Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 293
Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution is an examination of sex differences in Western society. Gilman considers the role of women in society and how it benefits men. She ultimately argues that women must revolutionize their “cultural identities” in order to be made equals. Written in 1898, Gilman’s writing remains very applicable and can be compared to the modern day Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Both books importantly critique how women have been systematically excluded from the narrative of social progress. Instead, women have been placed in the roles of nurturers and educators. Gilman considers how women have been historically tasked with the job of reproducing a labor force for men. They are then expected to raise and educate this growing labor force. The tasks assigned to women are then properly replicated as women prepare young girls for the same kinds of work. Conversely, young boys are trained for the jobs of society that provide freedom and require creativity. Gilman argues that these limitations have stunted women’s creative and economic potential. Just as Sandberg’s Lean In, Women and Economics ends with a call to action, she argues that women must rise above and demand a place at the table. Unlike Sandberg, Gilman considers class and its role in women’s social positioning. She examines why poor women tend to have more children while their wealthier counterparts have fewer. Gilman argues that poorer women have lesser access to social freedoms and are more at the will of their husbands. Even more radical is Gilman’s assertion that the right to vote will not completely free women. Rather, women must rise above a male-dominated society and make their place known.