About two in five women (42%) in the United States say they have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender states Kim Parker and Cary Funk (Gender Discrimination Comes in Many Forms for Today’s Working Women). Sexism is something that transpires everywhere and it’s been around since the first of men and women. Sexism is shown through multiple different styles and every form of it has the same type of effect on our society. The book Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee faces a constant barrier to the American dream described as sexism. From the first page of the novel, all the way to the last, sexism was shown realistically through two of the main characters, Sammy and Andy. They had to act, speak, and dress correspondingly to men. Sammy was performing at a trailer stop, as a boy, and all of a sudden her female appearance gets disclosed as her hat blows off and reveals her hair. Damn, my hat blew off! (Lee 254).
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On their excursion, while heading west toward the frontier, the two girls came face to face with many sexist remarks and allegations. Andy and Sammy feel in a way as if they are being targeted because the men they travel with think they are superior to women. This is a barrier due to the fact that even nowadays men and women are still treated unequally. Both girls had to dress in men clothes and had to function as manly as possible to make them seem like legitimate males so the other men would allow them to travel along with them instead of staying at home and doing work around the house like other women. Acting and dressing and speaking like men affected each of the girls’ personalities extremely. Sammy and Andy transform from disrespected women to independent men.
In the 1950s, women were assumed to stay at home and take care of their children while the men went to work to provide for their families financially. According to Oprah Winfrey, women are just as skillful and intelligent as men are and they should pursue their dreams with excellence no matter what. I was raised to believe that excellence is the best deterrent to sexism. And that’s how I operate my life states Oprah. Oprah has a talk show that altered the lives of many. She expressed her deepest thoughts to the television about making people realize that they need to accept others disregarding gender, ethnicity, and disabilities. She became known all around America because of her powerful words and extraordinary efforts toward those three main topics. The American barrier is brought up multiple times in the book I chose to read and opened itself up to talk about the past and the present topic of sexism. In Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Annamae (Andy’s real name before Sammy and her turn into boys) says to Sammy, What if we weren’t two girls, but two young men (21).
When this book was written, women were considered less intelligent, weaker, and should stay at home to take care of children and clean the house. The two girls had to completely change their appearance to look like males so people would let them travel alongside. This demonstrates that just because they were female, men would look at them differently, treat them differently, and potentially hurt them and take advantage of them. According to the Harvard Business Review article, What Research Tells Us About How Women are Treated at Work, women and men were found to be treated equally, just get different paychecks for doing the same type of work because of how they were looked upon. The article in conclusion says, Our analysis suggests that the difference in promotion rates between men and women in this company was due not to their behavior but to how they were treated. This study really showed how it’s not because of how their behaviors were vastly different, but because of how people act to women. Changing women’s behavior ” to ?lean-in,’ for example ” might miss the bigger picture: Gender inequality is due to bias, not differences in behavior (Harvard Business Review). There are studies that show men treat women differently solemnly because women are – more fragile, less intelligent, and weaker (Harvard Business Review).
Over the years the way men treat women has slightly changed. Andy and Sammy from the novel had to worry about men overpowering them and being dominant. A glimpse of a lady’s ankle is like the first sip of wine; makes you thirsty for the whole bottle. Now, before we make any agreements, I’d like to test the goods (Lee, 17). This man, Mr. Yorkshire, attempted to take advantage of a young fifteen-year-old because he knew that he had more power than Sammy and she would be an easy target to fulfill Ty’s hankering. Not only do women have great intelligence, but more strength than any man would ever know. Women are just as capable as men are to do anything they desire. For example, changing the two girls’ appearances helped them in an extensive way when the New York police were searching for them after they found the dead man’s body. It seems no one had a picture of me to print so they pulled one of some Chinese women in her twenties smoking a cigarette (Lee, 289). The police were more distressed about finding two women that killed a man, even if it wasn’t the actual person who committed the crime. If a man had killed a person the Federals would do anything they could to make sure they had the right person. The girls put the crime behind them and focused on attaining the goal to find friends and family, but most importantly to survive.
Sexism has changed throughout many years, but it hasn’t changed in a tremendous quantity by any means. Sexism was very controlling to women until the 1960’s when the nineteenth amendment was passed. Women were treated more fairly and were obligated to just as much as men were. Still to this day women are being treated differently than men, especially in a working environment. For example, Nike was just accused of being sexist and not doing anything about women’s reports of demeaning treatment and sexual harassment. According to Vox’s article Why the Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Against Nike is so Significant a reporter states, They reported male supervisors who called them vulgar names and discussed their bodies, and even one who threw his keys at a subordinate and called her a stupid bitch. The women said their complaints to human resources didn’t change anything. Women should have not put up with sexist statements or actions ever. Nobody even reacted to their reports, hence the women involved took it upon themselves to create a lawsuit against Nike.
Likewise in Under A Painted Sky, Andy was fearful after she had accidentally killed Ty Yorkshire when he tried to rape her. Does killing a man who tried to rape me count as murder? For me, it probably does (Lee, 19). If Sammy were to get found when she ran away, it was most likely the police wouldn’t have believed her side of the story and she would’ve been sent to prison for murder. Women were treated astonishingly unimportant in the setting during the 1850s. Anyone on the street would most certainly take a man’s word over a woman’s on any given day. When Sammy and Andy have to change their appearances from being girls to boys, it takes a while for them to adjust, but being male helps them do things they couldn’t as girls. You miss being a girl? I ask her. ?Not as much as I thought I would. Just feels like when I’m being a boy, I can cut a wider path (Lee, 119). Being a girl back then was difficult. Men used women to show off, and often they didn’t care about their personality or how they acted, but solely about looks. I don’t understand the constant need to prove one’s manhood as if it is always on the verge of slipping away. We never need to prove our womanhood (Lee, 213).
Towards the end of the novel, the girls decided that men have proved themselves enough, but they needed to make women known to be more than just an item, but to be known as strong, independent, and reliable humans. In this day and age, us women are still fighting for equal rights and fair treatment. According to Rainer Maria Rilke, The only journey is the one within, and it’s been a long journey for overcoming sexism, but we still have some time before we conquer this obstacle to achieve the American dream.
Women Discrimination In United States. (2019, Jun 24).
Retrieved September 25, 2022 , from
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