Felicia C on the New Woman

The New Woman

By Felicia Cuecaco

Okay, let’s talk about the topic of a New Woman. If we take it back a bit, in the time of the Victorian Era, women were beginning to create a stereotype for themselves that would lead to define the saying “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.” Women, were obligated to serve and please their family, and only to that. Influential figures such as Queen Victoria, limited women to aspire outside of domestic life, with women would not dare to challenge the social law. With women finding their own independence and have a stable life for themselves without the help from a man, why does it irk society? Is it because that women have depended on men for such a long time, that we often forget that women are their own human and are capable of doing what a man could do. Recently, in our lecture, we came across the topic of what defines a New Woman and I couldn’t help but wonder, why are men so afraid of the so called New Woman? Bare warning I will be referring to Beyoncé so if you don’t like the Queen Bee, you might not want to keep reading this, but please do.

In the year 2015, it is obvious that everything is a little different. Well a lot different, but when it comes to the way women are perceived it is a little on the fence. Today we see the New Woman as a woman who is independent, has a career and is pretty much a boss. However society, men in particular find it so intimidating to be around a woman who is independent because they are used to the philosophy that men are suppose to provide for the woman with whatever she wants and needs and that women are suppose to be in charge of the house hold, make beautiful babies, and cater to their man. Now, i’m sorry Destiny’s Child, although I love your song, “Cater 2 U”  I am not about to do that everyday for the rest of my life. I’m sorry, that is not happening. However, in the Victorian era and many eras prior to that, had the same philosophy. So with this New Woman uprising, society began to oppose to the idea of women becoming so independent and not following the social laws. As Tess learns to cope with the fact that she has been raped and that her child Sorrow was a product form it, we begin to see her transition from an innocent adolescent to a woman who in modern terms “gives zero fucks.” Some may argue, that once a woman has a child they have no fears towards anything that may come their way, especially the judgement of men. Tess for example, has a “natural energy.. that rekindled after the experience which had so overwhelmed her at the time”(132), for me I can imagine Tess “Feelin’ [her] self” to quote Queen Bee and Queen Nicki Minaj. Yes, I referenced the most iconic song from the two Queens of RnB, but it’s the message behind it and advocates to forget what men say about you, be you and be your own person. (You go Glen Co Co!)  With all vulgar things aside it’s pretty much telling women to be free with their feelings. Unfortunately, back then, men wouldn’t allow that at all, they wouldn’t like their women expressing their feelings and all that jazz because it isn’t lady like. Tess, represents the woman that men stray away from because she is so different and she challenges the social law by not abiding by it not one bit and she doesn’t allow it to control her in anyway.

Now let’s go back to the question, why are men afraid of the New Woman? I guess, you can believe that men are just dick heads who don’t allow women to be who they are. Yes, there is some truth to that but not all men are like that. Some men actually adore the New Woman and admire at the fact that a woman has stability in her life, and did it all on her own. However, that philosophy of the woman only being a domestic figure still lingers today. I think men are afraid of the New Woman because it’s the one thing that they cannot control to meet their standards and it intimidates them to the point where they begin to belittle  women and degrade them because of their success or their past experiences. For example, women who are unmarried, in their late thirty’s and don’t have children are often judged because they are not doing their womanly duties. Same goes for those women like Tess who have children out of wedlock, work to make ends meet and cannot be accepted by a man because they have “extra baggage” However, I believe that men should get out of that way of thinking and start seeing  into the perspective of women. Not all women are conformed to meet the standards of what men want and need from a wife, for example if a woman has “extra baggage” a.k.a a child, men shouldn’t run away from it but boss up and be a man. I applaud those men who accept children from their wives previous relationships and raise them as their own. So my message to all men is, don’t run away from the New Woman but embrace her and not tear down her empire but help her grow it together, just like Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Yes, I know I have an  unhealthy obsession with Beyoncé, but don’t we all?

Works Cited

Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d’Urbervilles. 2nd ed. Ed. Sarah Maier. Peterborough: Broadview, 2013. Print.

4 thoughts on “Felicia C on the New Woman

  1. Hi Felicia,

    I think it’s important to bear in mind that socially constructed gender roles are institutional as well as interpersonal, demanding adherence from both women and men; they are bigger than any one individual person. There is ample textual evidence of individuals, including Angel (a man compelled by social and religious forces) and Tess herself, trying in vain to work against the larger machinations of misogyny. The tragedy is in the futility, since one changed or sympathetic mind can’t necessarily change the outcome.

    The deeply encoded nature of gender roles is evident in your own words. For instance: “accept”/ “boss up and be a man” imply a gendered and misogynistic valuation of men as duty-bound, stoic, and stalwart. The misogyny here is in the contrast: if “boss/man up” is a command of strength, what is its logical opposite?

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  2. Felicia,

    While reading your blog I was reminded of a passage in the Bible that states that wives are supposed to submit to their husbands, as they would to God, because just as Christ is head of the church, so is the husband a head to his wife (Ephesians 5:22-23). On the flip side, husbands are to love their wives. Some of the reasons for this Christian belief are as follows:
    – Man was created first by God. Woman was created from the rib of the first man.
    – The woman was created FOR the man.
    – Woman sinned first.
    – The woman was named by the man

    So, while I do agree with your point that women should be able to be more than just home or baby makers, I do not see how women could possibly stereotype themselves since, from a Christian viewpoint, being a homemaker is not a stereotype, but rather, an innate instinct. In other words, what they were created for in the first place. And I think that is one of the many reasons why this idea of a woman being “the angel of the house” is still prevalent today–because it is closely tied up with a religion that has been around for thousands of years which was incredibly predominant in society not only during this Victorian era, but others as well.

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  3. Hey Felicia,

    I understand/ agree your frustrations with how women are depicted to be in society as child bearers, house wives etc. I don’t neccesarily agree with on the idea of Tess “feeling herself’ (loved the reference though). I think ultimately what happens is that Tess doesn’t exactly know the consequences of what happened to truly react as she ought to. Not saying she is to be ashamed or blame herself but rather that she is ignorant of the “…dangers of men folk”. She, for much of the story undergoes the things she does because she is desired by the men she encounters. I think she assumes that’s how things ought to be. No one showed her otherwise. She does not ever mentions being deserving of the love/affection she receives from Angel/ alec etc. which tome shows she truly does not “feel herself” or is “Fuckless” Aside from that I agree with your argument about men (some at least) being intimidated by the “new woman”. I believe that these types of women in the various novels serve as pioneers for women who are afraid or cant speak up for themselves. The ‘new woman” concept is by no means new but as long as it includes going outside the private spheres, it will continue to be contested. Buckle up Girlie 🙂

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