For centuries men and women have been taught how to behave from a young age. Boys were taught to “be boys” play in the mud, and hunt. Women were taught to act like respectable young ladies. Women were taught to do the house work and watch the children. Women have been trying to fight for their rights for centuries, trying to put an end to stereotypes and break away from traditional gender roles. The authors of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and The Feminine Mystique use titles to convey their belief that women have been degraded by men and society proving they lacked an independent voice.
In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Charlotte Gilman shows how women have been mistreated. The Narrator’s husband John is a physician treating her for “temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency” (Gillman). She is being treated like a prisoner, with no say in her care or treatment. The title “The Yellow Wallpaper” is important because the wallpaper is domestic and humble and Gilman uses this hideous paper as a symbol of domestic life that traps so many women. She finds herself being trapped in the nursery, which is symbolic because she is being treated as a child.
She is a new mom and should be able to enjoy a nursery because that is a sign of motherhood, but the nursery is trapping her. She knows her husband will not let her have any control of her life, being that “he is very careful and loving, and hardly lets [her] stir without special direction” (Gilman). She sits at home all day and waits, while “John is away all day, and even some nights” (Gilman). The yellow wallpaper represents her breaking free from his control, like the woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper. She tells John that she is free and has liberated herself.
In addition, The Feminine Mystique expresses the roles women had in society. Society tells women that they needed to be perfect housewives, being the perfect housewife came with rules. The author identifies that society believes “the only passion, the only pursuit, the only goal a women is permitted is the pursuit of a man” (Friedan). Women’s main goal was to take care of their husbands’ needs, make food, wash clothing, have their makeup done, keep a clean house, and have “physical bodies of [younger] women” (Friedan).
Women were being portrayed as men’s puppets, always there for them and their needs. Women had no say because their opinions do not matter, this can be compared to rule ten from the “Good Wife’s Guide” which explains a man’s topics of conversation are more important than a women’s. Friedan explains that “[Women] [exist] only for and through her husband and children” (Friedan), which is comparable to today’s society. The authors of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and The Feminine Mystique wrote about these issues because they want to inform women these stereotypes can be broken.