Different authors have different approaches to the same issue. In this paper I will contrast and compare how the authors Alexis De Tocqueville, Holly Dover, and Christina Hoff Sommers, tackle the myth of the role of women in society and what the role of women should be according to them. De Tocqueville
De Tocqueville was a French aristocrat who came to America to study the American penal system. Coming from a European society he was struck by the way Americans understood the equality of the sexes. He published his book Democracy in America in 1835, which is from where our excerpt came from.
De Tocqueville seems very impressed with the fact that American women are capable of performing the same duties as men but do not choose to because they rather maintain their natural place in society. American women are just as capable as men in understanding politics and other important affairs, but choose not to occupy themselves with such matter, so they spend more time in preserving their natural beauty and their natural place in society without being forced to. He also seems pleased by the fact that the women take pride in bending themselves to the yoke.
He seems to be very content with American men as well who, unlike European men, do not flatter their women constantly and boast themselves to be womens slaves but instead, show the appreciation of their women through their actions. European men on the other hand are all talk. De Tocquville says in his closing argument that even though American women are extremely dependent on the men, he has never seen any women occupy a loftier position. He attributes Americas superiority to the superiority of her women.
Another way of looking at the roles we assume in society is that they are socially constructed. Holly Devor brings this view to our attention in an essay. Being a professor of sociology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, she is an expert in the field. She uses a more scientific approach, as compared to De Tocquville, to the argument about the role of men and women in society. She believes that we learn how to live our lives according to our gender at a very young age. According to research, by the age of five years old, children may be able to accurately recognize their own gender and the genders of the people around them; however, they will often do that on the basis of role information, such as hairstyle and clothing, rather than physical attributes such as genitals.
So by the time we are five years old, we already have an idea of the role we are to fill in our society according to our gender simply by observing the older individuals around us.Therefore our place in society is decided not by us, but rather by the culture we are grown in. Thus the explanation that so many women accept the role they are given is simple, they are brainwashed indirectly since childhood. Because individuals who excel in activities normally attributed to the opposite sex are scorned upon, feminists should not blame these women for accepting their roles but rather the society they grow up in.
Another critic of feminists is Prof. Christina Hoff Sommers. She teaches philosophy at Clark University in Worcester. Sommers suggests that all feminists are radicals who believe that women are virtually under siege. She suggests that these feminists seek recruits to wage their side of the gender war. Sommers takes what one feminist said and makes it the universal belief of every feminist. This is very untrue. There are those feminists who are very extreme in their beliefs, but they are a very small minority instead of the vast majority that Sommers makes it look like. She makes the argument that all feminists think that romance is imprisoning women into false marriages where they think they are marrying for love instead of economic support. She makes fun of the fantasy of women to find a man like Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind, who use women as just a sex toy and play with their emotions. Yet women still fantasize about men like Rhett.
From these three essays, we saw three different approaches of the criticism of feminist throughout the ages. First we saw De Tocqueville compare American women to European women and concluding that even though American women were more dependent on their husbands, they were far better off, and far superior to European women. Then we saw Prof. Devor give us a scientific argument as to explain why women accept their role in society, therefore condemning feminists who blame the women for being weak. Finally we had Prof. Sommers use some type of propaganda to make her audience believe that all feminists hold the idea of an all out war of the sexes as their universal motto. I do not believe that all feminists are the way Prof. Sommers makes them out to be. I also do not agree with Prof. Devor and De Tocqueville saying that women should not try to fight for equality, and just accept what they call their natural role. I believe that women should be equal to men and that there is no such thing as a weaker sex; as the myth would have us believe.