Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 260

The thesis of Women and Economics, a manifesto by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is the need for women to change their cultural identity. The work explores social Darwinism themes, such as adapting to the social and political environment of the times in order to survive. One of the most prominent themes, or sub-themes, is Gilman's argument that humans are the only species on Earth in which females are made to become dependent on men for financial and social support.

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This hierarchical structure was born out of patriarchal conditioning, in which women are regarded as secondary citizens despite women's ability to perform alongside men in various economic industries. Gilman also observed that women are expected to pay economic and personal debts to men by performing domestic work. In this light, women are merely auxiliaries to the more "important" work that men do.

Gilman stated that this archaic gender role, or cultural identity, could be annihilated if women became more active, socially and politically. Just as a slave master is dependent on a slave for economic benefits, men are also dependent on the actions of women. Social and political control are also examined in the work.

In order for women to have full control over their lives, they must exert their will and make choices for themselves instead of regressing back to anachronistic systems of patriarchy. She states that women could choose to remain homemakers and participate in domestic affairs usually relegated to women, but that they should participate in other "arenas" of life, such as creating a career and being politically active.

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