Gender Equity Issues in Literature and Everyday Life – English Research Paper
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation,” states the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (History). The definition of
equity is based on treating people with equality and not creating that difference among individuals. Gender is the physical, behavioral, cultural, and psychological qualities associated with one sex. When combined, gender equity is the state of fairness or justice given to people of both sexes. Given that this “equity” has rarely been achieved, literature as life proclaims this as a major issue. In Sophocles’ play, Antigone, the main character Antigone is disobedient, impulsive, and temperamental. Against all prohibitions, she buries her brother because according to her, this is the message she had received from the gods. She considered this action to be the best thing she could have done. Being a female restricted her rights. Gender equity issues also exist in Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House. During all of Nora’s life, she has followed right behind her father and her husband. She does not know herself and has to leave them in order to gain independence. Gender equity is not only seen in literature, it is an issue that us seen in our everyday life. It is commonly seen in sports and several other activities that include the participation of males and/or females.
Throughout time, males and females have not shared equal rights. Although men and women are in most cases qualified for the same positions, they frequently do not get paid the same amount of money. Males have always dominated and are known for being “superior”. Women earn $0.765 when men earn $1.00 doing the same exact work. “Wage discrimination,” says Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman, “remains an unfortunate reality for many women” (Elder 1). Even famous males and females do not get the same amount of money. For example, the NBA’s best basketball player, Shaquille O’Neal, got $17.4 million this year. Meanwhile, the WNBA’s best player, Cynthia Cooper, makes $75,798. They both play the same position and the same amount of time. Why is it that men get more than women? Our society has expectations about appropriate behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and values for males and different others for females. Females are generally expected to be gentle and dependent, while males are expected to be noisy, aggressive, and independent. Gender equity means equal access to participation in physical activity and sports, which both are positions of responsibility in sport organizations.
In addition to sport wise activities, gender dissimilarity exists in such a way that it actually exist in salary between male and female university faculty members!. According to a 1998 report the Higher Education Research Institute, 63% of male professors are given a position, while only 43% female professors take status. According to that same report, the wage gap between the average full-time male and female professor was $7000.00, and ten years later, in 1999, the overall difference has dropped only $1000.00 to $6000.00. Wage salaries between men and women have always been unequal. In a university world, women are seen as the overloaded ones with student advising, and frequently pressures of family and motherhood. Therefore, having seen the perspective that women have, it is obvious that men get paid better. Public and private universities have different salaries for professors. For example, in a public independent university, a male is paid $67,175, while a female is paid $59,468, which is much less. In a private college, a male professor is paid $80,018, while a female is paid $69,455. The way in which professors are paid as a result of gender equity is absolutely unreasonable. If faculty does not include work created by women, the falculty is sending the message that women are not active contributors in that field of study. This happened recently in 2005, with Harvard’s Mathematics Department and chancellor (Sarah Banet-Weiser).
It is hard to understand that there is a vast gap that exists between the rights of men and women. This is an issue that does not only exist in the difference of the wages of men and women, but this is gender equity issue also exist in other areas such as the media. Different Cultures around the world have as a stereotypical representation suggestion that men are always better than women, such as in the patriarchal family. Why does the man have to have superiority over the female of the house or family?. Men are portrayed as the intelligent, able, proficient and talented. Women in the other hand are portrayed as the inferior ones that are not capable of doing much. Family is the basis of ones life and it is the basis in which people learn as they grow into adulthood. Family values teach about the world and how individuals should interact with others. Gender roles are the basis of a family: the father is the head of the family, and the mother is responsible for the house. Gender roles are not influenced by family values; gender roles are nothing but prejudices under a different name. Gender role puts people into a mold of what other individuals wants them to be.
