Women have fought throughout history in order to achieve different roles as well as to acquire recognition, independence, equality and respect. It has not been easy since they have had many barriers to overcome; their role in the family as wives, mothers and daughters; their role in society fighting for their rights, being heard and treated as men; their role as career women, not only receiving an education but also being able to work. Looking back at history, women’s role in the family has remained unchanged till last century.
In the early times, women’s most significant profession was that of wifehood and motherhood and a “little more than a slave of her husband”(1). They were viewed as a creative source of human life, inferior to men and a source of temptation and evil. Even in the Christian theology as St. Jerome states “ women is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent in a word perilous object”, and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century said that woman was “created to be man’s help mate but her unique role is conception…since for other purposes men would be better assisted by other men”(2).
All this resulted in “ a women’s place is in the home”. It was expected from them to be good wives, excellent mothers and perfect housewives. In the movie “Far from Heaven”, which takes place in the 1950’s we can see how Kathy and Frank Whitaker, who seemed a perfect marriage and family, weren’t. Everything in Kathy’s life falls to pieces when she finds him kissing another man. Society at the time rejected this kind of behavior so Frank goes to the psychologist to treat his “illness”. All the time Kathy is an excellent wife, supportive and fights for her marriage accepting the situation.
She finds refugee in an African American and society turns against her because they judge only what they see. Women’s role in the society began to change with the first movement in 1920, when they achieved the right to vote. Before this movement, women were “owned” by their husbands so they didn’t have the right to have any property and they couldn’t even have legal rights towards their children. If they divorced, men kept legal control of both children and property. On the other hand, divorced women found it nearly impossible to get a credit to buy a property. Law at the time was always on the men’s side. A women who shot and killed her husband would be accused of homicide, but the shooting of a wife by her husband could be termed a passion shooting”. It is said that even in the 1980’s there still was some sex discrimination regarding women. A great example of this is the film “Thelma and Louise”, were after killing the man in the parking, Louis tells Thelma to escape. She makes clear that she doesn’t trust the system. This is because of her past. During the film we discover that she was raped a long time ago in Texas and that society, instead of defending and protecting her, turned against her.
She tells Thelma nobody would believe them when hundreds of people saw her “flirting” and dancing with him. At the time, this was a strong enough evidence to acquit the rapist and even worse, blame the woman for provoking the situation. The change in women’s role in society helped them greatly since they were able to receive a better and higher education, which, as a consequence, gave them the chance to work and therefore gain independence in all aspects of life. As a tradition, young girls neither went to high school nor received a higher education.
They stayed at home with their mothers who taught them how to cook, clean and take care of children. In other words, they were being trained to be housewives and mothers. Girls just went to elementary school to learn how to read and write. However, this changed slowly and in the 1900’s more than one third of women received a higher education. At the beginning of the 20th Century, 19% of women got college degrees and by 1984 it increased to 49%. In the film Mona Lisa Smile, Katherine Ann Watson, an open-minded modern woman, arrives at Wellesley College, a conservative private Liberal Arts College, Massachusetts, U.
S. A. , in 1953. At first she is amazed by the knowledge of her students, but while she starts to know more about them, she realizes that their only goal is to find a man to marry and have children with instead of becoming career professionals. Gradually, she decides to try to make them see that they are worth much more and that being a woman doesn’t mean giving up their dreams and ambitions. In general terms, women were considered weaker than men and not able to carry out any type of work that needed strength or intelligence.
In the 1930’s only 24,3% of women were employed and most of them worked in domestic, personal service, as schoolteachers or as nurses. In the 1940’s 25% of women worked in domestic, clerical and factory posts or as service workers, teachers and nurses. However, during WWII skilled jobs previously unavailable to women started to open up because men were drafted and enlisted. Women began to learn a trade, to enlist in the military and to earn a decent living. Thanks to this, women no longer depended economically from their husbands; therefore they had a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
But this achievement didn’t last long, as soon as men came back from War women had to return home to their traditional roles. This change was one of the reasons for the Liberation Movement of the 1960’s. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were a great improvement for women’s economic status; it required equal wages for men and women and prohibited discrimination against women. But discrimination persisted because in the 1970’s they were paid 45% less than men for the same jobs and in the early 1980’s 32% less.
They neither got important assignments nor promotions and only a few were managers, officials or administrators. In the late 1980’s women worked as teachers in elementary and high schools and only a few in higher education. The great majority was also employed in clerical positions, factory work, retail sales and service jobs, just to name a few. By 1989 they constituted more than 45% of employed persons in the United States. Nowadays, women are equally paid than men and they have access to the same posts and managerial positions, up to the point that in many companies you need to have nearly the same number of women and men.
This change is portrayed in both films Thelma and Louise and Sex and the City. In the first we can see the typical role of women in the 1980’s; a housewife who depends economically of her husband and is consequently abused and harassed by him. The other one, a waitress who has to struggle to make ends meet. In the second film we see four successful, independent workingwomen who have made it to the top. Looking back at the history of women, analyzing their roles in society and learning about their struggles and difficulties to be valued as men it is obvious that it has been really tough to reach what they have achieved.
Regarding in the role in the family, women are no longer stay at home waiting for their husbands and bringing up children. Concerning women’s role in society, they are now equal to men, having the same rights and opportunities. As far as education is concerned, nowadays there are more graduated women than men and regarding work 46. 8% of the total labor force are women according to the United States Department of Labor. At times, they even earn more than men as we can see in Sex and the City, where Miranda is a successful partner of a law firm as well as a lawyer while her husband just has a bar.
Women have had to fight society in every single aspect. In this paper we have seen how women have fought for all the above but It simply analyzes the developed world. After being in an NGO in Mozambique last year, I realized that there remains a lot to be done.
Works Cited Scott, Ridley. “Thelma and Louise”. 1991 King, Michael Patrick. “Sex and the City”. 2008 Women’s Issues ? from “The Wind River Rendezvous” Women’s International Center. “Women’s History in America”. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia1994, 1995 Compton’s NewMedia, Inc