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Women’s Suffrage: Breaking Out of the Yellow Wall-Paper

Women’s right to vote was obtained through no easy feat. Patriarchy was established to keep us in check, crippling women financially, civically, and most importantly, socially. Without the financial means (fair and equal access to work, personal accounts, and loans) and civic power (the right to vote and hold office) to protect our rights and personal interests, women were left entirely at the mercy of men, at a societal level and within the home. This system was justified through the disparagement of the “fairer” [read: female] sex, and it became socially instilled into men and women that women were inherently biologically different from men to the point of being “irrational” beings who should not be left in command of themselves for their own protection.

Overall, this strategy was very effective. Through social/pseudo-scientifc posturing about the way women are, and through complete financial and legal domination, women were either without the means to advocate for their own rights or pitted against their oppressors (men) and “science” in trying to fight it. Patriarchy not only stripped women of their power, but also of their voices and ability to be taken seriously. This is showcased very effectively in the work The Yellow Wall-Paper, by Charlotte Stetson, where the female protagonist is constantly forced to question her own perspective and experience of reality due to what may be mental illness but what is also certainly gaslighting by the husband who controls every aspect of her being (down to where she is allowed to be and what she is allowed to think).

Given the patriarchal norms that stripped women of the power to speak and be believed, it is impossible for them to have received their right to vote in any way other than fighting, and working alongside the Civil Rights movement for Black Americans. It is also understandable (though still wrong) that this movement became co-opted by racist white women who sought to gain power comparatively by stealing rank from black men (and obviously black women doubly so). While the narrator of The Yellow Wall-Paper may not have truly gained power by the end of the story (like women), she managed to break out of the initial binds of the wall-paper (gain the right to vote) which was certainly a first step.

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  1. Emma Joaquin Emma Joaquin

    I appreciated your comparison to the yellow wallpaper and women’s rights and how tearing down the wallpaper symbolizes women obtaining the right to vote, but like the women in the story, women in the United States have still not truly gained equal power. There are still many hurdles and obstacles for women just like there are for the woman in the story.

  2. Michael Paul Michael Paul

    While patriarchy was established to keep women in check, I think it’s fair to say that although we have come a long way as a society, there is still so much room to prevent this patriarchal society we still live in. One of the most immediate examples that stand out to me is in the workforce, especially in technical fields, which are dominated by men. While there are many institutions working to create a more inclusive workplace, people still feel like they don’t fit in, and a culture change is hard to create. I am curious to see how this changes over the next few decades.

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