Wonder Woman’s Broke!

30 Nov

So far we have seen the gender inequality that has flowed through American Literature to present day, now it is time to see the effects. By not seeing woman as equals to their male counterparts, our society has put an economic burden on their shoulders. It is harder for women to find a job, and they often suffer from unequal pay (as we saw in the slideshow at the beginning of this blog, for ever dollar a man makes in the United States, women make .77 cents). In this post we are going to look at a piece by Barbara Ehrenreich’s, a specific chapter of her Nickle and Dimed where she describes the hardships of a woman working in low-wage jobs in two different American cities. This, along with the research done by the National Women’s Law Center will reveal the hardships that our Wonder Women are facing economically.

In Nickle and Dimed Barbara is speaking about her experience as a low-income hob holder and the daily issues which these women face. She points out the beliefs that many wealthy people have towards these women who are on welfare and need support from the state because they are so deeply below the poverty line. “In the rhetorical build up to welfare reform, it was uniformly assumed that a job was the ticket out of poverty and that the only thing holding back welfare recipients was their reluctance to get out and get one.”  (Ehrenreich, 196). Well, some of the Wonder Women of today do have jobs, however low-wage earning ones, with horrible hours and no benefits and yet they still fall below the poverty line in the U.S. In regards to neo-liberalism, welfare comes from taxes, for it is the social net that is holding the population (the onion sack in the Neo-liberalism as a Water Balloon), when taxes are cut less money goes towards these “safety nets” and to the people who need them. Another interesting point that Barbara makes are as fallowing:

“Most civilized nations compensate for the inadequacy of wages by providing relatively generous public services such as health insurance, free or subsidized child care, subsidized housing, and effective public transpiration  But the United States, for all its wealth, leaves its citizens to fend for themselves–facing market-based rents, for example, on their wages alone.” (Ehrenreich, 214)

Neo-liberalism economic policy is what’s responsible for the lack of these social benefits from the United States government, and as seen in the water balloon clip, women are greater sufferers then men when it comes to these policies due to the gender inequality that America is ridden with. 6/10 adults who suffer from poverty are women, and more than 1/2 of all poverty stricken children live in a family that is headed by a woman. (NWLC) In 2011, 17.7 million women were living in poverty! (NWLC)

It is important to note, and I have noted previously that women of different ethnicities suffer at different rates from poverty in the United States of America. However, the one consistent piece of data throughout the Census and other statistical research is that no matter what race or ethnicity, it is the women who suffer more greatly than men. This is seen in the fallowing chart:

On a final note, and some food for thought, here is a quote out of Barbara’s Nickle and Dimed (THESE are the REAL Wonder Women):

“When someone works for less pay than she can live on–when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently-then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her heath, and her life.” (Ehrenreich, 221)


Show Me The Money!!

30 Nov

In the former post about The Big Bang Theory I discussed Penny’s low income jobs as compared to the male characters who had professional careers. This is a great introduction to the economic disparity that women of modern day society are facing. But before we get into the “good” stuff, here is a video that hopefully will help you understand neo-liberalism  a little better. For in the next several posts we are going to focus on how neo-liberalism is affecting women in America.  Please excuse the subtitles .. I could not find a version of the clip without them, lets hope they don’t say anything too offensive that I am broadcasting to the world on my behalf.


Check This Out!

29 Nov

Here’s a link to another blog about “wonder women” and the roles of ladies and feminism in American Literature by one of my classmates! I encourage you to check it out!

And… a random funny picture about Wonder Woman

It’s funny because Wonder Woman’s jet is invisible…


Modern Day Misogyny

29 Nov

Let’s look at a modern day example of American Literature in the form of a sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Here Penny is dressed up as Wonder Woman to go to a new years party with her party of male friends/Justice League members. Please take note of the sexually exploitative way that Penny is portrayed as Wonder Woman in this scene.


