The Changing Role of Women in Society

Category: Feminism, Women
Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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Changing Role of Women in Society How was the status of woman and their rights represented in western society in the 1600 to early 20th century? For centuries, woman and their rights have been oppressed by the dominance of man. There has been continued struggle for the recognition of woman’s cultural roles and achievements, and for their social and political rights. It was very much a patriarchal society for woman, which hindered or prevented woman from realizing their productive and creative possibilities.

These ideas where seen in the play Merchant of Venice written by William Shakespeare in c. 1598 when Portia and Nerissa have to dress up as men so that they can enter the court room to help Antonio because woman are not allowed to enter courtrooms along with many other public places men had deemed unbefitting for woman. Portia says, “And wear my dagger with a braver grace and speak between the change of man and boy with a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps into a manly stride, and speak of frays. Another example of this in the Merchant of Venice is when Portia is talking to Nerissa about the unfairness of her fathers will, she says “ I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father. ” We see this kind of representation of woman again, half a century later, from my source ‘The Law’s Resolutions of Woman’s Rights, 1632. An example of this can be found in the section ‘Sect. viii. that the husband that is his own. It states, “The wife hath therein no seisin at all.

If anything when he is married be given him, he taketh it by himself distinctly to himself,” and that “the very goods which a man giveth to his wife are still his own: her chain, her bracelets, her apparel, are all the good-man’s goods, … A wife how gallent soever she be, glistereth but in the riches of her husband, as the moon hath no light but it is the sun’s…” We see evidence of this treatment of woman again in this source under the Sect. ix. That which the wide hath is the husband’s. It states “For thus it is, if before marriage the woman were possessed of horses, neat, sheep, corn, wool, money, plate, nd jewels, all manner of moveable substance is presently by conjunction the husband’s. ” Moving forward in time another century, we see in my source British Woman’s Emancipation since the Renaissance, in the early 1800s. It quotes from The Times, in response to the proposal of a select committee to be set up to consider how to adapt a portion of the Strangers’ Gallery for Ladies’ Gallery in the new House of Commons, The Times opined: “We should like to see a list of ladies who have sought this mode of killing their time… As to their presence civilizing debate, it is all fudge.

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The most violent scene we ever witnessed was in the House of Lords, in broad day, when the benches were filled ladies in all the imposing attractions of full dress… blood would have been shed if it has still been custom to wear swords… If ladies of England desire this novel mode of getting rid of their ennui, let them be indulged, but let us not be so absurd as to expect and influence on the character of the debate. The female listeners may be vulgarize; the male orators will not be refined. ” Finally, I reach the period of the Second World War in the early twentieth century.

This led to a visual advertisement labeled, Rosie the Riveter. I used a commentary by Jessica Valenti called Rosie the Riveter leaves a strong legacy to find information from this poster. It explains the background of the advertisement stating, “The poster commissioned to help recruit women to work during the Second World War. US women had always worked, of course, but the wartime get-to-work propaganda was specifically geared towards white middle-class women, and during the war the female workforce grew by 6. million. ” Though this was a huge change from what woman were used to, we still see stereotypical thinking toward the woman, for example, in one of the advertisements released it says, “Can you use an electric mixer? If so, then you can learn to operate a drill. ” I believe that women, without question, have continually had to struggle for recognition under the dominance of man not just in the 1600s to early 20th century but also for centuries earlier.

They have repeatedly been deprived of the inalienable right to vote, receive an adequate education, and to have the chance to develop to their fullest human potential. I believe that the view society has on woman is almost a bit of a paradox. My reasoning for this is that because society believes women are less intelligent than men, and therefore are not capable of being involved in jobs the rest of society does, they tell woman that they are not allowed to receive a proper education like the rest of society.

This means that regardless of the natural intelligence of a woman, they will never reach the same level of intelligence as men because they are not being allowed an adequate education so that they can develop to their full human potential. I believe that the events that occurred in the 18th century were pivotal in the future direction modern feminist groups would take. Though the events that took place in the 1800s was the first hint of change we saw, it took another century and a huge worldwide event, World War 2, to really get the ball rolling in terms of feminist lobbying and creating real long-term change.

In my opinion, the reason women and their rights in western society had practically no significant change for majority of the 400 years I have studied is because women had never before received the opportunity to have a go at jobs that had always been for men like we saw during the second World War. I believe this is the reason for women to suddenly begin an immense push in women’s rights and equality in the last 100 years. What initiated any change in the status of woman and their rights in western society?

