Schindler’s List: A Feminist’s POV


Charismatic, successful, and honorable—these descriptions would roll off of anyone’s tongue when asked to describe Oskar Schindler; and indubitably, throughout the film “Schindler’s List,” he has demonstrated a clear mastery of them all. But why is it that his character has always solely been defined by his successes, and nothing else? Why is it that his faults are so easily dismissed?

Throughout the film, we see Oskar’s reputation transition from being an exceptional businessperson to a righteous fellow, responsible for saving the lives of hundreds, while risking his own. He is considered a hero for placing the common good above greed, selfishness, and all of the other deadly sins known to man—or in other words, he is considered a hero for following through with his moral obligations.

And while I do agree that noble work should be rewarded, I do not agree that it overshadows all of his faults. I do not agree that the hero figurines we tend to idolize are anything close to being god-like, and that their intentions should not be questioned because they are somehow untouchable. Reputable characters are human, nonetheless, and fall victim to human nature, though that does not serve as an excuse for irrational behavior. Oskar’s questionable actions weren’t much thought of, as everyone simply accepted that he was a “player”—as if it is normal for powerful men to exert dominance over women, and expect them to fill submissive roles.

As if.

Power and masculinity—both vastly different ideas, but have somehow been intertwined in popular culture since the beginning of man. Often, the common perception is that to increase one is to increase another, like these traits are so simple that some sort of mathematical proportionality or principle can define them.

After all, fame, fortune, and females—that’s what masculinity is, right?

As if.

This twisted perception on what it means to be a man has been affecting the dynamic of gender roles, and subsequently the lives of both men and women for centuries across the globe. And is not just men who feel that they must exert power over women, and treat them like they are disposable in order to prove the extent of their power, but women have been making themselves small and disposable in order to cater to, and be desired by these powerful personas these men put on, thus affecting their lives socially, economically, and politically. This sociological tendency was shown throughout the entire film, but became particularly evident when Oscar kissed lines of eager, anticipating women on his birthday. But it is when he forcibly kissed the Jewish woman when his feeling of entitlement crossed a line—it was utterly revolting. The young girl simply stood there, taken aback, and waited for it to pass, illustrating how helpless and insignificant he made her feel. Later on, we see that Amon Goeth tries to justify this act of Oskar’s to the SS, claiming that if he had seen how beautiful the woman was, he would understand—as if a woman’s appearance should dictate how men treat her.

As if.

Now, this movie takes place during WWII, and while I do agree that those were different times, I do not agree that that alone serves as justification for such mistreatment and twisted norms. I do not agree that we should silence ourselves from speaking out about past injustices because things are allegedly different now. Because the truth of the matter is that if all of my peers were not sick to their stomachs at the sight of Oskar kissing more women than I can count within the course of 30 seconds, or when he forcibly leeched his mouth onto a petrified Jewish lady’s, or let his wife leave because he couldn’t commit to his marriage, but rather dismiss the entire thing as typical male behaviour—then it is evident that we haven’t overcome the past. It is evident that we are not even close.

Using power to belittle women and treat them like submissive subjects is not what defines a man, but it is rather the opposite; if one dreams solely of fame, fortune, and females in order to higher his prestige, his masculinity is as fragile as it comes.

So, Oskar Schindler—a great man? Depends on who’s asking.


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4 thoughts on “Schindler’s List: A Feminist’s POV

  1. Riya,

    I loved the passion in your blog! It is evident throughout the entire blog that feminism is a topic that you believe in. Assuming you identify as a feminist, that is something we have in common. I also wrote a blog about feminism for our free choice blog. you made really good connections between the movie and your point, you wove them in nicely and the movie always supported your arguments.

    The only thing I would change would be when you wrote “wrong,” i would have wrote “as if.” This would just help the over all flow and create that sense of unity in your piece. You did this with your “fame, fortune, and females,” and would have been awesome to see carried over into this aspect as well.

    Overall, you had a very interesting blog and it was a pleasure to read. I look forward to reading more from you!


  2. Dear Riya,

    Your empowering, passionate voice was undeniably ubiquitous in this piece. All of the points you made were strong and connected resulting in a piece with immaculate flow. Furthermore, I absolutely admired the way in which you were able to analyze and exemplify the themes that, though vital to acknowledge, are often overlooked. Specifically, I enjoyed the way you phrased gender roles as “sociological tendencies”, universally accepted for some and rejected for others. Your grammar and syntax were also flawless, and I really was intrigued by your repetition and alliterations. All of these things you managed to make work in tandem masterfully.

    In terms of improvement, there is not really much I can say. You might have perhaps considered adding a few more images for the purpose of keeping the blog post enticing, but that is a minor change in comparison to the beauty of the piece itself.

    Thank you for an exceptional piece, and I look forward to more of your writing.

    Warm regards,

  3. Dear Ayisha and Alexis,

    Thank you both so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog post. This piece in particular reflects how I view the world, and it means a great deal to me that you both enjoyed it.

    Alexis, I also read your previous blog – an amazing piece of work! I love that blog writing has identified a commonality between us both, and I am glad we both find interest in each other’s perspectives on the matter. I’m glad that you felt my passion shone through my piece. As well as I took it upon myself to go back and edit my blog as per your suggestion – thank you so much for helping my writing. You helped me unify and establish a strong parallel structure within my piece.

    Ayisha, your commenting is always so thoughtful, and I greatly appreciate it. I’m glad you found my piece coherent – that is a quality I have learned from you! Thank you for recognizing my passion, also. As a close friend, you know my thought process better than anyone else, and I am glad I lived up to your expectations of me on paper. In my next blog, I will aim to have more images to make my piece more enticing. Thank you for your suggestion, I agree with it completely.

    Again, thank you ladies for commenting on this piece. It truly means a lot to me. I hope to improve and have more follow-up feedback from you both later on in the semester. Thanks again!

    With love,
    Riya Rai

  4. there is I guess a lot, which can be debated about the character of Oskar Schindler. He was a very complicated person, who used the excisting power structures to get what he wanted. Maybe it is telling, that after the war, he was never able to again open another business. As if, the time of the Third Reich is the only time in which his style seems to have worked. Interestingly, he kept a side, that only few people knew, and that was, that he was empathetic in a time where empathy was truly lacking.
    What I find interesting about your review is, the way you describe the kiss with the jewish woman who gave him the cake. It seems almost as if you want to see her petrified from being abused by a male, because that’s what males all to often do and have done. Has it maybe ever occured to you, that in a time of no empathy, she was taken aback with someone who showed her empathy? Someone who showed any form of feeling other than hate to people at that time so viciously persecuted?

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