Malala Yousafzai has said, “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” The fight for women’s equality is one that has been very tough going way back in time. Women have always been dependent upon men and denied the freedom men are granted. The Victorian Era really captures the struggle and difficulty of women’s lives. Women were considered inferior in all aspects of life. From being considered their husband’s property to being unable to make any decisions. This is why Charlotte Bronte had to change her name and have a male pen name so her book could be published. On top of that, her book was not going to be published at first. The reason was that it addressed all the social issues that were taking place. The male patriarchal system thought her book would change their “utopian” society and women might revolt against the norms. This novel directly relates to the issues of gender roles presented in Victorian society.
The article “Gender Roles in the 19th Century” the article describes the difference in education and marriage rights for women and men. Women were responsible for being homemakers and were often forced to sacrifice their education so that their sons or brothers can go to school. As a result, men were the ones who went to work and were the breadwinners of society. Thus women were expected to be subjugated to men and were viewed as physically weak creatures. However, life was slightly different for middle-class women. They were given education so they can attract men. This reminds me a lot of Estella, from the Great Expectations who’s trying to be educated to impress men just so she can break their hearts at the end. Whereas women could wear whatever clothes they want today and choose whatever job they want, women in the Victorian Era could only wear corsets and had very specific jobs. For example, from the article ‘A Glimpse of Victorian Era Social Life,’ some of the lower class women had to wear tight corsets. It also talks about how women took part in domestic chores as jobs such as the “Sewing Club.”
Based on the evidence presented, women had to choose jobs that allowed them to stay at home because that is where they “belonged.” Women weren’t able to choose their own jobs because at the time, they were considered unlawful for work. Similarly, from the novel Jane Eyre, we can see how Jane had to choose jobs where she was only allowed to work at home. In addition, we can see St. John who’s constantly telling her how she should live her life, and Mr. Brocklehurst treating Jane like she’s a liar. Jane is an educated woman who becomes a schoolteacher and a governess, but she is still mistreated because she is an orphan. People take for granted the rights we are blessed to have today. In the Victorian Era, women hardly had any rights. Before they were even married, they experienced prejudice. According to The Working and Middle Classes in Victorian Era England, women were seen (by men) as emotional and unstable to the point where they were incapable of making rational decisions.” This was completely unfair for women because the fact that they raised kids showed their responsibility proving that they could make rational decisions. This denies their basic human rights because women have the freedom to think whatever they like and make any decision they want.
Once a woman becomes married, all her property would go to her husband and she must live under his shadow. If there was a divorce, the children would go to the men leaving the women with nothing. Men could have premarital sex but women had to be chaste otherwise they would be seen as sinners. The most degrading thing was that employment. The reason why women could not live a single life was that there would be no way they could make a living. As for those who wanted to live alone, they had to choose jobs such as prostitution. Women in the Victorian Era explain that “Women went into prostitution was because other jobs for women were limited and didn’t make nearly as much money.” This sad image is a clear example that displays the gender disparity in the Victorian Era. Here we can see women being subjugated under men, forced to obey their husbands. Many husbands were abusive to their womenfolk, an example of which can be seen in Oliver Twist where Nancy was killed because she left her house and didn’t obey her husband. Below we see a woman wearing a corset sitting bored and saddened at home. The reason men felt this power over women was because the Victorian Era was a patriarchal system.
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