Essay On Gender Stereotypes And Feminism
‘Why I Want a Wife’ by Judy Brady and ‘The War against Boys’ by Christina Hoff Sommers are two essays that touch upon the topics of gender stereotyping and feminism in entirely different ways. While Brady is a feminist who uses heavy sarcasm to bring out the stereotypes and the expected role to be played by a woman in the society and in respect to her man, Sommers relies on statistics to prove how feminists have over the years created an illusion that it is the girls who are at a disadvantaged position and it is them and not boys who need to be taken care of. Both the essays take strong but polarizing views in pointing out the stereotypes and the gender roles in society. Although Brady’s essay was written in the seventies, most of her views still hold true and the roles assigned to women have not changed much. Sommers’s essay on the other hand was written in the year 2000 and comes across as a scathing review on feminists and the research on girl’s education, empowerment and their disadvantaged situation. Both the essays take a biased approach; Brady takes a highly sarcastic tone against the expectations from women and Sommers takes a critical tone against research and views that favors women alone. However the topics discussed by the authors still remain relevant and nothing much has changed. There remains unreasonable expectations from women even today and there also remains heavy criticism against feminism and feminist thought as can be seen by Sommers’s essay.
In her essay Brady takes an exaggerated sarcastic tone to describe the role played by a woman and what is expected of her in a largely patriarchal society. She makes a list of most of the stereotypes that prevail about women. If not for her introductory lines that where she says, “I am a Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother (Brady, 1:1-2),” and reveals her identity one could mistake her essay as written by a man well entrenched in the patriarchal belief and maybe even a bit misogynistic. It is deeply critical of the unreasonable expectations that society places on women. Brady comments on the chauvinistic tendency of a man to expect too many things from his wife. Although Brady’s essay at times seem to be over the top, the truth behind them cannot be ignored. Sommers’s essay takes a tone that is supportive of boys and men in her essay. She cites studies to show that there has been a bias against boys in the educational system and society in general and that the increased importance given to girls has meant that boys suffer and enough attention is not given to them. Unlike Brady who reveals her gender at the beginning of her essay, it would be difficult to know the gender of the author by just reading it. Sommers blames the feminists for the sad state of boys in the educational system as they have been campaigning for women’s empowerment and have very vociferously brought out the problems that they face. Sommers says that, “for many years women’s groups have complained that boys benefit from a school system that favors them and is biased against girls (Sommers, 2: 1-3)” and that the disrepute of boys is not accidental. Rather she claims that it is the strong feminist lobby that has made their position weak. She says that too much concern and focus on the sad plight and the inequality of girls has ensured that a lot of aspects of boy’s education has not been given enough attention.
When Brady says, “I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me (Brady, 4:1-3)” and “I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife's duties (Brady, 5:1-2)”, she echoes the views held by the society on how a woman needs to be a good wife, a good mother, a good employee, a good friend and a lot more; in short a superwoman. Although a guy would be seen as being regressive if he were to say these things, this idea of a superwoman who has to balance everything still remains as an unspoken rule. Instead of wanting a woman or expecting her to do everything and please everyone at the same time, she is praised instead for being able to do everything. Praises are sung and pages written about women who can maintain a balance between their personal and private lives. The praise however is not a change or something positive but rather something similar to the old expectations only packaged in a new way. Brady extolls the idea of a perfect wife and a woman that is held as a standard for everyone to achieve, but it is a satire and an effective one at that. Although it may seem biased and a little exaggerated Brady is effective in conveying some bitter truth about women and stereotyping regarding their role. Sommers’s essay is full of statistics and clinical in its approach. She says that a recent study by the US department of Education and several universities show that, “far from being shy and demoralized, today’s girls outshine boys (Sommers 6:1-2). Although her statistics may be right, she comes across as being too biased. A few girls outshining boys in schools does not mean their overall position has improved, neither do these numbers take into account the psychological status of the girls. She does not give proper references to the other studies about girl’s education and in her bias against feminists comes across as less informed. On reading her article, the reader might be tempted to think that the whole feminist struggle was an agenda to discredit men and the patriarchal society and that feminist studies was nothing more than something akin to a conspiracy theory. The stereotype that boys are stronger than girls still exists but it is only because it is partly true and there is no denying that society perpetuates it. A persistent stereotype about feminists is that they are all about women’s rights to the detriment of men. This is not true and it is a stereotype that is slowly being changed.
The two essays have stereotyping and feminism as a common thread running along the lines, albeit in completely different forms. Brady is a feminist and through her sarcasm and matter of fact language brings out the ugly truth about a woman’s role in the society. Sommers on the other hand blames feminism for stereotyping that boys are stronger and favored and that their zealous support for this agenda has caused much harm to the boys. Sommers calls the feminist studies as a myth. She says that the “myth of girls in crisis (Sommers 18, 1) has been accepted by everyone, even schools that the teachers who work with boys and girls do not seem to see that girls indeed perform better than boys. This blind acceptance to feminist propaganda she says has affected boys to a large extent. Brady does not use statistics, in fact her essay is completely devoid of statistics. Her references are personal recollections and uses an atypical way of humor and sarcasm to talk about a serious subject. She ends her essay saying, “Who wouldn’t want a wife (Brady, 10:1). It is a fitting ending to her essay that bring both bewilderment and raises some uncomfortable questions. Sommers’s essay raises some questions too; questions if indeed the plight of girls and women have been hyped about and if something really good has really happened that we haven’t noticed. Both the authors talk about stereotypes of girls and boys and gender roles in the society and the educational system. They both come across as biased but the difference with Brady is that she desists from quoting numbers and studies thereby restraining herself from proclaiming that her ideas are absolutes. Sommers however quotes a lot of studies trying to prove that her ideas are right however biased they might be.
Two essays that take diametrically opposing views on the same topics of stereotyping and feminism, and both raising some uncomfortable questions about what has changed about the role of women in the society. Although their loyalties lie in different camps, both the authors do admit that stereotypes affect both men and women. Reading Sommers’s article after Brady’s, the reader might be tempted to think that feminism has in fact been a success that the roles (between men and women) have been reversed. In this sense both the articles and the ideas in them are still relevant and the stereotypes of a ‘superwoman’ as described by Brady and ‘girls in crisis’ as described by Sommers still remain.
Brady, Judy. “Why I Want a Wife.” P.263-267
Christina Hoff Sommers. “The War against Boys.” P.283.287
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