The Female Stereotype Essay, Research Paper
Stereotypes have been a part of society for a very long time and are still present today. Both Svava Jakobsdottir s “A Story for Children” and Alice Munro s “The Office” share a common stereotype regarding the female gender. The female stereotype is the most concrete of all stereotypes which explains why both short stories possess a very similar nature for a typical woman. This stereotypical female is expected to have a delicate character, to take care of the house work and the children, to have no personal identity, and to be relatively simple and inferior in comparison to men.
The first aspect of the female stereotype found in the stories as well as reality is the female character. Women are generally seen as fragile individuals. Society believes that a woman has no self-confidence and needs support from some external element. This characteristic is found in “A Story for Children” where the mother has to go to a magazine to “[seek] courage and conformation that she was on the right track in life” (Jakobsdottir 527).
In “The Office,” the women s fragile character is suggested by Mr. Malley. He says that he is happy that his wife didn t see the obscene comments that were written in the washroom because it “upsets a woman that s had a nice bringing up” (Munro 922). Since Mr. Malley is a man, the filthy language didn t upset him but it would certainly upset the fragile character of a woman. Mr. Malley touches the stereotype of the delicate women once more when he says that the plain and empty office is not comfortable for a woman. He suggests ways in which the office could become more comfortable for the narrator since “a women wants things a bit cosier” (Munro 918).
Another stereotype concerning women is that they are responsible for taking care of the house and chores that come with it. In Jakobsdottir s story, the mother is portrayed as being “true to her nature and devote all her energies to her home and her children” (Jakobsdottir 526). Women (in this case mothers/wives) are expected to only focus on responsibilities related to the house and nothing else. They are responsible for feeding the whole family. Wives and mothers not only have to make sure that the children and husband receive their meal, but the family pets also. In “A Story for Children,” mama has the responsibility of “preparing supper” because the “children might suffer psychological harm from not getting supper on time” ( Jacobsdottir 526,527). In “The Office,” the narrator talks about how men are not expected to feed the pets; it is the woman s duty to “feed the cat” (Munro 916).
Once again, the bond between women and house chores is displayed, but this time in “The Office.” Munro places a scene in the story where a “woman came out of one of the empty offices, dragging a vacuum cleaner” (Munro 917). This small event shows a great stereotype that women are responsible for house chores since vacuum cleaners are associated with cleaning, which is a duty around the house.
The stereotypical woman is also expected to take care of the children. In “A Story for Children,” mama is ” swamped with work caring for the children” (Jakobsdottir 528). No matter how busy a woman is, the children are her responsibility. The stereotype consists of the mother having no life of her own, but involves the woman living her life through the life of the children. It is clearly said in “The Office” that a woman “staring into space, into a country that is not her husband s or her children s is likely known to be an offense against nature” (Munro 916). Therefore, women are predisposed to focus totally on their children and forget about their own life.
The concept of women s responsibility of taking care of the children is even touched at an indirect level. This relationship is accomplished when Mr. Malley gives the narrator a plant. He thinks she likes plants and it will “brighten things up” for her (Munro 918). This comes back to women being predisposed to taking care of the children. Women like to take care of growing plants just like they enjoy taking care of growing children.
The female stereotype also expects women to have no life other than house work and therefore are assumed to have no identity. In “A Story for Children”, she is called “Mama” throughout the story, which perfectly demonstrates how a woman (mother/wife) is seen by society as not having a definite identity. Women, according to the typical label created by the public, are part of the house. They are expected to focus so much on the home and the chores within the house that they are considered to be the house. Munro states in her story (according to society) that the narrator “is the house; there is no separation possible” (Munro 916). She is fused with the house and they are considered one concept in the eyes of a stereotypical world.
Women hold no true identity and that is why the children in “A Story for Children” did not visit their mother after they moved out. The children did not visit her because they “didn t like the sterile smell that clung to everything in the house” (Jakobsdottir 531). The sterile smell represents the lack of identity. Something that is sterile doesn t really have any distinct characteristics. Hence, since the mother s life revolves around the house and not her own existence, she possesses no diverse qualities. She is lifeless just like the house and since she is typically related to house work she is therefore considered the house.
The last stereotypical aspect of the female character found in the stories is the fact that women a simple and inferior compared to men. The stereotype that women are relatively simple is reinforced in “A Story for Children.” The label is displayed through the event where the children take mama s brain. Even without her brain, “it hadn t become a bit more difficult for her to do housework” (Jakobsdottir 529). The fact that she can still do her routine without her brain indicates that women live a simple life and therefore are simple in nature. Jakobsdottir is saying that the stereotypical women s life or responsibilities are so simple that they can be done without an intellect.
The other half of the last stereotype in the stories is related to women s inferiority. This stereotype reveals that women have little authority and men are superior to them. Women s inferiority is displayed a few times in “The Office.” When the protagonist first moves into her office, she is confronted with the inferiority stereotype. Mr. Malley is the man who tries to control her as the stereotype would have it. He does not ask her want she wants, but tells her instead. Mr. Malley says, “What you want is a nice easy chair to sit in” instead of asking her if she wanted an easy chair (Munro 918). He tries to make her inferior to him.
The other incident of the stereotype of the inferior women occurs when Mr. Malley talks to the narrator about her inappropriate behaviour (that he is imagining). When he talks to her, he lifts his hand in “a forgiving gesture” (Munro 921). Mr. Malley is assuming he has power over her. He believes in the stereotype of inferior women relative to men and is acting upon his assumptions.
The stereotype for women that was found in “A Story for Children” and “The Office” consisted of the dainty character, the responsibility of house work and child rearing, the absence of an identity, and the simple existence with inferior status. Both Jakobsdotter and Munro portrayed a very realistic female stereotype that has been around for along time. The female stereotype is a very well known label to all individuals. The critical part of stereotypes is not the number of people who know about the stereotypes, but how many people believe them.