As seen in my first question, during World War II we began to see significant a shift in the role of woman in western society from housewife to working class. When the men returned from war they began to realise that things were changing, the woman had begun to have some experience in management and factories, which are all predominantly male dominated jobs. From that point on we saw a lot of tension between men and woman which then started rapid change in the status of woman in contemporary western society.

A source that was release two decades later that I found had a part to play in the change that had begun during the mid-1900s was Betty Freidan’s nonfiction book, Feminine Mystique, published in 1963. In 1957, Freiden was asked to conduct a survey on the woman at her 15th anniversary with her Smith College classmates. From this survey she found that many of her old classmates were unhappy with their lives as housewives, which led to her to write the book.

The Feminine Mystique was written from surveys and interviews done by Freiden and is widely regarded as one of the main factors involved in sparking the ‘second wave’ feminism in the United States. She states that ‘the editorial decisions concerning woman’s magazines were being made mostly by men, who insisted on stories and articles that showed woman as either happy housewives or unhappy, neurotic careerists, thus creating the ‘feminine mystic’ – the idea that woman were naturally fulfilled by devoting their lives to being housewives and mothers. I found that was had a huge role in the ‘second wave’ as they call it, which began to initiate huge change in the status of woman and their rights in contemporary western society was the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race, religion, and national origin. The word ‘sex’ was included very last minute.

Section 703 (a) made it unlawful for an employer to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges or employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. " Another 2 years on, in 1966, 28 women and men attending the Third National Conference of the Commission on the Status of Women founded an organization in Washington, D. C. The organization called the National Organization of Women works to secure political, professional, and educational equality for woman.

In a statement released by Betty Freiden, author of Feminine Mystique and one of the founders of The National Organization of Woman’s, says that “The National Organization of Woman is dedicated to the preposition that women, first and foremost, are human beings, who, like all other people in our society, must have the chance to develop their fullest human potential. We believe that woman can achieve such equality only by accepting to the full the challenges and responsibilities they share with all other people in our society as part of the decision-making mainstream of American political, conomic and social life. ” In the past century, society has begun to see an inevitable shift in the roles of women in contemporary western society. Significant events have taken place in the past 50 years, which have shaped the direction of modern feminism today. I found that there were hundreds of noteworthy events that were involved in initiating change in the status of women and their rights in western. In saying this there were definitely two time periods which brought to light the inequalities in the treatment of women, these two time periods are called first-wave and second-wave feminism.

We see in my evidence provided that second-wave feminism was significantly more effective that first-wave feminism. In my opinion, this is because the majority of the first-wave feminists were more moderate and conservative than the radical, revolutionary feminists of the second-wave feminism. I don’t believe that we can expect change by sitting idle and waiting for some miracle. It’s all very well if you know that there is a problem, but knowing is not enough, you must take action.

And in this case, radical action is in order as the views society hold on women have been around for not just centuries, but millenniums! Second-wave feminism had a bigger impact than first-wave feminism because they did not take no for an answer, they acted, and I believe that’s what turned things around. How are woman in contemporary western society portrayed and do they have equal opportunities and freedom as the rest of society? In the past century we have seen a dramatic change in the treatment of women in western society.

We see evidence of this in the non-fiction book The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, published in 1991. Its basic premise is that though women have gained increased social power and prominence post feminism, an ‘iron-maiden,’ has been created which she describes as an intrinsically unattainable standard of beauty that is then used to punish women physically and psychologically for their failure to achieve and conform to it. In the introduction, Wolf offers the following analyses: “During the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the astest-growing specialty... Pornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal... More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers. ”

