A feminist perspective on everyday life
Gilman’s key contributions and ideas involve the political and economic understandings of gender relations and the socialization into gender roles. Even a day at home over Thanksgiving break shows that these ideas are still very relevant…
I wake up in my parent’s beautiful home that was provided to us through my father’s job. We live on a military base and the housing allowance that he is given covers the cost of our house. Because of advantages like this, my mother does not need to work. She is economically dependent on my father. Gilman would argue that this is the economic role that women are expected to fill. She would claim that my mother’s role in society is defined by my father’s economic standing.
I head downstairs and find my mother in the kitchen, already preparing for tomorrow’s big Thanksgiving feast. She cooks and cleans for my family. Gilman would say that women are oversexed; that there is too much emphasis on the idea that women should be the ones in the kitchen, cleaning and preparing dinner while the male is working, or relaxing after work.
My mom, sister, and I accentuate this socialization and oversexed role by going out shopping. My mom buys us Christmas presents using the money that my dad earned and provided. We fit into the middle class economic standing defined by his job. We enter a store that has several women working as clerks, but the only male in the store is clearly the manager. Gilman would argue that this is because women are considered the “weaker sex.” We then walk to the food court and see a group of girls trying to flirt with what look like a pair of boys from the local college, again supporting Gilman’s idea that women are oversexed. These girls are told what role they should be playing in society, and therefore are putting their energies into flirting and attempting to attract a man who could eventually support them.
This simple day that appears to be filled with perfectly normal activities, through the eyes of a feminist like Gilman can be picked apart into clear signs of gender relations, norms, and expectations.