Over the years, women have had different experiences based on the beliefs the society has put on them. It is important to note that woman’s experiences in the past have been informed by the kind of responsibilities and expectations the society has towards them. For instance, some societies believe that women are solely responsible for all household work (McCall 256). Others also believe that women cannot make good leaders and therefore the top leadership positions are reserved for men. Precisely, these beliefs have led to gender inequalities, hence spurring different experiences among women in the past. In one way or the other, these beliefs and experiences have played different roles in influencing women’s lives. This essay will, therefore, explore the woman’s roles in the past and analyze the experiences they had on them.
Gender inequality has been an experience among women caused by a number of beliefs. It has been evident in men being viewed as favorites for different positions in leadership and women being ostracized as mere household workers. The belief that household work is solely women’s often leads to overworking as a result of too much work not shared with men. Based on the society’s perception on gender, women are mostly affected by traditional gender inequalities (Colebrook 301). Gender inequality played well in slavery; and was a challenge that women faced in the past.
Slavery affected both genders. However, the severity of female bondage was greater than that of the male since women had to bear children, cope with sexual exploitation as well as do the work assigned to them (Jennings 45-66). Females were exploited in ways designed for them alone and regarded as subordinates by slaveholders and therefore, unequal to men. Slave women realized that white masters had power to force them to mate with whomever the master chose, to reduce the time they spend with their children, to reproduce or to suffer consequences. Females were subject to their masters’ desires and therefore could be exploited in whichever ways profitable to these masters. Reproduction among slave women helped increase the number of slaves and therefore the masters ensured forceful interventions in procreation. It formed an integral part of sexual exploitation of slave women. In such a case, the focus is on the quantity of slaves as a way of increasing profit margins to masters. Slave breeding denied slave women an opportunity to establish stable family relationships because of cruelty of their masters who were encouraging discrimination in mating thus disregarding family unions (Jennings 45-66).
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Those slave women who got pregnant were not given time to rest but had to work to maintain production. Even those who bore a baby have been denied an appropriate time with their children whom they had to give to other people for care. It is however strange that most of these women agreed to exploitation as it was a way to prevent themselves or families from being beaten. It led to resentment and bitterness, which were probably passed on to their children. They also experienced physical and psychological harm as a result of actions of their white masters. Slavery led to the emergence of abolitionists who were at the forefront of fighting the vice. Abolitionists included both men and women who were black or white.
Women were also bound by codes of proper behavior amongst them. These codes regarded women as people who could not stand against slavery and conduct public speaking denouncing slavery. Until 1840s only men had the right to public speaking as a way of an intellectual self-expression and therefore women started breaking customs barring them from such activities. Public speaking abolitionists experienced challenges in the form of hostile audiences who harassed them physically and verbally. With the custom barring women from participating in public speaking, they could not address or shun slavery. Physical and verbal attacks towards activities of black women could arise from three different grounds: anti-black feelings, anti-abolitionist remarks and hatred of women who speak in public. Unlike their male counterparts, women abolitionists who spoke in public gave rise to criticisms from audiences who claimed they had violated the codes of proper behavior of women (Yee 112-135). Female writers or public speakers only avoided criticism when their pieces addressed the women’s issues and not the men’s. It, therefore, limited them in terms of what to address in their writings and speeches since they revolved around their domestic duties as women.
Black women struggled with racial discrimination from the whites. For instance, black women writers were regarded as intellectually inferior, and some of their works could not get published. The racial differences between black and white women were a threat to the fight against slavery among abolitionists. Black women used pens and public platforms to put forward their opinions were viewed willingly to challenge prevailing expectations of gender and race. The acts of public speaking and writing were seen as ways of confronting expectations of black docility and intellectual inferiority and hence made other abolitionists accept black women as an indication of success and resistance of black (Yee 112-135).
Apart from household work, needlework was the most-common source of women’s employment before and during industrialization (New York Daily Sentinel). In addition, sewing women, and tailoring women were oppressed by low wages, exhausting competition, and periodic unemployment. These issues led to these women to rise against these oppressions in the form of labor strikes in 1831 in order to set appropriate prices for their services. The oppression led the women to appreciate the need for them to fight for their rights and therefore inform their activism. These women recognized oppression as a common problem for all of them and rose together to shun it and raise their status in so doing. The need for pursuing causes that address women rights are evident in today’s forums and parties that stand against women’s oppression.
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