In a general sense, women are supposed to share the same rights as men; however, throughout the centuries, women have suffered under men’s control. Men have been viewing women as their personal property in varying degrees, using their power to create a pattern that shapes women’s characters in our society and to create rules for women to follow. Under such a societal structure, there is a dominant power in the male social class that has caused women’s rights to be oppressed in many situations. Despite the women’s rights movements over the years, which promote gender equality, women are still often bound by the public’s expectations. Not all women want to be united to fight for their rights; some often restrain themselves at a significant level. Furthermore, based on the idea that women are “naturally weaker,” many believe that they should not enjoy the same rights as men do. However, these arguments usually focus on a woman’s physical structure. For instance, contemporary media has the tendency to exaggerate a woman’s unstable physical conditions, such as a sudden pregnancy that affects her working abilities. Perceiving such an image, society suspends women’s progressive, professional positions.
Women’s roles have been discussed for decades, and there are two main points of view. One explanation focuses on the characters of the male-dominated society. The other aspect is the oppression of women as closely connected to the relationships between men and women. For instance, men can use their role in relationships, such as those of lovers, husbands, and fathers, to force women to follow the pattern that men have created. From different perspectives, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, “Marks” by Linda Pastan, “You Fit into Me” by Margaret Atwood, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, all convey the same message about the social constraints that women are trapped in and about the way men use their power to force women to follow their idea of how a woman is supposed to be. Women suffer oppression from various levels in society.
This oppression is ubiquitous. It comes from their family, their partners, and even the entire civilization that has high standards for women. Women have been expected to stay at home, be servants, take care of the family, and engage in jobs that are appropriate for them. For example, they are expected to be teachers, secretaries, and housewives. Women’s social roles are limited and restricted, even if the gap in gender inequality is gradually narrowing, and support for gender equality is already more politically correct. However, many women still have a pessimistic attitude towards the future and believe that society will continue oppress them. As long as the different physical structures of the body still exist, women wait for the day when gender equality will come. In her essay about the social identity of women, Carolyn Z. Enns analyzes how women’s social identity was built. She writes, “Women’s identity is built on the assumption that psychological growth and distress are best understood within a biopsychosocial, ecological framework that emphasizes how the personal becomes political or how personal lives are shaped by social context and culture”(1). Her work draws attention to a significant social problem. She discusses how women’s self-awareness has been affected by the environment. Moreover, she points out that many women accept how society treats them, follow the pattern of how to be “good women,” and force other women to follow the rules. Therefore, women do not want to be united to fight for their rights and often restrain themselves to a significant degree. How women are treated in their families profoundly affects their personality development.
This is especially important because the family environment is the first place where people come into contact with others after birth. In a research paper about Joyce Carol Oates’ story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Stephen Slimp listed three female characters that are related to Connie: Connie's mother, Connie's sister, June, and Connie herself. They have very different personalities in the story which creates different statuses at home. Connie's mother is a typical American housewife. She does not have any outstanding personality characteristics, and only appears as the image of the mother of Connie, the protagonist in the story. She does not have any strengths to make herself independent in society, which is why she has to stay at home and serve other members of the family. She is also a defender of male authority, obeying the standards set by men for women. Society believes the role of women is to stay at home like Connie's mother. Even if a woman goes out to work, there are only a few jobs that are appropriate for women. As a faithful obeyer of male authority, Connie's mother kept criticizing Connie's rebellion in front of Connie's father.
Her passiveness under male control made Connie feel dissatisfied. Not only that, but Connie's mother also appeared as the image of Connie's repressor on the road to freedom and happiness. She used to be young and beautiful, but now, she is old and her daughter, Connie, is young and beautiful. Steven Slimp writes, “As the story opens, Connie is shallow and vapid, believing, among other things, that the height of human suffering is the annoyance she feels at her mother’s chiding. So shallow are her emotions that she responds to her mother’s corrections by saying that she would like to die, that is, literally to lose her breath” (1). Connie’s youth and beauty are a sharp contrast to her aging body. Connie’s mother, under the leadership of male authority, never realized her obedient personality and passive situation. Not only is she satisfied with her position, but she also sets the standard for Connie so that her daughter is in the same condition. When Connie does not meet this standard, Connie’s mom uses her mother’s role to insult Connie. She is not united with her female compatriots but devalues them to highlight herself. Her weakness and passiveness turned her into a victim of male desire and intensity. Women are trapped in the mother’s character.
