Silent Cries: Why Women Behave The Way They Do and How This Impacts Their Future

Shelly Ocsinberg

I am currently doing a PhD in creative writing with the National Institute for Excellence in the Creative industries at Bangor University. My aim is to de-jargonise and fictionalise sociological theory.

I’ve experienced that outside the academic environment sociology is often ignored for its jargon. Even within academic degrees, students who have sociology as a compulsory module find the jargon a stumbling block that makes a subject heavy to digest.

In an attempt to break the barriers I hope to research the contemporary novel and use it as a medium to bring sociology to the mainstream reader. I’m convinced that most people will have no problem understanding sociology if it is introduced by imagery and role play, hence the impact of movies on society.

Using a creative piece to make people understand the reasons of their actions, will bring indirect control about these actions and change irreversibly the attitudes of individuals and communities.

Taking the point of view of social interaction I am convinced any change in future can only start with the influence on behaviour of the individual. I also dare to claim that influences happen through many media.

Therefore I’ve already completed a trilogy of plays and hope to complete three novels, each one dealing with different approaches and different sociological points of view.

In literature women have been portrayed for centuries as the vulnerable sex. The Yellow Wallpaper (1891) is a work of fiction, it was based on Gilman's own experience after being diagnosed as a hysteric and prescribed a "rest cure" which prohibited her writing and labelled her feminism and social critique as symptoms of uterine illness.

Gilman recovered from her "cure," and went on to write influential social theses, including Women and Economics (1898), and a feminist utopian novel, Herland (1915), which has become a classic of American women's literature.

In the Victorian period men were protected financially and legally from the “irrationality” of their wives’ spending habits, this reveals not only an economic issue but also an entire cultural assumption about the nature of femininity and masculinity.

The impact of Victorian ideas like, hysteria and irrationality, have never really ceased to exist and the current expectations towards women is forcing them all over again into defensive behaviour that impacts their future.

Whilst writers like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and Charlotte Perkins-Gilman fought for recognition and independence, the female writers of today have to deal with concealed suppressions and gender inequalities. Emancipation is drawing the curtain over gender discrimination and realistic limitations of freedom.

The twenty-first century has brought an independence overshadowed by community expectations. Women work, bear children and raise them on their own under the watchful eye of society that strictly controls and prioritises the well being of the child over the well being of the mother.

Men have accepted with grace the hard earned incomes of their partners but still expect them to fulfill their duty at home. Without claiming men are not adapting to this new age of the two-earner- relationships, overall they are “giving women a hand” instead of carrying mutual responsibility for the chores in the household and the upbringing of their children.

The current benefit system supports women financially until their children are 14, but effectively dumps them into poverty and inability to be an active member of society. The discrepancy between the “true freedom of choice” and the “compulsory independence” lies often in the inferiority of the wages, limited professional opportunities or speed of professional progress and the genuine feeling of insignificance. Whilst birth control has been the liberation of the 20th century woman, childcare is tying them once again to the house whilst men can continue their careers. And if a woman chooses not to give up her career after becoming lone parent she has to watch her moves for the NSPCC is watching over her shoulder. I will investigate how society is adapting to these situations and whether women consider themselves equal to men. To paraphrase Elfriede Jelinek in Women as Lovers. “Heinz is something; Brigitte is nothing which others could not also be without any effort at all.” Is this feeling of insignificance the result of a community attitude in which individuals are expected to fulfill careers?

A few things have emerged out of my research so far:

Women more often then men are expected to interrupt their careers to raise the children, even if economically it would be better for their partners to do so, or if they wish to pursue a further career. It is exceptional for fathers to put their careers on hold and be a housefather for a while although it happens. If a women’s career fails, often the finger is pointed at her for having spent too much attention on private life. In the mean time, women stay in charge of the up bringing of the children and the housekeeping. Likewise society blames women for the possible derailing of children in case of two working parents. The women are supposed to multi-task and most of all be flexible in work. Work hours imposed by employees do not always take the family conditions into account. Women get under pressure to fulfil all tasks without showing weaknesses and consequently this attitude is transposed on the children as if the girls are to blame for possible pregnancies, failures at school, or limitations in career.

The liberating birth control has imposed a sexual flexibility which expects women to be up for it and to like so many publications are suggesting to be enjoying sex even when they are exhausted from the many responsibilities. In addition young girls are expected to take the pill, perform better in school and be able to help in the household. It all comes down to perform within the expectancies of society and adapt to the many demands the 21st century is imposing on women.

Rather than focussing on the political aspect of the western economic structure, it is my aim to look at the social consequences of economic poverty. Is the conditioning of women today causing an increase in mental illness? It might evolve into mutual multi-personality behaviour, leaning towards a mass schizophrenic disorder and a pandemic of mental health issues. So how is the image of the 21st century woman?

