Freedom of choice or lack thereof

As citizens of the United States of America, we all have freedom of choice, right? Or maybe it depends on your gender, race and culture. The land of the free has expectations on everyone’s head. With these expectations people get disappointed, and those individuals that are not fulfilling or meeting these expectations are seen as if their lives are without meaning or understanding. According to the law dictionary, freedom of choice is defined as the freedom one has to express themselves in the manner where their choices do not put themselves and others in danger, as well as not preventing other’s freedom of choice (“Freedom of Speech”). Woman have the freedom to choose whether they want to marry, raise a family or choose their career and success in life. They should not feel ashamed or be asked questions day in and day out as to when they are going to become wives and reproduce. In both short stories, one written by Sandra Cisneros, “Woman Hollering Creek” and in another one written by Edna Ferber, “One of the Old Girls” both of the main characters in these stories are faced with choices whether or not they want to follow societal expectations of themselves due to their gender or breach out and make their own choices?  Women should experience the same freedom men have regarding the choices they make in their lives.

Charles Laurence, a writer for The Gazette in Canada, published a newspaper article in 1998 discussing the content of a book that states “women have been tricked into believing they must give birth to achieve self-fulfillment.” The author of the book, Phyllis Ziman Tobin believes that it is a woman’s choice whether she wants to bear children or choose her career. It only depends on where she finds her purpose in life. “It is all right to avoid pregnancy and child-rearing. There are now other ways for a woman to define herself, through work, economic standing or academic achievement” (Laurence). In the 20th century, women have more choices than they did in the 13th century where society believes that women’s choices pertain to marrying well, starting a family, staying to take care of the children and the house, a man’s helpmate. In today’s society, a woman has more choices whether she wants to further her education and acquire a career or start a family.  Friends and families still put expectations of marriage and children on women. Society’s expectations should not trap a woman to find self-fulfillment in bearing children if her purpose and heart’s desire is in her career. Some women have found their purpose and they are living it out. “Meryl Streep, the Oscar-winning actress, said her four children have been the true focus of her life, while Oprah Winfrey, the talk-show host, has put motherhood aside for the goals of fortune and influence” (Laurence). If a woman chooses to bear children and finds happiness in it, that is great. If a woman wants to pursue a career and find their happiness and calling in life, that is also great.

In Edna Ferber’s short story, “One of the Old Girls”, Effie found success at work, a sales woman as a head of Spiegel’s corset department (Ferber 104). Like every other you girl she wanted the marriage and children “Well, Mr. Man didn’t show up, and I started in to clerk at six per. I’m earning as much as you are now. More” (Ferber 109). After Gabe, a gentleman friend Effie has been seeing, asks her to marry him she responded that she did not need a man. She explains to him that a few years ago she used to wait for a prospective husband, but while playing the waiting game she found a job and started working her way up, and now she is making more money than Gabe. Effie found happiness within her career as a saleswoman. She enjoyed her job and the lifestyle she was able to afford and did not want a family. While everyone around her was getting married, “…men aren’t marrying capable girls. They pick little yellow-headed, blue-eyed idiots that don’t know a lamb stew from a soup bone when they see it” (Ferber 109). Effie knew early on the type of women men were after. She did not meet the criteria due to the potential she had and her education. Men did not want a woman that was able to carry a conversation and had opinions about the world around them. Instead men wanted a women that will stay home, take care of the household, raise the children, do as she told and had little to no opinion regarding life. Effie found her own version of happiness in working “…after you’ve worn tailored suits every year for a dozen years, you can’t go back to twenty-five-dollar ready-mades and be happy” (Ferber 109).  She did not want to settle down and have a family; she knew the lifestyle that awaited her and living a lavish lifestyle was important to her. Effie wanted happiness, and she knew herself enough to know that she could not sacrifice everything that she took pride in despite society’s pressure. She had more options than being a homemaker and she took advantage of it.

In Sandra Cisneros’s short story, “Woman Hollering Greek” Cleófilas dealt with the same expectations and made a choice she believed was best for her. From telenovelas and romance novels, Cleófilas’s perception of love and relationship has been a fantasy. She began to think “to suffer for love is good. The pain all sweet somehow. In the end” (Cisneros 1132). Cleófilas has bought into the perception that love is pain and that to have true love and find contentment she has to find a husband regardless if he is good or not.  Cleófilas accepted the expectations of her as a woman that implied she needed a husband and children to find fulfillment, but reality woke her “… He slapped her once, then again, and again…. She didn’t run away as she had imagined she might when she saw such things in the telenovelas” (Cisneros 1134). The telenovelas show her this type of love where the woman must suffer being mistreated by the man that claims to love her. In the telenovelas these problems strengthen their relationship, but that is part of the illusion. Her husband knew that he did not have to change his behavior because she willingly takes his mistreatment. Buying into society’s perception on where a woman’s self-fulfillment lies is self-destructive because as Cleófilas’s choice shows, no one knows what is best for you other than yourself.

         Legalmomentum.org, a website that aims on helping women find equity in the work place, provide them with the tools that they need to succeed, and become economically independent.  “ Legal Momentum envisions a society in which all women and girls are economically secure, empowered to make their own choices, and can live and work free of discrimination and violence”( “Mission and Vision.” ). Legal momentum is one of many websites out there aiming to provide women with the tools that they need in order to get out of poverty, enroll them into schools, and provide them with a safe place from abusive relationships.

The reader should take away the fact that they have choices and it is their job to find their purpose and happiness. Following society’s expectations might end up making a woman miserable. Society’s expectations for a woman is destructive to a woman’s purpose. Not everyone is destined to find their purpose in a family. Children are a blessing, but some women choose to work and succeed in aspects of life other than family. They should have that liberty. A woman should have the freedom to choose whether she wants a family, a career or both. She should not have to meet society’s definition of self-fulfillment.

 

 

Works Cited

Cisneros, Sandra. “Woman Hollering Greek.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Eds. Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. 8th ed. Vol. E. New York: Norton, 2012. 1130-1139. Print.

Ferber, Edna. “One of the Old Girls.” Buttered Side Down. Ed. Robert Banis. New York: Fredrick A. Stokes Company, 1912. 102-121. Print.

“Freedom of Speech.” The Law Dictionary. The Law Dictionary, 2016.Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Laurence, Charles. “Instinct to Bear Children Called `a Lie’: Book Says Women have been Tricked into Believing they must Give Birth to Achieve Self- Fulfillment.” The Gazette: F4. Sep 14 1998. ProQuest. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

“Mission and Vision.” Legal Momentum. Legal Momentum, 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

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