Why Genders Are Treated Differently
Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister” is a short work of fiction which examines the different life that a fictional Judith Shakespeare would have compared to her brother, William. Margaret Mead’s “Sex and Temperament” is an anthropological essay that seeks to examine the basis for the creation of sex or gender-based roles in society. Finally, Germaine Greer’s “Masculinity” seeks to understand how socialization affects the growth and development that leads to the different treatment of men and women. Each article examines the differences between genders and tries to find the reason that they are separated and treated differently from one another. By looking at the three texts, it is clear that education, a need to standardize behaviors, and socialization are three reasons why genders are separated and treated differently.
Virginia Woolf’s work “Shakespeare’s Sister” argues that the primary reason that the genders are separated is due to women being denied the same education as men. One of the first sentences that the author writes is “Women are poorer than men because- this or that” (Woolf 692). This quote does not mean poor as in money, but that their position in society is worse than men. However, instead of being able to give a reason for this happening, Woolf seems to have given up on a single reason because it is just clear to her that men want women to be lower in society than them. This sentiment of there being no true reason behind males being treated better than women is also present in Mead’s work. She writes that societies all over the world make divisions based on sex, age, or other factors, with women sometimes being the beneficiary and sometimes being harmed (Mead 712). In the case of western society, it seems as though historical developments and socialization resulted in the system Mead rails against and in which the fictional Judith Shakespeare suffers. The text continues and Woolf says that this separation between men and women seems odd when looking at the way that women are shown in literature compared with how they are treated in society. She says that in fiction, women are given very high praise and love but in society they are not treated well at all (Woolf 694). This leads Woolf to look past the system of society that keeps women from being important and towards the day-to-day challenges that women face. In her imaginative story of Judith Shakespeare, Woolf says that Judith was just as smart and talented as William, but “she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil” (Woolf 697). This quote shows that Woolf thinks that the root of the separation between the genders is based on society’s belief that women should not study academic works. This idea, combined with the violence against women that is mentioned in the work, shows Woolf’s belief that Judith and any other woman have the same potential as men, but society prevents women from taking part to keep men in control.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Mead’s text “Sex and Temperament” argues that genders are treated differently and separated to create a way of standardizing behavior in the society. She writes “Women are often defined by the needs and wants of men. Men, who were conceived as proceeding along a special masculine road, shaping women to their fads and whims in womanliness” (Mead 711). The upper class women have their behaviors created by men who have power over the women in their lives by controlling jobs, money, and access to education. This shares the ideas that were made by Woolf in that women are not given the same opportunities as men in terms of education. Wooolf’s Judith Shakespeare “had no chance of learning grammar and logic” because upper class men decided that women had no use for such abilities, even if it put women at a large disadvantage and creates a social division (Woolf 697). In terms of the western society, Mead claims that gender separation happens to “standardize the personality of men and women as clearly contrasting, complementary, and antithetical, and to make every institution in society congruent with this standardization” (Mead 714). Basically, Mead believes that western society’s gender differences happened as a way of making differences clear between men and women and that men benefitted from that starting position and continue to hold power over women by creating society as they want. The purpose of this unfair balance of power is to create a system where the men get to stay in power by telling women that their social role involves marriage and children instead of books and conference rooms.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Germaine Greer looks into the socialization of males and females and finds that gender differences are based in primal instincts that have been put into modern society. The author writes that men are nurtured to be big, brutish, and demanding from the time they are babies. The author writes “That process begins when the carer who thinks a child a boy readily offers it food when it cries; the same carer, thinking a child a girl, will allow it to cry longer and will soothe rather than feed it” (Greer 730). According to this quote, men are socialized to be able to use their demanding nature to get what they want in life while women are socialized to have patience. This early training to be loud and aggressive to get what they want is then supported by their mothers who dote on the male children, letting them complete what Greer thinks is their first sexual conquest, the domination of their mother (Greer 731).
The concept that women are forced to obey men even in their cries as children is unique, but shares similarities with the work of Mead. Mead believed that “Women are often defined by the needs and wants of men” (711). If society has demanded that a woman’s place is to care for men, even when they are boys, then women must always put the development of the male ahead of the female. Greer points out that women have to prove their worth to their fathers but boys do not have to do so with their mother (731). A boy will be educated and taught to be successful, but a girl would need to prove that she is worthy, a primary complaint in Woolf’s work. Greer continues “Generally, however, though women make boys out of babies it is men who make men out of boys” (Greer 732). Men socialize others by creating a social ladder that is based on who is strongest, best looking, and most successful. At the same time, men rarely let women get more than a few steps on the ladder before they have their climbing stopped altogether. As Woolf stated, women are often denied education in favor of the male children because society automatically places men above women. This harmful belief creates an immediate separation between genders that is created by the need for standardization that was discussed in Mead’s work. Yet Greer’s idea of the differences between men and women is based on society’s willingness to put men first, a willingness that is driven by socialization that has centuries of reinforcement. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister”, Margaret Mead’s “Sex and Temperament”, and Germaine Greer’s “Masculinity” contend that education, a need to standardize behaviors, and socialization are three reasons why genders are separated and treated differently. The three works take different stances on the root cause of separation, but they all tie into each other in several ways. The ideas expressed in each work are logical, but they demonstrate the circular logic of a male dominated society. All three of the works show that the ladder of society that keeps women from being equal to men must be rebuilt with logic rather than continuing on the primal, exclusive path that has been put in place.
Greer, Germaine. “Masculinity”. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. 9th ed. Ed.Lee A. Jacobus. Boston, MA, United States: Macmillan Higher Education, 2013.725-738. Print
Jacobus, Lee A. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. 9th ed. Boston, MA, United States: Macmillan Higher Education, 2013. Print.
Mead, Margaret. “Sex and Temperament”. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. 9th ed. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. Boston, MA, United States: Macmillan Higher Education, 2013.707-723. Print
Woolf, Virginia. “Shakespeare’s Sister”. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. 9th ed. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. Boston, MA, United States: Macmillan Higher Education, 2013.689-706 Print.