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Stereotyping Genders from Everyday Use Essay

Stereotyping men and women have always been an issue in literature and media but it should not be so if one accepts that all people are different and it is this difference that affects the social perception being expressed in the different forms of literature and media. In a speech made by Professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, she explained that stereotyping studies have become too focused on the achievement levels of men and women but never really gave in-depth analysis to why men seem to have more “success” in popular fields such as authorship in literature, engineering, etc.

Professor Wax argues that men and women possess differences that explain this circumstance such as their views on competition, ambition and aggression. Women, she believes, “possess a greater attraction to and interest in people rather than things, a relative reluctance to focus on career advancement at the expense of domestic pursuits, and a stronger desire to achieve life balance” compared to men. (Silvester 2008) This can be seen in the short story, “Everyday Use” written by Alice Walker in 1973. The story portrays three very different women within one nuclear family.

Mama is big-boned and strong enough to do work that men are fit to physically do. Maggie is timid and insecure about many things probably because she had always been the practical and not worldly sister. Dee, on the other hand, is very prone to social pressures and is more assertive than most women. These three different characters show that women live beyond what others are suggesting as stereotypical. Alice Walker is very vivid in her descriptions of these women. She used Mama as a narrator to show her strength of character and make many descriptions of how the two daughters had grown up to become who they are now.

Maggie’s dialogues also gave many insights to the family’s heritage while Dee’s behavior created a very vivid picture of how she had succumbed to the media hype and commercialization of women being worldly. The exchanges of thoughts and words among the three women made the literature vibrant and technically excellent in its character depictions. Dee obviously had given in to the social pressure of being a modern woman who seemingly knew more about the world through her education and disdain for domestic life. She wanted to be the modern woman who never let limits stand in her way.

Maggie, on the other hand, gave in to becoming just a simple shadow behind her sister because she looked up to her stronger personality. Mama, on the other hand, did not let anything stand in the way of things that had be done. She was practical and accepting of her circumstances and was content to do what was necessary to survive without minding what Dee thought of as domestic or backward. In creating intense mother figures in fiction or recalling them in memoir, African American writers such as Alice Walker have paid tribute to the beauty, struggles and sorrows of black motherhood.

(Davis 2005) The theme of how these three women view the world and fight back at its pressures are still very relevant to today’s society simply because it showed that people, even within one gender type and blood type, can be different. People may or may not be affected by what the world throws at them through the different forms of media and social pressures that come their way. It is difference in perspective and personality that expresses character whether or not it is stereotypical of any gender. References Davis, Bernadette.

“Remembering mama: images of mothers, good, bad, real or fictive abound in our literary tradition. ” May-June 2005. Black Issues Book Review. 14 March 2009 <http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m0HST/is_3_7/ai_n13721824> Silvester, Tim. “Stereotype Threat: Fact or Fiction? ” 25 November, 2008. Docket Online. 14 March 2009 <http://media. www. docketonline. com/media/storage/paper744/news/2008/11/25/News/ Stereotype. Threat. Fact. Or. Fiction-3565977. shtml> Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use. ” Robert DiYanni, ed. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 743-749.


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