Women of all classes and races across the world have been known to struggle with issues of equality. From as early as the Elizabethan times to the present, women still struggle to find some sense of equity. This element is no different when it comes to American context. Being a superpower and considered to have made great strides, both legally and socially to ensure gender equity, disparities still exist. Although there are some gender equity in America most are only theoretically.
Cases of gender equity struggle among women from the early times such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton indicate just how much struggle women had to encounter against patriarchal societies. Such can be seen regarding the enormous differences that exist in basic rights, social norms, employment opportunities and political positions, just to mention a few. Gender inequalities or disparities, therefore, present a case in which treatment of women in America can be looked from. This paper focuses on the play Trifles and the movie Color Purple and how it sheds light on the treatment of women in America.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, it is no doubt that women had their reserved place in societies. Rich with the unending need to pursue colonies and other issues that mattered, men had their unique place in society as well. These pursuits placed men in a position as domineering over women, while women left with no choice, were forced to play a subservient role. From Africa to Asia, Europe and America, all the continents witnessed a need to clamp genders into social functions. (Essed et al.). With the element of gender disparity issues being looked at from a past perspective, the present and the future mirrors almost the same position regarding the treatment of women.
Various researchers have indicated that although America operates within the legal framework that all citizens are equal, history has proven this to be fictitious. According to Rosen, in research done in 2014, women in America are treated as second-class citizens. This research alone indicates just how unfairly women are treated in regards to the gender perspective. Regarding job earnings, women in America still earn 23% less as compared to men (Rosen). Lower job earnings are a direct result of gender discrimination for equal education for women. Historically men are considered to be more suited for schooling than women. In fact, women contributions on some issues are rated insufficient compared to those of men. Unfortunately such stereotyping of women is still very much so prevalent in our current society.
In addition to sterotyping, conscious and unconscious categorizations of women in America is still exists. Society often regards some issues raised by women as “women issues” or “female issues” which in essence create categories. This type of categorization also shows how constructed roles continue to follow women even as they try to cut a niche of importance for themselves. Topics such as women in politics, women in military and women as CEO’s, among others have long been problem subjects however with valid implications of out right discrimation much consideration has taken place to favor on the side of women. Governments and institutions alike found it necessary and proper to create and preserve opportunities especially reserved for women (Essed et al.). Thus, if women opportunities can be created for them, then it shows that they are treated as different and consequently not equal to men.
To add, the treatment of women has also been openly expressed in literary works, plays, and films. These works are often advanced either to critique, to support or unfold the detail and events of essential issues in society such gender equity. The play Trifles sheds light onto such essential themes as justice for women, women solidarity as well as allows the audience the opportunity to grasp the notion of how women are unfairly treated within their relationships, communities and society. Equally the movie, Color Purple is also centered on such essential themes and how women endured gender-based oppression and depression.
Authored by Susan Glaspell, the play Trifles was first performed in August 1916. The story of the play is centered on how two women saved one of their own from the trial and conviction of murder. The two women were able to understand and empathize with Mrs. Wright as only a woman could having being subjected to the under cast of their husbands.
In the play, John Wright is murdered by his wife. Investigations soon begin into the matter, as Mr. Hales, a neighbor to the Wright’s gives an account of his own story regarding wright’s death. As the play begins, the men enter into Wright’s house first and are then followed by the women. The three men including the county attorney, Mr. Hale and Mr. Peters search the house for evidence to no avail. They leave the kitchen feeling that it is a woman’s territory and therefore, there may be no evidence found there. Meanwhile, the two women, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale found a clue that could have possibly solved the mystery of Mr. Wright’s death.
Placing themselves in the shoes of Mrs. Wright, the women understood her situation therefore they hid and concealed the very evidence that could have possibly implicated Mrs. Wright. As a result of the men’s stereotypical behavior, the mission of discovering what happened to Mr. Wright clearly highlighted the trifle skills of the women over the knowing all arrogance of the men. (Glaspell).
Glaspell’s play certainly reflects how women are treated in the American context during that time. In the play, femininity verses masculinity comes into to play in such a transparent manner as to highlight the ill treatment of women. The first example is when the men enter the warm farm-house before the women in spite of how cold it was on that day.
Secondly, Mr. Hale, Mr. Peters, and the county attorney do not spend much time searching the kitchen for evidence despite the fact that this is where Mrs. Wright spent most of her time knitting. The kitchen was an area safely regarded to be a reserve for women during that time. Ironically, the killed bird that had been caged in Mrs. Wright’s kitchen is used symbolically to show how women are caged into particular critical areas of their lives.
Lastly, another aspect that shows how women were treated is how the men maintained their distance from women while investigating/working. This reflects the unfair superior hedge that often regards men as a higher being than that of a woman. These transparent scenes in the play point out the levels of the power difference that exists between men and women. Furthermore, the aspect of secrecy and communal collectivism on the part of women reflect how women issues are treated as trivial.
The play was most influential at the time of its writing. Written in the early 1900’s, it is a reflection of how women were treated in terms of justice (Meloy and Miller). Women then began to fight against universal gender oppression. Women during this time women were taught to maintain a low-level display, they were not allowed to participate in politics nor did their vote count in most instances. (Meloy, and Miller). Therefore in the play the author allow the women the opportunity to act transparently as the law.
Similarly, the movie Color Purple, written by Menno Meyjes and directed by Steven Spielberg, depicts the gender injustices of a young African American woman known as Celie. Celie endured extreme gender as well as racial biased odds. In addition to such odds and much like Mrs. Wright, her subservience to her tyrannical husband renders her helpless. The law at the time was also supportive of female subservience. This was also evidenced when Celie’s friend Sofia loses her freedom to the law for striking a male.
The treatment of women during the storyline of the Color Purple, especially for the African America women, was very sexually demeaning. Women during this time women were subjected to sexism, rape, and domestic violence. As the movie progresses, Celie along with the other accompanying female roles, share their stories of struggle and how they overcame not only gender discrimination but racial discrimination as well. The African American woman found herself in a twist regarding where she would fit in.
This brought on, specifically during the early 1970s, civil rights movements and feminists movements that inspired the increased social and political muscle in demand for equality for all women of all colors and ages (Andi et al.). Women and especially African American women experienced disparities in so many areas. Celie as well as Mrs. Wright’s story offer a reflection of how women were treated as second class. This story, as like Trifles is a general call to embrace the equality and respect for women.
To conclude, just as there is much research on the unfair treatment of women in America, there is also much research that shows how women have made strides over time. Although women still have much to achieve regarding gender equality, civil movements, etc. the woman’s voice is no longer left powerless and unheard. In the 18th and early 19th centuries women were denied the freedom to vote however in 2016, Hilary Clinton was the first woman to run for Presidential Office. Women will no longer be denied the privilege of equality.
Women will no longer stand for being equated as lower than men. Women will no longer be treated as second- class citizens. As this essay displays, the two works Trifles (Play) and The Color Purple (Movie) and their focus on equality of women, have both played an important role in promoting and advocating for the rights of women in regards to social norms, education, employment, health and politics.