Confrontation of Gender Roles in the Works of Mill, Tennyson, and Woolf

1968 Words 8 Pages
Confrontation of Gender Roles in the Works of Mill, Tennyson, and Woolf

Although women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries faced oppression and unequal treatment, some people strove to change common perspectives on the feminine sex. John Stuart Mill, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Virginia Woolf were able to reach out to the world, through their literature, and help change the views that society held towards women and their roles within its structure. During the Victorian era, women were bound to domestic roles and were very seldom allowed to seek other positions. Most men and many women felt that if women were allowed to pursue interests, outside traditional areas of placement that they would be unable to be an attentive
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Mill makes a very strong argument that the position women have in society is not the only possible way to structure societal hierarchy. The reason it seems unnatural to change its structure, he claims, is because it is uncustomary.

He says that one cannot keep a certain sex bound by a stereotype, on the basis of their nature, when nature, in this sense, is biased to what is known and allowed by society. "Custom [...] however universal, affords no presumption and ought not to create any prejudice, in favour [sic] of woman's subjection to man" (Pyle 89). What is considered a woman's nature is not a well-rounded viewpoint because it does not allow for the differences that might occur if situations were different.

If men had ever been found in society without women, or women without men, or if there had been a society of men and women in which the women were not under the control of the men, something might have been positively known about the mental and moral differences which may be inherent in the nature of each. (1160-1161)

The commonly held theories that women are inferior to men, because they lack the strength of character, mind, and body that men are attributed to having, are misleading for many reasons. To assume that men are superior in these three aspects is to assume that all men and women equally share the same strengths and weaknesses of their entire sex. To do this one must accept the fact that all