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Constrained by Their Gender

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Constrained by their Gender

Whether we realize it or not, all women are categorized and restricted based on their gender and class ranking. While class distinction plays a major role in telling a woman how to act, gender seems to be more prevalent. Both Elizabeth Stoddard’s story, “Lemorne versus Huell,” and Louisa May Alcott’s movie, “Little Women,” seem to portray women being confined by their gender.

In both stories, the authors point out that their female characters are told how they should act, what they should wear, and how they should carry themselves because of their gender. Because these young ladies lived in a time where “ladies” acted a certain way and wore a certain thing, they were given guidelines by family to make sure they lived up to societies expectations. In Stoddard’s piece, Margaret’s Aunt Eliza makes a comment about her not following the social norm saying, “who ever heard of a girl of twenty-four having no black silk!” (1). Her Aunt is appalled that she is not presenting herself in a way that will attract male suiters or societal respect. While Aunt Eliza scolded Margaret, Jo’s Aunt March in the story “Little Women” is appalled by her behavior and believes that a woman should do what is expected of them, and not to test gender norms in the way that Jo does. It is easy to see that Aunt March wants Jo to conform and be societies definition of a lady. While her Aunt may have good intentions, Jo does not desire to be a stereotypical woman, but rather wants to be a writer. She is dedicated to her writing and is committed to not follow the typical life path for women, despite the hoops she must jump through to get there.

The idea that women should be nurturing and take care of the family is an idea that dates back to the beginning of time. Women are expected to not only take care of their children, but as young girls, they are taught that you must take care of your elders as well. This is a major setback for both Jo and Margaret. While both seem to be independent women that could be highly successful, they are given the task of looking after their beloved aunts. Alcott shows this unfair stereotype by giving the March sisters realistic jobs for the times; Meg works as a nanny and Jo works as a companion to her Aunt. Stating that Jo does not enjoy her job would be an understatement. Likewise, in Stoddard’s piece, she illustrates Margaret’s hatred by stating that her mother was more supportive of the idea of her helping her Aunt than she was (1). Clearly, both ladies did not exactly see eye to eye with their aunts on almost everything. It is interesting to think that if these two young ladies had been born boys, they would not have been asked to take on this burden.

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