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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Re-Creation of Masculinity

Author(s): Gamze Sabanci

Journal: Epiphany
ISSN 1840-3719

Issue: 3;
Start page: 31;
Date: 2009;
Original page

In her 1903 study The Home: Its Work and Influence, Gilman considers the effect of the concept "the home" on both men and women. She explores how established norms and traditions inform society's views of the abilities and appropriate behaviors for each sex. As Gilman points out, beliefs about what a man ought to do have a direct effect on what a woman is allowed to do: changes to established practice are regarded as threats to the social roles of "man" or "woman." She sums up the argument by saying that "man considers any effort of the woman to support herself as a reflection on him" (Home 290). Gilman was aware of the need to include men in her proposals for improving society, in order to achieve lasting reform. Thus, to gain the sympathy of her male readers, Gilman shows that a working wife is not the threat traditional opinion held, but rather a comfort to her husband. Having asserted this in works such as The Home, Gilman deliberately adjusts her short stories to her political writing and her audience, offering role models for both sexes and creating stories in which women become powerful for their own sake, though their empowerment often benefits a man. The stories discussed here, "Her Housekeeper" and "The Cottagette", both published in 1910, approach the topic of Gilman's belief, as stated in The Home, that a woman should work not just to gain independence or to share the financial expenses of the home (which should remain the responsibility of the man of the house) but also to create a happy atmosphere within her home and thus become a positive influence on her husband and as well as any children she may have. However, Gilman was not only recreating femininity, by providing fictional examples of cultural evolution in United States homes. By including men in this development, and creating male characters who actively want their wives to continue with their artistic work after marriage, she was also presenting methods of recreating masculinity without undermining men's sense of security.
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