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Issues Of Gender Essay

1316 words - 5 pages

From the beginning of recorded history women have endured struggles and conflicts whenever they attempt to be in control of decisions that effected their lives. Men were the strong leaders and warriors, while women were the homemakers. This division of labor in family and community resulted in men having control over women’s actions. In history there were exceptional women, like Susan B. Anthony or Cleopatra, who were strong enough to disregard the cultural norms of their time and make their own decisions; but this paper is about the other girls and women. The ones who were raised to think and act in a manner that was acceptable to the dominant male in the family, whether it was a father, husband, brother, or uncle. The common theme of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “Declaration of Sentiments” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and “Boys and Girls” by Alice Munro is the constant struggle of women to balance what is expected of them with their own expectations.
In her short story, Gilman addresses the issue of women not being allowed to make their own decisions. The speaker is suffering from postpartum depression, which in 1892 was not a recognizable illness. The speaker’s husband, John, is a physician, and he disregards what his wife tells him when making decisions regarding her care. The speaker’s response is “perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster” (130 Gilman). John’s solution is to rent a house for the summer and isolate her from the rest of the world. He thinks she needs rest, but she thinks that her condition will get better if she had “less opposition and more society and stimulus” (131 Gilman). John says that only she can help herself out of this state, she must use her “will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with [her]” (136 Gilman). The speaker tells her husband that she isn’t getting any better. He brushes this off and says that she should trust him because he’s a physician and he knows what he’s doing. The speaker attempts to meet her husband’s expectations, but she feels trapped when she cannot get him to listen. So she transfers these feelings to a women she sees behind the wallpaper. Eventually she tears off the wallpaper to free the women and herself; and John finds her crawling around the room. Since the speaker could not get responses to her words, she found actions that could not be ignored.
Stanton illustrated the reality of being a woman in 1898 by writing a declaration patterned after the Declaration of Independence. In a perceptibly similar format she lists facts to support her assertion that “the history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward women…” (287 Stanton) She shows that women are tired of continually being told what to do by men. When it comes to laws and politics, men have taken away women’s voice. If a woman is married, she is “in the eye of the law, civilly dead” (288 Stanton). A woman has no...

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