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"Women who do not conform to society's perceptions are trying to be like men." Discuss...

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cytosine12 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted July 24, 2011 at 5:50 PM via web

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"Women who do not conform to society's perceptions are trying to be like men." Discuss in relation to The Taming of the Shrew and Oranges are not the Only Fruit.

"Women who do not conform to society's perceptions are trying to be like men." Discuss in relation to The Taming of the Shrew and Oranges are not the Only Fruit.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 24, 2011 at 7:52 PM (Answer #2)

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This is a very interesting question which could be responded to at many levels. It has been while since I have read Jeanette Winterson's excellent novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, but I certainly remember enough to be able to give you some initial considerations to think about when comparing these two texts.

First of all, I need to point out that there is a rather chauvanistic implication in the prompt you have been given. Do we seriously believe that if women go against the position that society has for them they are trying to act and copy men? I am sure that we could argue that women who defy the roles and positions that have been thrust upon them have many more options than this. Certainly, we could argue that characters such as Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew seem to respond to her situation with rage and violence which we could argue are "masculine qualities." Consider the following threat that she utters in Act I scene 1:

I' faith, sir, you shall never need to fear:

Iwis it is not halfway to her heart.

But if it were, doubt not her care should be

To comb your noodle witha three-legged stool,

And paint your face, and use you like a fool.

However, equally we could argue that such a quote represents the rage and intense frustration of such a character as Katharina in trying to cope with the severe limitations that her gender gives her in a patriarchal society.

In the same way, Jeanette in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit asserts herself in opposition to the kind of expectations that society has of her as a woman. This is heightened in her case by the intense expectations that her mother in particular has of her with regards to her future as a missionary. Her homosexuality and her rejection of such feminine norms does not necessarily reflect her attempt to be a man, rather it reflects her trying to establish her own identity as a woman.

Therefore, my thoughts are that this statement is rather arrogant and chauvanistic and limiting. We must remember that terms such as "male" and "female," whilst they have their biological validity, are also to a large extent socially constructed by societies. If a woman chooses to reject the straitjacket of gender roles that is forced upon her, it is limiting to her and insulting to suggest she is trying just to be a man.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 25, 2011 at 12:12 AM (Answer #3)

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I do not think this is true at all.  A woman can be her own woman without acting like a man.  A woman who does some things that men do, or even dresses like a man, is not necessarily being a man either.  You can be your own individual, no matter how you act or dress.  I think it's wrong to make assumptions that women envy men.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 25, 2011 at 3:35 AM (Answer #4)

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This is a faulty supposition, and the reverse idea--that men who do not conform to society's perceptions of men are actually just trying to be women--is equally ridiculous. Obviously, some women have had to figure out how to "play the game" in a man's world to break through the barriers in certain careers; and it may even happen today. However, these women are not trying to be men--they are trying to compete with them on a level playing field.

Katherine is not trying to be the boss; she is trying not to get lost, to ensure her place, in her husband's world.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:02 AM (Answer #5)

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Women who have come to see a reason to not conform to society's expectations have generally found a reason to see and desire a broader horizon. Rarely, if ever, do women with broader visions try to "be like men" just to be like men, though often having broader options includes doing things men have traditionally held reserved amongst themselves.

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