First, a strong example of women’s roles in the late 1800’s is represented in the document “The Husband Commandments” by H. De Marsan. It gives a fairly accurate portrayal of how men looked down upon women and how they had a very strict lifestyle given by their husbands in order to be the ideal wife that their husband wished for them to be. For example, it states that women should “Honour Thy Husband and Obey Him”. Women’s roles in this time period were very strict and the wives had no room for error.
However, an example from the late 1800’s on what women’s roles used to be would be from “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Which is about effect of confinement on the narrator’s mental health, and her descent into psychosis, and with nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. It shows that women and men did not have equal parts in relationships. The story illustrates the male dominated society and relationship and how it was customary for men to assume that their gender knew what, when, how, and why to do things.
For example when the narrator says, “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression–a slight hysterical tendency– what is one to do? ” (Gilman) Throughout the beginning of the story, the narrator tends to buy into the idea that the man is always right and makes excuses for her feelings and his actions and words. Honesty is one of the most important characteristics a relationship should have.
In this case, the narrator feels that she can not tell him how she feels so as not to upset him and make him mad. When the woman does attempt to have a discussion with John, she ends up crying and not being able to express herself. John treats her like a child as men believed that crying is something that women do and is something that shows weakness. The narrator eventually goes against common culture in that era and goes insane. Men thought the feminist movement was weak and useless, while comparatively, men like John thought their wives were weak and useless outside the home.
This example shows how lowly men thought of their wives and how many wives were often treated like children. Next, an example of a short story that depicts women in the mid 1900’s was The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Flannery O’Connor. In this story the image of women being pure and innocent is emphasized greatly. O’Connor gives the image that the perfect woman is pure and divine and has very high expectations. There is a lot of religious symbolism in this story making the holiness of women in the mid 1900’s much higher. Also, occurring in the 1950’s is the poem by Anne Sexton, Self in 1958.
This poem depicts women’s roles as the perfect ‘plastic doll’ expectation. Sexton makes the role of women seem to have to be a perfect role no matter what. It displays the way many relationships tended to be in the 1950’s. Her relationship with her spouse is one of pretension and not genuine love. She is imprisoned in ‘solid’ by their noise. The word ‘solid’ denotes lack of flexibility in their relationship and in the woman‘s life. The ‘noise’ referring to the loud commands from her husband not giving her freedom at all. The woman is living a life that is small and has limited possibilities.
Additionally, Raising A Son – With Men on the Fringes by Robyn Marks, Is a portrayal of how the average woman is supposed to raise her children and be expected to maintain the expected behavior that women have. It also shows how women’s roles have changed and that men can be on the ‘fringes’ and get away with it. However if the woman in this story wanted to act like the man, it would have been looked down upon and since she was a black woman she was facing many more struggles then a white single mother would. This reveals how women can’t back out of their responsibilities and have more pressure.
On the other hand, in the modern day, women‘s roles are very superficial and based on the perfect image. An example of this is based on “Seventeen” magazine’s January 2009 issue, it displays the perfect figure by a picture of Beyonce. It has big labels saying ‘Pretty Looks for You’ and ‘Get Your Best Body’. This shows that today in the modern day women are just basically expected to have the perfect body and looks. Another example would be in the magazine “Mother & Baby,” there is always a picture of the mother and baby and very rarely the father is mentioned in these magazines.
This portrays the image that women are supposed to be the primary caretaker of children even if they are working. In conclusion, women’s power, roles and societal expectations have changed since the 1880’s in some ways but are incredibly same in others. In comparison to the 1880’s women are still given a ‘perfect’ image in media and by others and have high expectations in society to live up to them. Also, their roles as caretaker are still highly enforced and are expected to be the mother and go through the struggles as the mother mostly by herself and the father does not have a caretaker expectation.
The thing that has changed is the power women have now compared to then. Women have more power to be a single mother when the man they are with is not a loving man. However, this is a huge deal of work and responsibility for women. Women have the capability that they didn’t have in the 1880’s to stand up for themselves, work and be individualists. Therefore in conclusion, women still have the same roles and similar societal expectations but their power in society has changed drastically. Matlis
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Eldenburg, L. G.,