Changes in Public Perception of Women From 1950's to 21st Century Term Paper

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Public Perception of Women from 1950's to 21st Century

Man and women are what constitutes what one calls Mankind or Human Beings. Historically man has tried to be dominant over the woman. The further one travels in history it is seen that women were considered to be something inferior. They were not treated as human beings but were treated as objects. Men considered them to be their possession. They wanted to control their thoughts and actions. Man since time immemorial has tried to decide the role of woman in society. Some societies also saw them to be as a machine for the purpose of reproduction. Even today there are some societies that look upon women to be someone inferior although globally speaking these societies are very few in number and the majority of people have come to recognize and realize that women are as much of human beings as man is. Slowly people have accepted them to be equal to man rather than inferior. The concept of male domination is slowly reducing now.

When one travels back in history, in the 1950's, women were given specific roles in society. If you were a woman then your role was to be a housewife and take care of the kids. The husband would go out and work whereas the woman would clean the house, cook the food, and nurture the children. Parents did not bother much with the education of their daughter and rarely females were allowed to go for post graduation. Many societies back then did not allow a woman to marry who she liked and the trend for arranged marriage was dominant. Such behavior by man was derived from some religious doctrines and ideas presented by Darwin. Darwin had claimed that the best genes are transferred to the males as compared to the females. Ideas like these psychologically programmed the human mind that women are inferior as compared to men. Moreover religious doctrines like the Bible states that it was Eve who came under the influence of the whispers of Satan and thus ate the forbidden fruit. This further programmed men to believe that woman is evil by nature. Thus since society was introduced to ideas like these, the public in general came to observe women to be inferior and evil. As a result there was oppression of the females and a form of gender discrimination was noted to exist dominantly as we travel back in history. Other people did recognize the problem and the faulty behavior of man throughout history and many did write against it. Islam being one religion that actually taught people that women are not inferior and should be allowed to work and should be given the right to be educated. However such teachings and ideas tended to disappear with time under cultural pressures and people started directing for women their roles and wanted to control them.

Women throughout history have also played important roles in society and worked for the independence of their nation. They have made remarkable efforts to achieve something that men could not achieve. However these efforts were forgotten and ignored by the male gender of society. Such an example is seen in the Algerian war of independence. The French colonialists ruled Algeria for a very long time from 1830 all the way till 1962 when Algeria gained their independence. Algerian men and women both participated in the war of independence and the women fought as bravely as the men to gain liberation from the French. For the time being the role of women changed in the eyes of men and they had no problem in standing with the women shoulder to shoulder and fighting against the French. However the sad part is that when the French forces lost the war, the same night when everyone was out celebrating, the men came out on the streets chanting that women should go back into their homes. The men did not like the women celebrating and the instant the war was over they forgot that the women played an important role in the nation's independence and thus have an equal right to celebrate. The public however instructed women to go back into the homes and take care of the household.

Women were not hired for job previously and it was in the 1970's that women started to move into the labor force. "The movement of women into the labor force has been described as the 'single most outstanding event of our century'" (William T. Markham, p.695). Moreover the colored women were treated much differently than the white women. "Historically, women of color have frequently been perceived and treated quite differently from white, middle-class women. They have been expected, for example, to make their bodies available for labor and sex on very different terms from those offered to white women" (Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, p.251-274).

However oppressive actions where women were not allowed to do what they pleased installed into the women an idea that they are instructed and told what to do. They felt that their actions are controlled and their ideas or opinions hold no value in the sights of the male gender. This gave rise to feminism and women started to work for their rights and equality. Women liberation movements came to rise and there was a major effort done by women to make the male gender realize and know that women have the right to think and choose what they want to do. They wanted to be accepted as a part of the system and wanted to have the right to marry who they wished and to vote for who they wanted and to work if they wanted to. "This agenda, in short, was to denounce sexism and discrimination against women, to expose the origins, foundations, and workings of patriarchy, and subsequently to formulate and implement strategies for its eventual demolition." (Manuela Thurner, p.122). This movement to a considerable extent forced man to accept woman as a part of society and realize that her opinions and ideas should also hold as much value as their own. Women became more organized and feminists began to work in a way to bring awareness in other women to become educated. They began to stress on the importance of education and claimed it to be their right. Women started to tell others that it is important for them to learn about their roots and heritage and stressed that without such an education the woman will be powerless in the society. Moreover these movements worked towards education being unbiased in universities and schools and people should be taught about the heroic women in history. Women wanted to do this study individually and did not want to be exposed to the fantasies projected towards them by the male gender. Women of color also teamed up with the white women to fight for their rights and when they did so they were labeled as lesbians and man-haters and were accused of abandoning their culture by teaming up with the white women (Karen Anderson, p.5).

This type of labeling and behavior did not stop the women from fighting for equality and their rights and soon the male gender of society began to accept them as a significant part of society. Women started to go into various professions in increasing numbers and began to take part in various fields. Faulty and unscientific ideas by Darwin about the best gene being transferred to the male have now been dropped and man is increasingly acknowledging woman as a human being rather than an object of desire or a reproduction machine. With time stricter rape laws have also been put into effect and women are given shelter and protection. Abortion has now been legalized and any woman who wishes not to have a child or if it is unhealthy for her to have a child can legally abort it. Such changes have been seen in the course of history and are a step forward in the status of women in the eyes of the public. Further moving towards the east, in countries like India women were oppressed and with the presence of the caste system, women of the lower class were treated like slaves. Women were married off at an early young age and they had no say in choosing their partner. Moreover women whose husbands died during their lifetime were burnt alive. There the women also fought against this oppression and speeches were given on "women's struggle for freedom against man-made laws and customs and urging women not to be too submissive to their menfolk" (Gail Omvedt, p.47).

As we enter the 21st century we find women to be aiming for the highest education and applying for the best jobs available. Generally the public has no problem today with women working at the top level neither does man have a problem with working under a female. Today there are "women in the military, women in the workplace, women holding political office,…

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