Gender Roles And Understanding Between Men And Women In Novels The Men We Carry In Our Minds, Bath’s Tale And Pink Think

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Over the course of history, the differences between men and women were characterized by their distinct roles in society. As time progresses, the understanding between the two genders has diverged from what was accepted in previous generations. Discussions regarding the roles of men and women have begun to decline, leading us to overlook the “past we must contend with [which] is deeper even than speech.” (Sanders 132) As demonstrated in literature, generalizations made about gender roles have deeply impacted the understanding between men and women.

In “The Men We Carry in Our Minds,” author Scott Russell Sanders discusses how his contrasting perception on gender roles was shaped by the experiences in his childhood. Sanders recalls memories of men he saw whose bodies were “twisted and maimed in ways visible and invisible.” (Sanders 133) The men of his childhood got up before light and came home at night, working all day until their exploited bodies were drained of energy. Even the soldiers who Sanders considered to barely work at all were expected to kill “when the hour of killing arrived” and many would die “when the real shooting started.” (Sanders 134) In addition, Sanders’ father, who worked a white-collar job, eventually succumbed at age 65 to the injuries he suffered earlier in his life. These memories etched in Sanders’ mind defined his belief that men led difficult lives filled with exhausting work and little pleasure.

This opinion contrasted from the generalizations made by the women Sanders met in college who “told [him] that men were guilty of having kept all the joys and privileges of the earth for themselves.” (Sanders 135) Sanders was puzzled by the women’s comments but realized that some women were just as mistreated as the men of his childhood: “I did learn about the wretchedness of abandoned wives, single mothers, widows; but I also learned about the wretchedness of lone men.” (Sanders 135) Ultimately, Sanders realizes that the men women thought of in their mind were different than the ones of his childhood. The biased women yearned to be like their fathers: rich and successful. This generalization of men, however, helped Sanders to understand the different viewpoints both genders had on each other and led to his overall grasp of the roles of both men and women.

“The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” written by Geoffrey Chaucer, highlights a knight’s journey to discover what women desire most in life, revealing a battle of dominance between men and women. At the beginning of the story, a knight spotted a woman alone while riding alongside the river bank. The knight forcefully “took her maidenhead”, (Chaucer 79) exercising his power over the woman’s body. As a punishment for his crime, the queen demands that the knight find what woman most desire or he would be killed after a year and a day. After a long search and encountering a variety of answers, the knight received the help from an old hag who promised to give him the answer in exchange for “Whatever [the woman] shall next require of [him]”. (Chaucer 82)

The knight agreed and revealed to the queen that “A woman wants the self-same sovereignty over her husband as over her lover, and master him; he must not be above her”. (Chaucer 82) The power women desired is evident throughout the story; Chaucer wields power to the queen who decides the knight’s fate and forces him to meet the hag’s needs. Although the knight is displeased, he agrees to marry the old hag. The knight admits he didn’t want to marry the hag because she was old, ugly, and “so poor to start with”. (Chaucer 84) After these comments, the hag expressed her views on gentility, poverty, and old age, effectively dominating their conversation. Towards the end of her speech, the hag offers the knight a choice: the chance to have a “loyal, true, and humble wife that will never displease [him] in all her life” or a

“young and pretty wife” with no promise to demonstrate good qualities. (Chaucer 87) The knight allows his wife to “choose and rule” as she thinks is fit (Chaucer 88) and the couple enjoy each other for the rest of the night. The marriage between the knight and the hag illustrates an understanding between men and women – the power to equally control and share power will lead to happier, successful relationships.

Lynn Peril’s “Pink Think” describes how millions of women were motivated to act with “proper female behavior” to match a stereotyped vision of women set in the mid-twentieth century. Pink think was most predominant from the 1940s to the 1970s and suggested that women acted “gentle, soft, and delicate.” (Peril 33) Women needed to use “charm” and “personality” to be considered successful. (Peril 34) Books, advertisements, magazines, and toys all targeted women and little girls alike, inclining all females to look and act the same.

Pink think pushed women to step away from their comfort zone and meet criterion set by men and women alike. Women were led to believe that they needed to act more feminine to marry a man and later bear a child: “the ultimate feminine fulfillment.” (Peril 35) They were trained to “win a man’s attention and hold his interest after marriage.” (Peril 36) Pink think also inspired the creation of home economics as a “high school course and college major.” To many women, motherhood and staying at home were their only options for the future. (Peril 35) Though not as prominent, pink think continues to exist into the twenty-first century. This ideology is a result of the misunderstanding between men and women about the role women have in society.

Recognizing and understanding the differences between men and women can be challenging. The works of Sanders, Chaucer, and Peril demonstrate that problems arise when both genders fail to communicate with each other. Men and women must become aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The relationship between them in society should be complementary to each other.


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