Modernist Take on Gender Roles

Throughout history, the relationships between mother and daughter have been frayed by woman’s liberation. Many mothers have an old fashioned, traditional opinion about what a woman should be in society. The short story “Girl”, by Jamaica Kincaid, is an example of this particular relationship in action. The theme(s) in “Girl” strongly suggests that a woman should be domesticated and that there is a certain way that she should act, in addition to the role that she must fulfil according to society. This is commonly known as gender roles, the role or behavior learned by a person as appropriate to their specific gender. This is determined by the common cultural norms.

For example, the women should be the caretakers and family raisers by staying home, cooking, and being feminine. For the opposite, men need to be strong, the only provider of the family, and exude masculine qualities. This is not to say an individual can’t be those things, however, those roles can be very constricting for most of the population. In the 1960’s there were several cultural conflicts relating to gender preference, The most successful of these, feminism, achieved legal equality for women in the workplace and in the family throughout the industrialized world. (1616) This shows that gender roles can also be so restricting that they affect our workplace, life, and mentality. Many traditional women feel that it is a woman’s role in life is to be domesticated. The theme of Girl reinforces this of staying at home and adhering to the gender roles. The way the mother is speaking to the daughter is an important part in the reinforcement of the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. “Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry.” (Kincaid 1725)

In this instance, the mother is telling the daughter how she should learn to do things around the house. I feel that these simple tasks that the mother is telling the daughter in this story are simple tasks that anyone should be able to accomplish in today’s society. As far as I’m aware, the idea of taking care of yourself is not outdated. Kincaid’s short story ultimately contains the most important message of all the contemporary writers because of it’s relevancy today. To some, the idea that societal gender role discrimination is thought to be nonexistent to today’s society and equality between the sexes has already been achieved. However, that is far from true. Gender roles and relationships still play a part in furthering inequality of both men and women, and the effects of gender roles in relation to childhood, work, and families. Over the last several decades, society has begun to recognize that the nature of gender roles has an impact on the productive nature on people who contribute to said society.

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