Gender Roles in Joyce Carol Oates “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Joyce Carol Oates plays upon the stereotypic female gender role through her adolescent character, Connie, in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” The story was written at a significant time in America’s history. It was a season when social and moral conventions were challenged. This period experienced the rise of women struggling for sexual freedom and gender equality in a patriarchal society. Oates portrays the protagonist, Connie, as naive, unaware and inexperienced; she has yet to find her identity and fully understand her place as a women in the world. She believes she has learned to play the game of the sexes and that she has the upper hand. This belief, though, is quickly subverted when she is confronted by Arnold Friend, a man who works to reinforce patriarchal standards by punishing Connie for acting outside stereotypic female role boundaries, she then realizes as a women, she has very little power.
Young adolescent Connie must negotiate between the adult world and her youthful existence. Connie's value as a female is often judged and criticized by the women in her life, particularly her mother. Her mother regularly scolds Connie and compares her to June, her older sister who “ was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother's sisters. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house, cooked