(Note: I wrote about 300 words and lost them, so my original draft was way better than this one. Oh well.)
Since the beginning of time, women have been treated with inferiority. Look in any history book and you’ll find something about how men’s accomplishments or rights surpass women’s. You probably know that women received their basic voting rights less than a century ago. Although we have come far compared to women’s previous roles, today they are still faced with discrimination and treated with subordination. Why have women been treated as inferior in the past and why are they still treated as inferior today? What can we do as a society to stop this inequality?
The Good Earth is a novel written by Pearl S. Buck, an American woman who grew up in 20th century China. It revolves around the life of a peasant farmer named Wang Lung who struggles throughout the book with money, self-confidence, and family. In the first chapter, readers are introduced to the idea of female weakness as Wang Lung purchases
a servant, O-lan, to be his wife. Not only does he buy his wife as if she is an object, but he expects her to do his household work and bear his children just as women have always been expected to do so. In this book, the words “slave”, “fool”, and “servant” are interchangeable with the word “woman”. Buck includes the theme of femininity to enrich the story and bring a sense of reality to it. While she shows the hardships of women and their positions in Chinese culture, I came to the realization that this book’s setting is only 100 years ago. How has humanity allowed the oppression of women for…ever? This and the infamous belief that men are superior to women inspire my essential question: Why are women below men?
The answer to that question may lie in the physicality. As socialization began to form, men used their physical strength to assume dominance. Men were strong. Men took positions of power. Men didn’t dictate females as strong or powerful, so females became weak. Their roles developed to be child bearers, house cleaners, and a sidekick to the man. Somewhere along the way, they became less than that: they were slaves, objects, only addressed at the man’s convenience. This is clearly exemplified in The Good Earth.
Another possible answer is blindly-followed tradition. Our society follows tradition habitually, which is not always a good thing. The simple answer could be that women have always been thought of as weak, so they are still thought of as weak. Just like students still have 3 months off of school every summer, but we don’t help our farmer parents out in the field anymore. Old habits die hard.
However, gender inequality doesn’t mean women and men aren’t different. In fact, many of the supporting roles in The Good Earth are women, most of which are very influential to the plot. In my opinion, Wang Lung’s wife, O-lan, had more character than Wang Lung did. She was intelligent but quiet, caring only about her family and their survival. She spoke only when necessary, which made her words more imprinting. O-lan’s character was complex in which she seemed rough on the outside, but was a very mentally and physically strong person. She used all aspects of her intelligence to her advantage, and proved gender stereotyping and Wang Lung wrong. Although she wasn’t beautiful and didn’t have bound feet, she was a valuable part of Wang Lung’s life and essential part of the book.
Maybe the answer to the question is in their predispositions. Men seem to naturally rise to power and assert authority, and are more aggressive and striving than women. This has led to unfair treatment towards women, causing the modern day oppression that is gender inequality. Unfortunately, society has allowed women to be treated like they are. Not only men are at fault, but women are as well. What’s going to change if nothing is said about it? Many people, including women, think our modern world has gender equality. News flash: It doesn’t. Today I saw a repulsive tweet about how women have achieved practically nothing compared to men. We are still not equal! Realization is the first step.
So, to summarize the answer to my question: Women have always been expected to play their roles which are second to men’s. That doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. We as a society can erase what history has left for us women to fill. If you believe at all that women and men are not equal in our modern world you can act on it. We as women can shape our own expectations.