The whole of society and the fathers are pushing the responsibility of raising children to the role of a mother. In her poem, “Marks,” Linda Pastan uses metaphors to emphasize the assessment of mothers and the pattern created by society. The protagonist is a mother whose husband and children criticize and grade her on what she does. Her husband evaluates her at dinner: “My husband gave me an A for last night’s supper.” When she fails to iron, she says, “My ironing is incomplete” (1008). The husband even scores his wife in bed. These scores and the pressure that her family puts on her lead to a negative ending. The speaker metaphorically “drops out.” The action of dropping out represents her feeling that she cannot deal with the pressure anymore. The pressure of being graded in all aspects of life is intolerable. As mothers, women are expected to stay at home to take care of their families. Society constructs an image of a good mother, creating standards that women should meet by doing different tasks and providing multiple services. Mothers do not have the option of not loving their families. Women are not qualified to be exhausted, but not all women fit in this position. The highly anticipated mother pattern oppresses mothers who have different personalities and identities.
The mother standard is not suitable for all women, and women are often forced to live in an environment that judges them all the time.The speaker in the poem may be the author herself. Like the speaker, Pakistan is both a woman and a mother. The speaker may also represent a woman who is tired of being judged. Indeed, women’s passiveness and ignorance was one pressing issue in the family. For example, because of Connie’s sister’s ignorance, Connie felt no one in the family could understand her. This indirectly caused her rebellious personality. An essay writes about “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by A. R. Coulthard.
The work discusses family relationships by analyzing the problems between Connie and her family members. The author illustrates the ignorance of Connie's sister. She writes, “Connie's relationship with her sister, June, also seems to be rather nonexistent. Through Connie's perspectives, June ‘was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother's sisters’ ” (250). Because June has a lot in common with her mother, coupled with her passiveness and obedience, she is seen by her mother as a better woman than Connie. However, she doesn't care about the unfortunate situation of her sister, Connie. What she did was not to protect or help Connie get out of the predicament, but to care less about her affairs and avoid communicating with her. If June had helped Connie, the tragedy would have never taken place. Connie is a girl with two sides to her personality. David K. Gratz mentions in his work, “Connie is shallow and vapid, believing among other things that the height of human suffering is the annoyance she feels at her mother’s chiding” (2). At home, Connie is a rebel against the traditional female role. She is in sharp contrast with her sister, June, in the family. She is cute, charming, and understands the charm that her sister and her mother do not have. Her approach against her mother and her indifference towards her sister are a sign of her rebellion. Her sister helps her mother with the housework, and she goes out to hang out with other boys and girls. However, after leaving the house, she meets the male aesthetic standards. Given that masculine social values profoundly influence her, she already knows how to attract and please men, and her behavior ultimately leads to her tragedy. When she is tempted and threatened by Arnold, she is terrified and does not dare to resist.
At this time, it was too late for her to seek help from her mother. Her mother and the other family members had gone to a barbecue, and they never thought of uniting to protect themselves from male violence. Furthermore, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a symbol of women's oppression and unfair treatment in society. For the wife, the patterns in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” especially those in the shape of a lattice, indicate that women’s freedom is deprived and imprisoned in society. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wants to critique women’s liberation in a male-ruled society. The husband of the protagonist used the dual authority of the physician and the husband to suppress the treatment and decide what is right for women. John believed that he knew the best treatment plan, so he placed her in a closed room, although she repeatedly protested that she didn’t want to be in there. The overprotectiveness of the husband made the main character feel depressed. For example, the author emphasizes the overprotectiveness of the husband. John forbade her to do any brainstorming work during the healing process, such as writing. “He hates to have me write a word” (381). She felt that she had become John’s burden because of the treatment that she received from him.
The consequences of her husband’s treatment were that the traditional method of recuperation failed, and her condition has not improved but rather deteriorated rapidly. Given that she was doing nothing, coupled with extreme inferiority and depression, she finally paid attention to the creepy crimping women under the yellow wallpaper and developed a keen interest in the above patterns.The women creeping under the yellow wallpaper refer to the protagonist herself and the social role of women, so, the yellow wallpaper pattern and the woman inside are a nutshell of the status of women in the male-dominated society at that time. The climax of the story appeared in the end when the protagonist finally creeped out of the recuperation room when the spirit completely collapsed. She tore up almost all the wallpapers and told her husband, John, that no one could throw her in a room again. John was stunned, he eventually fainted, and the protagonist climbed over his body. Unfortunately, her mind was devastated at the end of the story. The author used the first-person perspective to let the reader dig into the woman's frame of mind; additionally, the author metaphor these crazy irrational behaviors to the oppression that women received.