Right from the beginning Penny is viewed in a sexual way because of her costume, just as some would view other Wonder Women of the past in theirs. “Batman” makes the comment “No ones going to be looking at her hair” in regards to the fuss they make about Penny not wearing the brunet wig. Here is a perfect example of the sexual exploitation that has resulted from years of misogyny embedded in American Literature that still makes appearances today. Yes, Penny retaliates with punching Batman in the arm, but what does this say of  women’s response to sexual exploitation? She does not voice her opinion, she simply responds with a punch.

Another negative depiction of women in this clip is when Sheldon (aka the Flash) goes to Penny’s apartment to try and coax her into coming to the party again. However, the way he deems appropriate for doing so would hardly get any woman to comply, especially ones who are supposed to be Wonder Woman. He exclaims that the reason he thinks Penny does not want to go is because she thinks that her costume makes her look fat. How typical is that? A woman is upset so automatically it is assumed she is upset at her outwardly appearance, going back to Whitman’s Democratic Vistas and the web of millinery that women are ever so wound into. He then tries to cheer her up by exclaiming that “Wonder woman was an Amazon and Amazons tend to be very beefy gals”. Because that would automatically make any woman feel better about herself. One thing we should note however, is that Sheldon/the Flash is never presented as being the sympathetic or appropriate man when confronting human feelings. Never the less, these are not real people, these are characters in a sitcom that was written by someone to entertain the American public, and this is how they chose to depict women.

Penny is also depicted as being pathetic in this scene, she even claims to be pathetic herself. Not to mention the fact that she is sitting on a couch drinking glass after glass of wine as a way of making herself feel better? Or is it perhaps that she is trying to use the wine as a way to be comfortable with who she is? Scapegoat for depression or tool for enabling herself to be Wonder Woman, the drowning her sorrows in wine is not the appropriate was to have Penny dealing with her oppression in this scene. Also, the need for Penny to seek approval from the males in order to feel that she’s okay is something to think about.

Another thing to mention that is not part of this scene, but is shown in other episodes is Penny’s jobs and the undermining of the men in the show because they are all University Professors and scientists. Penny begins as a waitress at the Cheese Cake Factory and eventually becomes a bartender. Let’s watch a clip of Penny as a bartender, there are also similar depictions of Penny in this scene as there are in the Wonder Woman scene, keep and eye/ear out for them.

So here is Penny in a low income job as a bartender (we are slowly moving towards the economic disparity that women of today suffer in America). Sheldon, who is a physicist comes to speak with her about his troubles, assuming like many people do that bartenders are a kind of therapists and can give you free therapy as long as you pay for the alcohol to go with it (I am a bartender, I get this more often than not). But it is not only Penny’s employment status that is commented on in this scene. Sheldon also makes the remark that Penny “fails on a daily basis” and asks how she copes with such failing. Once again, Penny resorts to alcohol as a means for making herself feel better amongst her life’s hardships. What kind of woman is this show depicting? In both scenes Penny is belittled, sexually exploited, and presented as a lesser person compared to the men as well as being dependent on them for approval. This is not much different from the way in which women were portrayed in Whitman’s Democratic Vistas, as well as Wister’s The Virginian.

Just a Girl in Owen Wister’s The Virginian

29 Nov

In my previous post we looked at Gwen Stefani’s view on the oppression of women in modern day society, the lyrics and title of the song “Just a Girl” can relate to the woman of focus in The Virginian, Molly Wood, in a very direct way. The depiction of women throughout Wister’s book, not only Molly, is a very interesting one. For he attempts in some way to give them power, or perhaps authority over men, however much like Whitman’s Democratic Vistas this authority that Wister give to the women of the novel is that once again of maternity and control of the domestic sphere. Another important theme to notice is that Wister never accounts Molly to be a woman, she remains “just a girl” throughout the work.

