The mysterious death of Mary Rogers: sex and culture in nineteenth-century New York is a story that emphasizes the prevalence of sexual disparity during the nineteenth century. During this period, the American culture treated women as inferior. Society viewed women as objects of desire instead of equally capable individuals. Women did not engage in the same jobs as men. While men engaged in everyday work activities, the women remained at home to take care of the children and the household. Young women who were not yet married or betrothed were at a disadvantage since majority of the men would hurl lewd words at them. The power to draw mens attention encouraged many young women during this time to maximize on the opportunities that involved displaying their beauty. As seen in the story, businesspersons in New York utilized the beauty exhibited by young women such as Mary as a sales mechanism. This paper aims at discussing the subject of gender discrimination as a reflection of Srebnicks story.
The interesting thing about the nineteenth century is that women had insignificant roles in the society. Discrimination against women was common such that women were even harassed openly. Unfortunately, women during could not do much to protect themselves since the law also defended discrimination against women. Women such as Mary Rogers were isolated from society because people had a given perception about women in general. For instance, as noted, the given perception about women is that their role should be that of a mother and a wife. This view on women has sparked debate over decades. The trend began in the early years when men would go out to hunt for food. Women would remain at home to take care of the household. This tradition has lived on through many generations and is still evident in some societies today.
What I have learnt is that the biological differences between men and women make the situation during the nineteenth century desirable. Furthermore, scientists have proven that men have better build. Hence, they are capable of undertaking strenuous jobs. In addition, when compared to women, men can withstand pressure and stress better. Given such differences, it is evident why society would prefer men to take on all the difficulties that would ensure they earn income for their families. On the other hand, society views women as gentler and delicate. Scientists have also proven that this is why females exhibit caring attitude. As a result, women are much more suited to take on the job of raising children and looking after men when the need arises.
The shocking thing is that the tradition where women stay at home while men go out to make a living has endured over the years. Nonetheless, it has also experienced a change in perspective since today; such a statement appears as degrading to females. Most people are of the opinion that all women do is stay at home and therefore, they do not contribute in any way towards societys development. However, I do not believe this is the case since the statement provides a generalized view. Women can also go to work as evidenced in todays society. At the same time, they can play the role of a wife and mother. Hence, even if some women prefer to stay at home, they still play a vital role in society. For instance, they ensure the continuity of humans through motherhood. As a wife, a woman also takes on the role of caring for her husband to ensure that he rests well every day after work. This will ensure that he can perform his best during the next day. Apart from this, the wife also takes away any worries concerning the family that the husband may have.
I have also learnt from the book that failure to include women in societys development activities led most women to seek other alternative sources of income. As seen in Srebnicks story, Mary had to move from her home to New York so that she could secure a job she could rely on. This shows that during this period, women had to learn to live on their own. Moreover, majority of the jobs, which had a stable income, went to men. Those who were lucky to find a job had better chances of surviving alone. However, those who were not lucky at all could only wish that they would find a husband who would take care of them. Nonetheless, even after a woman was able to find a job or a husband, they still had to tolerate their dismal lives.
In most cases, married women had to endure physical abuse from their husbands. During this time, society also viewed physical abuse within a marriage as normal. If a husband punished his wife, people would conclude that the wife had made a mistake or disobeyed her husband. In addition, it was unbecoming to meddle in another couples marriage. Hence, most of the times, people would not even realize it if a man punished his wife without any good reason. The simple fact that the man was the head of the house would override any accusation made by anyone else who was concerned.
In my opinion, it is also possible that the responsibilities that women missed during the nineteenth century delayed the overall progress in the world. Today, women engage in the same working activities as men in private and public offices. These opportunities have enabled them to become part of the decision-making process in institutions. If societys perception of women were different in the nineteenth century, they would not have had to engage in degrading activities. Instead, they would have worked in the various private and public institutions to help advance the world. In the end, it is also possible that the current level of progress and development in the world would be higher.
Another interesting thing is the manner in which New York businesspersons treated Mary and other women. It is very unfair. The women were willing to work at the going rate. Also, their employers were willing to compensate them. However, the compensations they would receive were those set by the employers and not those, which the women felt, were agreeable. This created a situation whereby the employers simply exploited the skills the women had to offer without compensating them fairly. The situation is still evident today. Women are still compensated way less than they should. This has led gender equality groups to focus on such issues. However, what is still evident is societys perception regarding the matter. Clearly, some societies are still of the view that women should always come second to men. Hence, when it comes to the issue of pay, men should also receive higher compensation as compared to women.
From Srebnicks story, it is clear that mens perception of women would later make them victims of social crimes such as rape. This also accentuated the level of fear among women, which is also evident today. Even though the women in the nineteenth century were aware of the fact that their status in society was becoming more and more sexually oriented, they had no option but to submit to the demands of men. This often resulted in the harassment of women. The most dreaded situations were when men would coerce women into satisfying their sexual desires. Today, such practices are punishable by law. However, back then, many viewed this as normal behavior. Furthermore, society perception of women as inferior meant that women did not voice their disapproval.
One can draw majority of the gender discrimination problems that women have faced over the years from Srebnicks story. The book provides one with a good understanding of the role society played in determining the characteristics and roles of women during the nineteenth century. During the eighteenth century, the roles of women were similar. However, the manner in which they were treated was much more respectable. Hence, even though society determined the role of women in each period, its perception became highly misguided during and after the nineteenth century.
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