Women during this time period lived in a very patriarchal society and had to deal with issues such as social expectation of women, racial discrimination, and the advancement of education for women. Women during this time period wanted equality, they wanted to be known for more than just the submissive house wife or the domestic house life. The universal mentality of women was that they were equal to men and that anything a man can do women were capable of doing as well.
Women wanted to be free to express themselves as they see fit and without judgment or backlash. They wanted to present society with realistic views of women of this period. Women felt be raided by men, and rightfully so.
The previous era of women dealt with having no opinion outside that of their husband’s or had completely been silenced by their male counterpart. Women like Charlotte Gilman used stories like The Yellow Wallpaper to speak out against the patriarchal society that dominated the times.
The Yellow Wallpaper.” presents the repression of a patriarchal society through the threats of her husband and psychological treatment. Gilman writes “I am absolutely forbidden to work, personally, I disagree with their ideas” (Gilman, 2008, p. 508, para. 12-13). She is speaking to three things with this statement to me. She is first speaking to the fact that society expects that women follow instructions given to them by men, two that women are to be seen and not heard from and three women have no control over their own minds or bodies.
Women like Gilman and Chopin are pioneers of the feminist and suffrage movement and demanded reform for social, legal and political inequalities placed on women. (Wikipedia) Their feminist approach threatened the belief system of separate circles for men and women and the romanticization of the domestic home life for women. Education and financial independence from their male counterparts is what they yearned for. Chopin not only spoke about things that directly related to women, she spoke about regional issues such as racism. In Desiree’s baby, Desiree is a woman that is so madly in love with her husband she allows herself to be at his emotional beckoning, she allows her happiness to hinge on the emotions of his. Her husband discovers that the child that has made him so happy is of Slave blood and he can’t look past it. He assumes that his bloodline is so pure that it must be the blood of his wife that has caused his name and ultimately his family great shame. It’s not until later that he discovers a letter from his mother thanking God for all that she has and the love of her husband even though she is from the blood of slaves.
This to me speaks volumes, I think Chopin uses this piece of work to bring to light the racial issues that were clearly happening in her region. Chopin felt impelled to speak out against social issues as one of the stronger female voices in the moment. She also speaks to how a woman should be finically independent. Desiree is so dependent on her husband that when she’s told to leave, she has no choice but to go back to living with her mother. In the story she goes from having nothing to being given everything because of who her husband is back to having nothing when her marriage ends. This is a perfect example as to why women like Chopin and Gilman fought for the individuality of women.
Society’s perspective during this time was that women were not valuable outside their domestic roles and that men were superior to women. The women perspective differs greatly, Women felt as stated previously that anything a man can do women were also capable of doing. This perspective is what caused women to band together and start the feminist movement in the first place. Women were expected to write about emotional topics and things that had to do with their experiences around the house while men wrote about War and political issues. Women felt trapped and needed away to express themselves, and in doing so they found a platform to stand on. With strong voices like Chopin and Gilman leading the way, women began to advance their lives and contributions outside the home into powerful careers we see today. The road for women have not being easy but I would say it’s been worth it.
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