We shall begin on a positive note and view the depiction of Molly Wood as a strong an independent woman, but even through this in her peak of strength and courage she is encouraged to be a man not a woman… so perhaps it isn’t very positive after all. I will give Wister this thought, when one thinks of a woman embarking on long journey such as the one Molly made in the novel, from city to the “Wild West”  in any era of time, this woman is viewed as a strong and independent woman. Wister attributed independence to Molly is the lines “Independence and Grandmother Stark shining in her eye.” (Wister, 65) As well as “she can be very independent and unconventional.” (Wister, 89) However this is the last of independence that is attributed to Molly Wood, at least while keeping her femininity in tack.

The rest of the novel is filled with a rhetoric that women are ruled by men and that they need protecting from the world by their male partners. This is first prominent in the scene where the Virginian and Molly meet for the first time. In this chapter XI Molly is portrayed as a helpless woman who needs protecting by the Virginian when her buggy crashes into the river. From then on this was the role of the Virginian, to protect Molly, and her role was to be overseen and ruled by him.

A line that stuck out the most to me was “Her fierceness filled him with delight, the tender desire of ownership flooded through him.” (Wister, 84) In this passage Molly is trying to be assertive and stick up for herself, however this act of independence is met by a feeling of OWNERSHIP by the Virginian? If that doesn’t piss you off as a woman I don’t know what will! Although perhaps the way in which Wister refers to the men of the relationships mentioned throughout the novel as “Lords” will have the same affect on you, for instance “said her lord, leading the way to the dinning room.” (186)

The final thing I want to look at in regards to women, in particular Molly, in The Virginian is that when Molly does act in a heroic and strong way, she is encouraged to do it manly. Are women not capable of performing heroic deeds? Do you have to be in a male mind state in order to do such things? I’m speaking of the scene closer to the end of the novel where Molly comes across her lover’s lifeless body at the creek. She tells herself not to vomit or run away and begins to help the Virginian. When he does awaken, he tells her “you have got to be the man all throughout this mess” (Wister, 214) Also in regards to this scene, when she arrives home with the Virginian she is once again praised for doing a man’s part, “she had not done a woman’s part, but a man’s part.” (Wister, 219) This scene also sees the use of Wister referring to Molly as a girl once more, as through the rest of the novel, “the silent man clenched on the horse, and by his side the girl walking and cheering him forward.” (Wister, 214)

Despite that Molly was in her early twenties throughout the novel, she was never referred to as a woman, only as a flirt and a young girl. She was hopeless to the Virginian, who she both knowingly and unknowingly obeyed. Even in the scenes where Molly were attempt to assert dominance, she was outsmarted by the Virginian. Her place as “just a girl” walking along side of the man/hero/lord riding proudly on his horse speaks volumes to the roles of women in this time. And as I had mentioned before, the misogynistic disposition of The Virginian can be seen throughout the years, with women still battling today (Gwen Stefani).

Just a Girl!

29 Nov


Here is a music video from one of my favourite bands No Doubt. Below I will post the lyrics to the song for I feel they have a strong representation of the next post I will make in regards to gender inequality in American Literature. I don’t want to spoil the next post, however to insure that there is a rhyme to my reason for posting this music video and lyrics I will say that Miss Molly Wood begins and remains “Just a Girl” throughout Owen Wister’s The Virginian, and she encounters many of the problems which Gwen Stefani sings about in this song. Another thing to consider is the lack of progress American society must have made from The Virginian to the 90’s when Stefani wrote this song, the similarities are astonishing.

“Just A Girl” by No Doubt

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed
And it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand
‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
Don’t let me out of your sight
I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!
The moment that I step outside
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things
That I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive
Late at night I’m just a girl,
Guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes

I’m just a girl,
Take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!
Oh…am I making myself clear?
I’m just a girl
I’m just a girl in the world…
That’s all that you’ll let me be!
I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb
Makes me worry some

I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to Is making me numb
I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome
I’m just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there’s no comparison

Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to!!
Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

“The Perfect Woman” in Walt Whitman’s Democratic Vistas

29 Nov


The starting point of our journey on gender inequality in American Literature is none other than Walt Whitman’s 1871 Democratic Vistas. Before I begin my analysis on the negative aspects to which Whitman writes with an inequality flare in this piece, I would like to note that he does indeed address both men and women throughout the work. Democratic Vistas speaks vigorously on individuality of the American citizen and the fact that he recognizes women as well as men throughout the work as a citizen gives him a “brownie point” in my eyes.

