Women’s Struggle for Equality

My name is Angela Wilpula. I am currently in an American Literature class and have been assigned a mulitmedia project, for which I have created this blog. I have always been intrigued with the idea of the importance of women in the world and was happy to explore this idea a little more deeply within the bounds of early American Literature and bring it full circle to real life women today. My view on the topic is this: Women’s opportunities have expanded by leaps and bounds within the last 400 years or so, yet there still seems to exist a stigma toward the actual role of woman/mother/wife in our modern day society. I know that nothing is truly absolute, and every woman’s experience is different and individual to her world, but in general, I say that the struggle for recognition and respect, even equality exists today.

Three examples from early American Literature of women’s struggle for equality include: Anne Bradstreet, the Grimke sisters and Kate Chopin. The following slides show some of their writings and their contribution to this struggle.

These examples in early American Literature of the awakening of women to their worth and power in a patriarchal world are a beginning to a struggle which I believe still exists today. We often hear that it is a “man’s world.” While the opportunities available to women have expanded exponentially, the struggle which I feel exists today has shifted from the struggles of yesterday.

We live in a time when women are expected to do it all – and some do, with great sacrifice. Long gone are the days of women working outside of the home. The expectation has now grown to include success outside of as well as within the home and anything else she may involve herself. This success is quite often to be done on her own, with little outside help; while women’s roles have expanded, the role of men (generally speaking) has remained much the same.

Thanks to the modern convenience of social networking, I was able to pose a question to many of the amazing women I am acquainted with. I asked them about their experiences being mothers – some women have worked outside of the home and then transitioned to be a stay at home mom (SAHM). Some women have chosen to be a SAHM from the start of their family and still some are required and/or desire to work outside of the home as well as fulfill their roles as mother and wife. The following are some examples of their views and experiences.

Katie in Ohio says: Stay at home mom here. I feel that I am looked as lazy by some because I don’t “go to work”. I must say, I worked for many years outside of the home and feel like I work three times more now! I also feel that my husband thinks less of what I do because I don’t contribute money to our household.

Caterina in Utah says:  I am a stay at home and work at home mom, (but at one point i was stay at home only) yes people do treat you like you don’t work and like you are mooching off your husband’s paycheck and assume you sit on the couch and eat bom boms all day…. a friend of mine (male) once told me he wished he was a stay at home mom so he could have more time to read and be artistic and stuff…lol I only get to read when on the toilet (sorrounded by needy tiny onlookers) and my “artistic” time consists of cleaning up after my kids do crafts!! Now i feel like I don’t get anything done and I am depriving my kids because I am a working mom and can’t give them my attention sometimes when they need me, I do feel “that there still exists a struggle for women’s equality in what we still refer to as a man’s world”, 100%, because equality for women used to mean be able to work and do things men do, but then ON TOP OF THAT we do all the things women do (and men don’t) so it seems like equality means doing twice as much work and getting no recognition for it….. as an afterword I am a happy accomplished woman, I don’t want this to sound too depressing:)

Helen in California:  I think most people respect me for working at home with my kids. Those who don’t just don’t get it, and I ignore them 🙂

Maren in Utah:  I get asked all the time if I am going to “use my degree”. I know that they mean, “are you going to go get a teaching job”, but I plan on being a good mommy teacher when they are at home. I think that is a worthy use of my degree.

Autumn in Ohio:  I agree with a lot of what others are saying. When asked (when I was purely stay-at-home) what I did – I felt embarrassed to admit I didn’t work. It’s disgusting that I felt that way but some people just don’t understand how difficult it can be. Staying home proved to be so much harder than working that I eventually went back to work (part-time) to get a break. I want to be here to raise my kids and spend the majority of my time with them, but the stigma attached to being a stay-at-home mom can be hard. And yes, I do feel like I should be perfect in all aspects of life – keep a job, raise the kids, do the housework… even though my husband is extremely supportive I still feel like it all falls on my shoulders – and to be completely honest, most times it does. Motherhood is no joke and by far the most difficult job I’ve ever had.

Cara in Indiana:  I don’t get any negative feedback from people where I live (southern Indiana). People usually tell me their parents were one of 11 or 9 so they love the idea of big families. (Although they don’t have more than 2 themselves.) When they complain about schedules for their kids they say they don’t know how I do it. My response is: Just like them just with more people. I think that because I am confident being a Mother and not making excuses for why I stay home and am determined not to work outside of the home, people respond with respect. I don’t need to work a second less important job to feel fulfilled and drive everyone crazy. Granted my husband provides for us and that is the way we planned it. I think people in my area respect families and mothers and accept Mothers to stay at home if they choose to. C. S. Lewis said,”A housewife’s work ….is surely in reality the most important work in the world….Your job is one for which all others exist.” You need to read the whole quote to enjoy it to the fullest.

Julienna in Switzerland:  Here in Europe, where I live ( Zurich, Switzerland), it is an odd thing for mothers NOT to work besides being a mom. It is odd to have more than two kids (3 kids is a “large” family). The good thing about having a “large” family here is that people never look at you weirdly when you say that taking care of my “large” family is my full time job. Most mothers I know work, either at home or outside the home, part time. I work less than part time at home and tutor outside the home once a week because it gives me balance, I need the mental stimulation of doing something else than housekeeping and entertaining my 5, 4 and 18 mo. old (whom I adore). Having variety just makes me a better wife and mom, otherwise I get grumpy :-).

Again, every woman’s experience is her own, though, it seems that there seems to be a common general feeling that women who choose to stay at home and rear their children and be modern day homemakers are viewed differently than women who work outside of the home. To me, this is the shift that women’s equality has made. The struggle has moved from having the opportunities to succeed in the world outside of the home where they were expected to be, to a lack of respect for the work that most women contribute to home and family.

Lastly, I wanted to also bring up an interesting thought that came to my mind in pondering upon this subject. I find it interesting that civil rights seem to have a pattern: first (and always it seems) is the white man, with the abolition of slavery in America, these civil rights were legally then given to black men. Women were last to receive civil rights. The thought occurred to me that this is officially the same pattern in the presidency of the United States – historically, this office has only been held by white men, and now it has moved on to include a black man as well. I dare say that it will be quite some years before a woman will be allowed to work in this capacity.

The last clip that I’d like to share is an example of this idea of women’s struggle to overcome this “man’s world” in popular culture. To me, this clip from the hit TV show, Glee, represents that women are still striving to recognize the power they hold and are still fighting to let the world know of that which they are capable. This clip from Glee includes a song originally performed by Beyonce, and her lyrics echo the words of the Grimke sisters from so long ago: “My persuasion can build a nation.” This, in my opinion, brings things full circle.