During the author's background, women receive neglect and unequal treatment from society. The dramatic ending of the story also shows the author's want and confidence in achieving equality between men and women. John's fainting symbolizes the collapse and disintegration of the patriarchal society under the male-ruled society. Some of the characters of the “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” seem to have something in common. In both stories, protagonists cannot be understood by the people around them. Also, both stories have female characters that try to oppress the protagonists. For example, in “Where are you going? Where have you been?”, the mother insults her daughter in front of her father. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” John’s sister monitors the protagonist to stop her from writing. These scenes provide a profound message that indicates that the women who obey a male-ruled society constrains the development and behavior of other women, weakening their self-identity and confidence. In an essay about the similarities of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Where are you going? Where you have been?” Fran Bartkowski compares the cause and effect between the two stories. She writes, “The stories focus on battered women; women who escape their batterers; women who kill their batterers; women who return to their batterers; a notion that rape is the battery.”(5) The protagonists in both stories had gone through violence in different degrees.
The wife suffered violence that forced her to stop writing. Connie suffered from the violence of Arnold Friend due to her passive and weak nature. Men oppress women because they think that women are their accessories, so women should follow their mandate. However, endless oppression will only lead to tragedy. In a research paper by Carolyn Z. Enns that shows that women defend themselves from the social force in various ways, she mentioned, “Identity development models typically describe how individuals move from internalized oppression or privilege to heightened sensitivity, personal upheaval, and anger in response to the knowledge and experience of oppression or privilege, and subsequent efforts to gain knowledge and explore positive and new aspects of social identity.” In the quotation, the author explained that women use multiple ways to escape from the oppression and identity they are trapped in. An example is the wife in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” At the end of the story, the wife escapes from her unequal marriage by creeping over her husband. For the protagonist, the patterns on the wallpaper indicate that women’s freedom is deprived and imprisoned in a society that is ruled by men.
The wife finally gets rid of the pressure, but she sacrificed her mental condition. Moreover, men can be seen as a complex existence for women. In “You Fit into Me” by Margaret Atwood, she uses a metaphor for inequality and the complex relationships between men and women. In the poem, the narrator uses “hook” and “eye” to describe the behavior between “you” and “me.” The word “You” is the actor and like “hook,” is generally aggressive: “I” is the bearer, and is a metaphor for “eye”, which is generally weak (780). Such a pair of relationships is a subtle metaphor for the relationship between the two genders. The relationship between “hook” and “eye” in the poem accurately portrays a more general relationship between two genders. By losing one part, the relationship will miss the meaning of existence. Ironically, men pursue women but oppress women at the same time. The profound message behind the poem is the problematic and complex love of men and women. Comparing the theme between “You Fit Into Me” and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the message that these two literature pieces have in common is that men oppress women. The former conveys the meaning of the situation that women are oppressed, the tragedy caused by men's incomprehension, and the deprivation and imprisonment of women's freedom in male-dominated society. However, the poem tends to describe the complex relationship between the two sexes in a gentle and concealed way. Indeed, one of the reasons that women are still vulnerable in society is that they do not unite to fight for their rights. Those women who adapt to male authority will try to prevent others from fighting for their rights. In a closed system, women will still suffer oppression.
The short story, “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?”, discusses family relationships by analyzing the problems between Connie and her family. Women equality is a long-term movement. Although time has passed and ideologies have changed, the current society has still not achieved the goal of gender equality. Women have been trapped in different social expectations of how to be good. They can be bound by their husbands, families, and even other women. Although a female is vulnerable in society, writers used literature to gain power to influence the community, express their perspective, and appeal to the public. Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Charlotte Gilman Perkins, and Linda Pastan are examples of women who use their unique ways to spread their thoughts on gender equality. Furthermore, Fran Bartkowski, A. R. Coulthard, Carolyn Z. Enns, Stephen Slimp, and David K. Gratz all provided useful resources to analyze and support gender equality. Unequal treatment and social expectations still exist. The issue of women's rights has not been solved by society, and it is a continuing challenge for modern civilization.