Women in Ancient Greece were not citizens, held no property, and without a doubt were not even allowed out of the house except under guard. Antigone, the antagonist, rebels against the protagonist, Creon. At an early point in the play, Antigone is determined to carry her mission to bury her beloved brother to the grave with her. Antigone chooses to serve the gods while Creon makes the state his top priority. Creon is a strong-minded, stubborn tyrant who only cares for himself. Creon is flawless, unreasonable, and he gets too angry. In other words, he is a sexist ruler. He mentions that while he is alive, no woman shall rule over him. Denying someone the ability to do something makes him rebel. Creon shows his view that women are worthless when he speaks to his son: “Oh Haemon, never lose your sense of judgment over a woman. The warmth, the rush of pleasure, it all goes cold in your arms, I warn you…a worthless woman in my house, a misery in your bed” (Sophocles 40). “Because Antigone is a female, and her act so public and vocal, the offense becomes particularly heinous (Bovard 19). Creon states that Polynices, the traitor is not to be buried, but his sister, Antigone, challenges the order.
Antigone is a great example of a symbol of feminism and is a classic tragic hero. She has the highest ideals of human life, courage and respect for the gods. She is the model for her society. Antigone proves an example of the responsibility women have when they are trusted with power, rather than kept at home. Creon chooses harsh punishments and stubborn paths because Antigone was a woman. Antigone looks forward on burying her brother as a natural right and duty. It is right, and it is her right. “She has tolerated it as the merely inevitable medium for what she has to do and endure, the honouring of her brother’s death and the suffering of her own. She has scorned the interval between the two. It is only now that she is forced to wait for her own death that her sense being in time begins to expand” (Poole 170). Creon is afraid he will look weak if he allows Antigone’s deed to go without punishment. The gods have not abandoned her, yet she has never required their help or questioned their consent. This insistence on her desire puts her in a line of tragic heroes.
Antigone’s gender has profound effects on the significance of her actions. Creon himself says that the need to defeat her and her case is because of being a woman. The freedom of Greek women was extremely limited; the rules and regulations were immense. Antigone’s rebellion is especially threatening because it upsets gender roles and hierarchy. By refusing to be passive and flexible, she turns around the basic rules of her culture.
There is a contrast between Antigone and Ismene. When faced with injustice, the two women react in very different ways. Ismene chooses to do nothing, and Antigone chooses to act. Later, Antigone proves again and again that she is the character with the most arrogance. She is perhaps the only character in the play that goes with her fate because that is her principle. Antigone places family before the law.
A Doll’s House portrays a female viewpoint of a male-dominated society. These actions are described using the actions of a woman, Nora, who rebels against the injustices caused upon her gender. Gender inequity is the social expectation and she is not encouraged to work. She tells Christina Linden: “Well, and besides that, I made money in other ways. Last winter I was so lucky- I got a heap of copying to do. I shut myself up every evening and wrote far on into the night. Oh, sometimes I was so tired, so tired. And yet it was splendid to work in that way and earn money. I almost felt as if I was a man” (Ibsen 149). Nora’s departure was only a symbol of her liberty, the gesture of a newly awakened personality. Nora must decide where the line between right and wrong is drawn. In order to save her husband’s life, Nora forges her father’s name on a promised note.
Both women break the law using similar justifications. Both Antigone and Nora step into the spotlight as the female hero who has been put in a compromising situation and is forced to decide whether it is more important to follow what society dictates, or go with what they feel is moral and just. Antigone does so under the idea that the Gods dictated that all men deserved a proper burial. Likewise, Nora commits her crime with the belief that since it is saving a life, her situation is an exception to the rules. Both Creon and Helmer are arrogant men, who put too much value on their position of authority; Creon so much so that he is willing to put an order that disobey the laws of the Gods. Both men are close-minded and too stubborn to see that they could be wrong. When Nora reveals her crime to Helmer, the audience expects to see a grateful and understanding husband, but instead is greeted with a unpleasant and unappreciative man who does not see the true purpose of Nora’s deed. That is why Nora and Antigone represent a part of the feminist world. They stand up for their beliefs and for what is right.
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