Women have become the PRs of our society, pawn on magazines in size double zero; peach smooth skin and double D bust. They have perfect houses with perfect children and are in control of their weight, wardrobe and click bank account, the dirty aprons of the last century have been replaced by designer clothes, branding their bodies with labels of contemporary slavery, moulding them into perfect hosts, presenting the western world on their exotic holidays. But behind this perfect image slumbers the burned out mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown and permanently battling the overdraft to maintain the demands of labels dressed families.

The constant interference of the government and demand of women to achieve has had an effect on their ability to keep their children in control.
Whilst contemplating the next plastic surgery they really don’t need, they worry about their age and appearance and how they can prevent being excluded from their social circle when they are working till late in the night to keep up with the chores.

Their bank accounts show more red than the communist countries, their glasses and plates are less than half full. This constant insecurity is the ailment of the twenty first century and is the cause of many underlying problems.

In their search for identity they have lost the meaning of independence and have become the answer to the patriarchal quest.

The beauty queens turn into fashion-whores and sacrifice the last bits of their innate personality when they cover up their imperfections in order to please society. But who’s to blame?

Is beauty and youth so important women have to endure numerous surgical interventions to conform to that model society has composed, not to mention the financial hardship in order to be able to pay for these things?

Is one less worthy if they do not comply with these expectations when they attend the next social event unfashionable dressed?

In my opinion it is safe to claim that society is still dominated by men and money, and women deprived from both are suffering socially more than before.

Unlike poverty in the 19th and early twentieth century, their conditions now induce social seclusion even when they work and can manage to pay the bills. The community support of the past centuries has disappeared, together with the traditional values.

Women are no longer suffragettes but often forced into single parenthood. They struggle to keep up with the two earner families although the overall economic circumstances and health have improved. Women suffer sociological deprivation which drives some individuals to behave different from what to be expected of their personalities.

Not being able to join the mass… not being able to afford the luxury items exclude them from social interaction and the all important nurturing social contact that makes women into great ambassadors.

Consequently we see more and more women behaving like men, joining masculine activities, showing aggression, binge drinking and committing crimes. This often results in a mental breakdown or a burn out.

Whether this is an attempt to connect to male social activities or a protest against the social standards within western society, it is an outing of rebellion and insecurity.

Women are craving to socialise and find them selves unable to relax unless they join the mass and submit themselves to alcohol.

In January ITV showed a documentary in which former Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton submitted herself to Binge drinking for a month. She had to cease the experiment after three weeks but claimed “she could not socialize without alcohol… everyone does it…” she also claimed she felt too insecure to go out without using alcohol first.

Whilst women are obviously trying to gain control over their lives, less and less are they consciously and subconsciously in control of their actions.

The topic is hot stuff on radio and TV talk shows , presenters like Jerremy Kyle thrive on it and exploit women by paying them to expose their private life and behaviour to the general public.

With these rebellious and defensive behaviours, society once more turns its back on them.
Nicknamed as slappers, whores and loose women, they are classified as un-socialised and the history of their escapades, supported with their criminal records, endangers their economic future.

Employers look for the perfect employees whilst managers take the male employees to a bar to celebrate a deal and the female employees are given a box of chocolates or a bunch of roses.

Some girls drop out of school, supported by a benefit system, end up in lower paid jobs or eventually disappear in the benefit system all together.

Some girls play it safe and try to hold on to the traditional relationship in which marriage secures their future until they end up divorced and consequently in the same position as the former.

For those who achieve a career the choices are often hard. Or they have loose relationships, or they will have to put their careers beneath all other responsibilities.

Very few are lucky to have a supporting partner and obtain equal conditions in which all responsibilities are shared. All of them though struggle with feelings of insecurity and fall into the traps society has set up to control women. Society has been a game of control from the start.

Banks, insurance companies and government attempt to have all information and control each individual’s actions by the subliminal suggestions and rules composed to so-called protect our privacy.

Men fall equally in these traps, but for women the game has been two edged and they have to endure more pressure just because of their gender, for they have to be the PRs of capitalism.

In today’s Western literature the role of women is changing. Social patterns and structures are the model of the contemporary novel in which the circumstances of women are portrayed in a more realistic image.

The modern novel features intelligent women with an awareness of their circumstances and the conscious battle against this by money and men dominated society.

The pure portrayal of circumstances has evolved into an active contribution to the fight for gender equality.

Consequently my novel will focus on the patterns and structures of the twenty first century woman, de-jargonise sociological theory in order to reach the mainstream reader en hopefully contribute to that goal of complete gender equality.

Copyright Shelly Ocsinberg 2008

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