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Christopher Wilson’s Blog Post 9/19

In response to the material that focuses on gender inequality throughout history, I can see why Gender Essentialism was popular in the past and how this ideology is being perpetuated in today’s society. Zinn (1980) talks a lot about how women were objectified by their husbands because of their physical characteristics that these men sought to exploit for personal gain. For instance, when men looked at women, they saw them as their property, as servants, sex partners, companions, and as the mother of their children. This system of oppression was reinforced by men who imposed strict social standards and who passed laws to ensure that women would be kept in their place at all times. It is not surprising, then, that these same men used religion to justify their unjust system of inequality against women.

As Dr. Bezio mentioned in her podcast, the intersections of class and gender also influenced the level of oppression women faced because the struggles that wealthy, white women faced were radically different from the struggles that poor, white women faced. For example, wealthy, white women had more freedom, opportunity, and time to deviate from traditional gender norms to explore their curiosities. On the other hand, poor, white women did not have the freedom,  opportunity, nor as much time as wealthy, white women because they had to learn how to not only manage their household but how to also perform well on their low-wage job, where they worked long hours and under harsh conditions. This comparison does not begin to consider the struggles that black women also faced during the 17th century as slaves. In the early 19th century, though, Zinn (1980) points out that the feminist movement grew in power as women- primarily, those in the middle-class- learned how to properly advocate for themselves and the causes they were passionate about. Women accomplished this goal by educating themselves on how to read and write better since society prohibited women from pursuing higher education.

On that note, the poems Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley wrote fascinated me. A common theme that I notice in Anne’s work is the zeal she has in wanting to end women’s submission to men because her identity as a devout Puritan conflicted with her gender identity as a woman. Although her religion urged her to only focus on her devotion to God, Anne was ready to start the conversation about things that most women weren’t supposed to discuss in colonial America, such as love and a commitment to other people than just solely God. Likewise, I was really interested in the story of Phillis Wheatley and the impact she had on the world. Her life as an African slave was uncommon and is not heard about in history when we examine the lives of African slaves from the 17th to the 19th century. What’s more than this is that she had her work published across Europe and North America while still being an African slave, in which her poem “On Being Brought from Africa to America” uses biblical allusions to appeal to the religious colonists in America to take action in abolishing slavery.

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One Comment

  1. Michael Stein Michael Stein

    I agree that Bradstreet’s work is fascinating especially when viewed through the idea of intersectionality. Indeed, Bradstreet’s identity as a women and as a Puritan often come in conflict with each other. I think this can be seen in her poem, “Before the Birth of One of Her Children.” In the poem, the speaker both takes pride in and question her role as a mother. While she enjoys creating a family with her husband, she worries about dying in child birth.

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