The place of women in society has always been an essential topic for debate. Today, women have freedoms and privileges their predecessors never had and can lead a completely independent life without the governance of their families. This essay will discuss and examine the role of women historically and compare it to their standing in the modern world. It will be argued that their position in society has suffered substantial transformations.
Society is not static and experiences various alterations every decade. Today, it is utterly different from the societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. The social classes underwent significant modifications, and the gender roles changed to reflect them. Historically, women held an underprivileged position in society compared to men. According to Manimozhi (2366), during the 18th century, girls were mandated to have domestic responsibilities while men dealt with public and political matters. Women of any class were expected to take care of their family homes, birth and rear children, and provide them with moral and spiritual guidance (Manimozhi 2366). Only upper-class ladies could afford to spend their time on other matters, even though they were considered to be hobbies by other members of society. Overall, in the 18th century, women were restricted to domestic obligations when men had more options for self-expression.
The sole purpose of girls in the 18th-century was to become a wife and a mother. For example, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice illustrates the disadvantaged position of women, their lack of financial independence, and societal and familial pressure to marry. Securing a marriage proposal was viewed as the only opportunity for upper and middle-class ladies in the 18th century (Manimozhi 2366). They were often brought up to be well-versed in music, literature, and painting to be able to entertain their future husbands, and their behavior in society was scrutinized. Pride and Prejudice exemplifies how important it was for women to make the right impression during strictly controlled social outings like balls (Austen 10). Thus, unlike today, girls were only capable of securing financial independence from their families through marriage. Overall, women were highly dependent on men, and their standing in society was judged by that of their fathers or husbands.
Previously, women also suffered various abuses on behalf of their families and husbands. Although physical abuse is rarely discussed in the literature of the 18th century, other types of mistreatment were examined. Thus, girls were forced to marry regardless of their feelings for their future spouse, desire to become a wife, or their sexuality (Awan and Nasir 662). Furthermore, opportunities for women to become independent members of society were almost non-existent. They could not participate in any economic transactions or find work that was not connected to the domestic sphere or children (Manimozhi 2366). Today, most women in the developed world do not suffer these abuses and have the freedom to decide whether to get married or what line of profession to pursue. However, there are still countries where girls are not viewed as equals to boys and do not have those options.
In summary, the position of women in society changed drastically over time. In the 18th century, they had few freedoms and were viewed as the extension of their families and husbands. They were also restricted to domestic responsibilities, could not choose whom to marry, and could not become financially independent. Today, most women are free from certain abuses and have more control over their lives, although some communities, especially religious ones, do not support these freedoms.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Global Grey, 2017.
Awan, Abdul G., and Ambreen A. Nasir. “Matrimonial Issues and Marxist Approach in “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.” Global Journal of Management, Social Sciences and Humanities, vol. 4, no. 3, 2018, pp. 651-676.
Manimozhi, V. “Marriage money and society in the novels of Jane Austen.” Malaya Journal of Matematik, Vol. S, No. 2, vol. 5, no. 2, 2020, pp. 2365-2368.