour gloom of that unknown interior, still it is the face of a stranger. No matter what this stranger says to her, nor what her message to him, the very cells of her flesh reject knowledge and kinship in one monotonous word. No. No. No. She draws her strength from this one holy talismanic word which does not suffer her to be led into evil.
There will be two independent processions, starting from either end of town and they will march until they meet, and the rest depends…” He asks her to oil and load his pistols. Standing up, he unbuckles his ammunition belt, and spreads it laden across her knees. Laura sits with the shells slipping through the cleaning cloth dipped in oil, and he says again he cannot understand why she works so hard for the revolutionary idea unless she loves some man who is in it.