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Charley Blog Post – 9/21

Howard Zinn’s chapter, “The Ultimately Oppressed,” paints a sad picture of gender inequality in the 18th and 19th centuries. The treatment of women as lesser is rooted in the societal norms that our country was founded on. According to Zinn, “societies based on private property and competition, in which monogamous families became practical units for work and socialization, found it especially useful to establish this special status of women, something akin to a house slave in the matter of intimacy and oppression, and yet requiring, because of that intimacy, and long-term connection with children, a special patronization, which on occasion, especially in the face of a show of strength, could slip over into treatment as an equal” (Zinn 2245).

This arbitrary status of women in society was fluid at times. Notably, women held very different responsibilities during war time. During the American Revolution, women expanded their role in the economy, garnering influence in traditionally male-dominated sectors of life. For example, women held positions in newspapers, tanneries, taverns, and other skilled, middle-class industries that had previously been restricted to males. As a result, women received more education. Between 1780 and 1840, literacy among women doubled (2536). This educational growth led to a growing number of female teachers in primary schools. 

It also fueled female involvement in various political movements, including the antislavery and temperance movements. That said, the women who are mostly highly regarded for their involvement in political action came from privilege. This disparity was felt throughout the feminist movement; much of the progression that women received was disproportionately granted to the upper classes and there was very little trickle-down effect.

Significant progress was made in the struggle for gender equality, but this problem still persists today, in many respects. Women make up 4% of Fortune 500 company CEOs and hold 20% of elected positions, despite accounting for the majority of university students. Even female dominated industries such as the medical field and education are disproportionately male in leadership roles. Sadly, these disparities do not seem to be going away anytime soon.

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2 Comments

  1. Sara Moushegian Sara Moushegian

    Your last statement about men still holding leadership roles in women-dominated industries frustrates me to no end because it is true! In my sociology class, I learned the term “glass escalator”, which describes this phenomenon. My casual definition of it is when men in female-dominated occupations get put on a fast track to get promotions over women. Especially in the nursing field, male nurses are valued more than women nurses, even though it is a female-dominated industry. I think society will definitely struggle to lose the norm of male holding leadership positions, but we are slowly progressing. Jane Fraser became the first CEO of Citigroup just recently, which is very rare because women hardly are leaders in the finance industry.

  2. Thomas Bennett Thomas Bennett

    The truth about the way white men in the 18th and 19th century viewed women is revealed in the way that they chose to treat women in wartime vs. in peacetime. It becomes clear that men’s treatment of women was based solely on what benefited themselves at ay particular moment in history. When it served men best to be controlling all of the jobs and wealth during peacetime, women were solely allowed to remain inside the home. The very second that the United States was entering a war with another country, it became necessary for the women in society to take up jobs that benefited the goal of winning the war and prevented societal collapse. The way that women have been allowed to act throughout history has been determined by what suited the men at that times needs.

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