The Woman Question: The Oppressed Other Half

1867 words - 7 pages

Evelyn Cunningham once said, “Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors.” For thousands of years women have been oppressed, not in the bondage of slavery but in the bondage that comes from a lack of education and a dependence on men for their livelihood. Women have been subjected to scrutiny and ostracization, belittling and disparaging comments, and even at times they have been feared by men. Women themselves have even taken on the beliefs that they require a man in their life to be taken care of and have a satisfying life although some women and even some men have seen that the differences between the sexes is purely physical. This oppression, as well as the enlightenment of some, is well noted in many literary works. Literature has often been an arena for the examination of the “woman question,” as it was termed in the Victorian age. Four works that examine the role or view of women in society are John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women, T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and Carol Ann Duffy’s “Medusa.” Although each work examines a side of the woman question in its own way with a variety of views on the question, all of the works examine the fear that women incite in men, the idea that women are dependent on men, and the idea that women are separate from men in some way and each piece works to show that there is actually an interdependence between men and women that is often not expressed.
Women have often been viewed as separate from men based on the physical differences between the sexes. Early in the women’s movement in England, Mill wrote his book The Subjection of Women which discusses the separation and subordination of women to men how society views this as natural. Mill asserts that this separation and domination is based on an idea of two natures in people, “…in regard to the dominion of men over women is usually based, namely that there are different natures among mankind, free natures, and slave natures…” (Mill, 1061). This idea that men and women are born of two different natures was not new at that time but Mill described this difference in the same ways whites described blacks in that day. In most instances the different natures would have been described as a domestic and servile nature versus a domineering and sovereign nature. This separation of the sexes can also be seen in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own when she describes the differences between the two campuses. The men’s campus is grand and well funded and the meal that is served is like a feast. The women’s campus is overgrown, in poor condition, struggling to survive financially, and the meal served was a very plain pauper’s meal. This shows that the women’s education was not valued by the men. A woman’s education granted merely as a courtesy and was not considered a legitimate means for women to get ahead in life. The women’s college was...

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