Role Of The Sexes

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Role Of The Sexes


Roles of the Sexes
The submissive role of the female in a marriage or relationship is a common problem in many societies, including our own American society. This role has become so common that in fact it is now expected of the female. This male dominance goes as far back as the human race, to the beginning of relationships and marriage between the female and the male. Then, the physical prowess of the male led to his dominance in all situations and thus formed these roles. Even presently, with all our advances in equal rights and women’s’ advances in the work fields, this role of submission and passivity is still present among our society. Why do women accept this role? Why hasn’t it banished with the right to vote and her expansion into the male-dominated workplace? These roles are inbred into our society. The men are raised to lead and take charge. Women, on the other hand, are taught that their place is to keep peace, and in most scenarios that means conforming. There are many reasons women accept or allow this role. For many women, they find safety in allowing the male to dominate the relationship. The submissive role is familiar or so expected that the women fear changing the situation. Many authors illustrate this role of the sexes and portray some reasons and situations that are common in our society, such as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, in her story “The Hand”, and James Joyce, in “Eveline”. These two authors both, even though each describes a woman in a very different, yet remarkably similar, situation, discuss one of the major reasons women succumb to males.
Colette was a significant feminist in the early 1900’s when the women’s right movement was in full swing. She fought for equal opportunities for women and proved it was possible when she was the first woman to be admitted to the Goncourt Academy. As a novelist, she used her writing to illustrate the assumed roles society has developed. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature remarks, “Her professional life and three marriages helped to shape her keen insights into modern love and women’s lives.” (Compact Bedford, 196). Colette understood the expected submission role because she had lived the role of the wife several times. Also, as one of the few women in the workplace, she was subjected to even more male supremacy. She could write about the reasons why women comply because she understood and had been a victim herself.
In “The Hand”, Colette relates a story of a young bride. From the beginning of the story, she sets up the role of submission in the woman, and the domination in the husband, this unbalance of power. The husband is asleep, yet he still holds the power. While he sleeps comfortably, the wife is awake, supporting his head so that he may be comfortable. She won’ t even move because she fears waking him. He may not have consciously forced this authority over her, but he or she created it in her mind. When he twitches, the young wife believes it is her fault. She says guiltily, “I’m so heavy…I wish I could get up and turn the light off. But he is sleeping so well….” (Colette, 197). She does all she can to satisfy him and to comfort him, even at the expense of her comfort or any other luxuries. For example, “the arm twisted again, feebly, and she arched her back to make herself lighter.” (Colette, 197). Here, she is succumbing to him, even if it is through his unspoken wishes and through his actions. Even though this is a minute example, she is giving in to his desires. She gives up what she would rather in order to keep him content.
Colette uses the description of the characters to emphasize the unbalance of power. Not only does the husband outweigh the wife in power in the relationship; he is physically dominant as well. The young wife is described as slim and adolescent. The husband, on the otherhand, is described as having physical, not only mental, prowess. He is handsome, athletic, and physically dominant. He has very big arms, hands larger than the wives whole head,

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