Women have been an inspiration for many writers for centuries. They have been celebrated as symbols of beauty, affection and strength, and we usually connect them with motherhood and raising children. The works about women very often reveal not only lives of women, but they also describe the times and problems they had to face, and they provide a very clear picture about the whole society of the times when these works were created. Contrasting the modern day women to the women in Voltaire’s period we can look into the past and the present and see how women’s roles have changed. After centuries of conforming to female stereotypes created by men, women are slowly taking control of their own image making. Image of being equal to the men and being able to face the reality of life on their own, without men’s support.
In the past the traditional concepts of what it means to be a woman were taught in the early stages of development. Parents encourage outdated roles in the way little girls are dressed, the toys they play with, and the books that are read to them. As pointed out in “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” by Lois Gould, girls were treated a distinct way. In the late 1800s, women did not play an important role in society at all. Their job was mainly to cook, clean, sew, take care of the children, and keep the house in order. They were treated as a material possession rather than a human being that could think and act for themselves and looked upon as a decorative member of the household. Women were treated just as sex objects , alive just to satisfy a mans needs and desires. They were robbed of their true identity. The male always dominated over the women and it was not viewed as “unfair.” The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries on the part of men toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.” (Declaration of Sentiments) It was believed that women were the inferior gender and had to have special attention given to them. Women were also very limited in their rights in 1872. Such rights included: women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation, married women had no property rights, husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity, divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women and when women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned, women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law, and women were robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, and were made totally dependent on men. (Declaration of Sentiments)
But times have changed now. Women now have the power to do anything they want to when they put their minds to it.
Over the last century women have made incredible progress in their struggle to claim their equal rights and humanity, gaining the right to vote in 1920 under the 19th amendment in the constitution, gaining a right to an equal education, owning property and having a job. Women’s new role in society is focused on independence. Society has found that women are able to succeed without set limitations and expectations despite earlier notions. The media no longer focuses primarily on superficial aspects of women but also on a more profound basis. In Ever After, a modern version of Cinderella, Danielle is respected not only for her beauty but also for her intelligence and distinct personality. She shares her knowledge of democracy, education, and equality with Henry, the prince. Danielle’s actions represent the new forms of empowerment modern women strive for.Women are now encouraged to educate themselves beyond the domestic elements. Advertisements share this idea of a “new woman.” Hamburger Helper ads typically present workingwomen who are also able to make dinner for the family. In “Beauty and the Beast of Advertising,” Jean Kilbourne recognizes that it is somewhat common to see a “liberated woman” with “independence and self-esteem”. Similar ideas of independence are portrayed in the business world. New positions are shaped for strong-willed women who are able to take on more responsibility. These new roles for women are continuing to gain acceptance.
The play “Antigone” is built on the conflicts between man and women and their roles in society. Creon is an authoritative figure who feels his authority should not be undermined by anyone, especially a woman (Antigone). Antigone with her strong belief that all the dead deserves honor buries her brother Polynices which was a strict violation of the king’s law. This act of Antigone was very courageous. Creon never allowed any man to go against him and definitely no woman. He believed that until he is alive no woman is going to lord over him. Even in such a situation where Antigone’s life depends on it she calmly and eloquently argues the righteousness of her actions instead of quivering with fear under Creon’s threats. This small paragraph from the play proves that men cannot suppress women and they can challenge men in every field.
Women have improved their ability to succeed in life and realized that they are not just sex objects but people who have the same right as men. Women have made an incredible appearance and play an immense role in today’s society. Women are basically treated with equality today with men and the times sure have changed. In modern day society, women are very well educated and have improved in many areas. Being educated they learned that they can succeed in the working force and use laws that protect them from being discriminated against in any situation. Nonetheless in some households women are treated with no respect. They are sometimes told what to do. The only difference today is that women have their own opinions and can speak their minds. Women have become independent and they do not need men to support them.