Now for business.

While Whitman does recognize women throughout this work, there is an immense amount of pressure which he bestows upon them. He asks the question “Are there perfect women, to match the generous material luxuriance?” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas) This is not the only time throughout his Vistas that Whitman forces perfection onto the women of America, he also refers to a “perfect motherhood.” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas) What is this “perfection” in which Whitman is referring to when discussing women?    Let’s take a look at the most important quote which refers to this “perfect woman” of Democratic Vistas:

“…a literature underlying life, religious, consistent with science, handling the elements and forces with competent power, teaching and training men – and, as perhaps the most precious of its results, achieving the entire redemption of women out of these incredible holds and webs of silliness, millinery, and every kind of dyspeptic depletion – and thus insuring to the States a strong and sweet Female Race, a race of perfect Mothers – is what is needed.” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas)

Whitman presents two very separate roles for men and woman in this quote; for the men, this new literature which Whitman writes about in his Democratic Vistas should teach and train them. Teaching is obviously associated with an education, or at least the ability to learn which Whitman is accrediting men to have in this line. Training is generally seen in the workplace upon receiving a new job. So between education and the workforce, it is apparent that Whitman is attributing men to hold such roles among his idealized society in which he writes upon. As for the women’s roles in this quote, a closer and more analytical reading is needed.

His word choice for “redemption of women” is very peculiar and needs to be looked at carefully. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives a theological definition of redemption as “Deliverance from sin and damnation, esp. by the atonement of Christ; salvation.” (OED) This “deliverance from sin and damnation” is shocking at first; however one must look at the context in which Whitman is using redemption. The holds in which Whitman is referring to when speaking of the women’s redemption are from the “webs of silliness, millinery, and every kind of dyspeptic depletion” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas). Not being of religious subject, a second definition of “redemption” needs to be called upon, that of which being “The action of freeing a prisoner, captive, or slave by payment; the fact of being freed in this way. Also occas.: the payment itself.” (OED) This definition is much more appropriate for the context in which Whitman is using the word.  What exactly is Whitman claiming these women need to be released from the holds of?

The “incredible holds and webs of silliness, millinery, and every kind of dyspeptic depletion” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas) Silliness is self explanatory, for in the time which this work was written, women were never fully women and remained girls, expected of childhood silliness (more on that in a later post on women in Wister’s The Virginian). Millinery is another word which we should confront the OED for, its definition being “The articles made or sold by milliners” (OED), but what are milliners you say? “To make up (articles of women’s clothing, esp. hats)” (OED). So in this case what I believe Whitman to mean by using the word “millinery” is that the new literature is to release women from this childhood and girly, clothing filled existence and to put them in the role of what? The “perfect mother”.

For this is what Whitman claims America needs, “thus insuring to the States a strong and sweet Female Race, a race of perfect Mothers” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas). While the men are being taught and trained, the women are good for nothing but procreating. This is also viewed in another quote of Whitman; however he does himself the favour of attributing this ability to procreate something that makes women superior to men.

“the appalling depletion of women in their powers of sane athletic maternity, their crowning attribute, and ever making the woman, in loftiest spheres, superior to the man.” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas)

Despite giving women the benefit of the doubt that they may hold some sort of superiority over men because of their abilities to bare children, he is once again making the claim that the only role of women is that of motherhood. There is no teaching and training, other than that of maternity and motherhood, throughout Whitman’s piece. This rhetoric of the woman being a maternity figure is carried on throughout American Literature throughout the ages and American society today. While Whitman’s hope for women’s redemption out of their silly girl stage, made far less progress as we shall discuss in the next post on Owen Wister’s The Virginian.