We see further evidence of this objectification of women through the Tui Brewery advertisements. They continue to portray women as a piece of meat, for example, in one of their TV advertisements they show men outwitting scantily clad women brewers in order to steal beer. Spokeswoman Leonie Morris told Newstalk that the overwhelming message was that the only value women had was as sexual objects. Speaking to the Herald, she said: "They are also saying that women are stupid ... the men are real dorks, but they still manage to outwit the women. It also promotes a form of mate ship that dismisses women's concerns, and trivialises relationships with women. " In the source, Understanding the Differences Between Men and Women, written by Michael G. Conner, he explains that men and women are both equal and different. He states, “When I say equal, I mean that men and women have a right to equal opportunity and protection under the law. The fact that people in this country are assured these rights does not negate my observation that men and women are at least as different psychologically as they are physically. He explains the obvious differences in size, weight, shape, and anatomy of men and women, but also the less obvious differences. For example, “Women on the other hand have four times as many brain cells (neurons) connecting the right side and left side of their brain. This latter finding provides physical evidence that supports the observation that men rely easily and more heavily on the left side of their brain to solve on problem one-step at a time. Women have more efficient access to both sides of their brain and therefore greater use of the right side of their brain. In the article Gender Roles Change at Work and Home by Katherine Lewis, its explains the converging gender roles of men and women, with statistics like, “In 1992, a survey found 80 percent of men under 29 years old wanted jobs with more responsibility, versus 72 percent of young women. The desire for more responsibility decreased both genders in the 1997 survey, (to 61 percent for men and 54 percent for women) and then went up in 2002 to 66 percent for men and 56 percent for women. The article also stated, “"In comparing 1992 with 2008, two emerging trends are striking: among Millenials (under 29 years old), women are just as likely as men to want jobs with greater responsibility," the report said. "Today, there is no difference between young women with and without children in their desire to move to jobs with more responsibility. " In my opinion, though there has been significant change in the treatment of women in contemporary western society, women are still not being given equal opportunities and freedom as the rest of society.

I rest this stance on the way that the media is repeatedly portraying women. I believe that the struggles of women have not disappeared, but simply shifted to another area. After the first and second-wave feminism women now have practically no inequality in terms of social power and prominence, in fact more and more often, we are seeing women shown as dominant to men in higher positions than their male counterparts, for example Hilary Clinton. But women now have a new problem they are trying to overcome.

Modern day media has taken advantage of women’s vulnerability and has created a ‘unattainable’ standard of beauty that women must forever strive to reach but will realistically be forever be in disappointment as shown in the Tui Brewery advertisements. Sadly, I do not think they will ever be able to shake off this portrayal and reach complete equality with men. My reasoning for this is that men and women are very different, both physically and mentally.

Men are born physically stronger than women which leads them to be involved in more labour orientated work whereas women are more fragile meaning they tend to lean towards less labor orientated jobs. In terms of their mental and psychological differences, women are generally more emotional than men and also men tend to use the left side of there brain more while women use both equally making men a lot more hands on when there is a problem. I do not think women will ever be able to reach equality with men because they are biologically different.

They can change the way they are treated but they will never be able to change the way they are portrayed. Genderism is the belief or attitude that one sex is inferior, less competent, or valuable than the other. At the start of this assessment I made a statement that the status of woman in western society has changed substantially since Shakespeare’s time. After all of the research I have done on the matter of Genderism in western society from the 1600’s up to present day I have decided that yes, the status of women in western society has changed substantially since Shakespeare’s time.

Women no longer have to worry about struggling for recognition of their cultural roles and achievements. There are now women running the largest firms in the world, we even had a female Prime Minister! Though women’s rights have evolved significantly in the past four centuries in terms of social power and prominence, many new obstacles for women in our contemporary society have arose that I don’t think any amount of lobbying by women’s rights groups can solve.

Society has created an unattainable standard of beauty that for majority of women, will leave them disheartened and depressed. I do not believe that women will be able to shake off the way they are being portrayed by society because it is unavoidable. I do believe my statement is correct in saying that the status of women in western society has changed substantially since Shakespeare’s times. However, contemporary society does prove that they still have a very long way to go if they hope to succeed in reaching equality, if they ever will.

Bibliography Conner MG (2010), Understanding the Difference Between Men and Women, http://www. oregoncounseling. org/ArticlesPapers/Documents/DifferencesMenWomen. htm Freiden B (1957), Feminine Mystique, W. W. Norton and Co. (1963), New York Freiden B (1966), Statement of Purpose, National Organization of Woman, Unknown Jones N (2012), Ban Tui Ads? Yeah, right, New Zealand Herald (2012), Auckland Lewis K (2011), Gender Roles Change at Work and Home, http://workingmoms. about. com/od/workingmomsresearch/a/GenderRoles. htm

Shakespeare W (c 1596), The Merchant of Venice, Oxford (1984), Oxford Unknown (1632), The Law’s Resolutions of Women’s Rights, http://www. wwnorton. com/college/english/nael/17century/topic_1/laws. htm Unknown (1964), Civil Rights Act Title VII, United States Congress, Washington Valenti J (2011), Rosie the Riveter leaves a strong legacy, The Guardian (2011), London Wojtczak H (c 1800), British Woman’s Emancipation since the Renaissance, http://www. historyofwomen. org/ Wolf N (1991), The Beauty Myth, William Morrow and Company (1991), London

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