This paper focuses on gender differences separating the boys from the girls. It considers historic gender based roles and looks at how those roles are perpetuated today. It reflects on how the gender roles are reinforced from before birth in how the parents and their friends design the nursery and plan the layette. This paper also reflects on how those roles continue to receive reinforcement during the educational process and how it might affect adult men and women.
The early conditioning boys and girls receive results in vastly different treatment and life choices later on.
The play, Trifles Susan Glaspell was written in 1916 and originally called “A Jury of Her Peers”, which makes it nearly 100 years old. It is obviously from a bygone era, The play itself is about the murder of a farmer, Mr. Wright and what appears to be the guilt of his wife. It opens in the farmhouse kitchen, abandoned bleak and cluttered. John Wright is dead, Mrs. Wright is in jail and nothing was put into order before she was carried away.
The men enter first; the sheriff, followed by the county attorney and Louis Hale, a farmer who is the Wright’s neighbor. This is very symbolic of the order of that society. The men are examples of the justice system in the county and assumedly be typical of the people who would try and judge Mrs. Wright if the trial were held in the County Court before “A Jury of Her Peers.” After the men come into the farmhouse kitchen, two of their wives follow. That is also symbolic of the order of that society, America, 2016. Men of the Law and Society took precedence; their women were expected to follow their lead. After all these men are the very personifications of investigation (the Sheriff), prosecution (the County Attorney), and jury (Louis Hale, the neighboring farmer).
The men look around the kitchen. They pick out things like broken jars of jam, a dirty roll towel, and an unfinished quilt Mrs. Wright was working on when Mr. Wright’s death was discovered and she was taken to jail. It is a cursory examination of that room. As they are in the kitchen briefly question farmer Hale about what he saw when he arrived, what he said to Mrs. Wright and how she responded. Once they are done with the kitchen, they move quickly on to the crime scene. Upstairs in the bedroom where dead Mr. Wright’s body was discovered is where they expect to find the evidence that will convict the dead farmer’s wife. They dismiss the trifles as “nothing important” “Nothing here but kitchen things. .
While the men of investigation, prosecution and judgment are searching the crime scene for forensic evidence, the women are downstairs looking at the little details, the “Trifles” that for them solves the crime. There is a sense of noiselessness about their approach. Once an observation is made, it seems that nothing more needs to be said for them to reach the same conclusion. They both know what it is like when a marriage turns bleak. More by what the women do not have to say, that “between the lines” understanding makes it clear they can do this because they live lives that enable them to relate to the small details of an oppressive marriage. .
For the men the film of dust, smudges on towels and dirty pans only meant Mrs. Wright was a negligent, slovenly housekeeper, all those details seem to the men to be trivial things. The women see them quite differently. To the women the trifling details they speak of a life of quiet containment the Wrights did not did not have children. Through the years Mrs. Wright changed and drifted away from her childhood friends so there were no visitors or guests to break the monotony of a callous husband. There is a broken cage there and when they look at it they also remark on the changes Mrs. Wright went through during her marriage the young Mrs. Wright they remember as "She was kind of like a bird herself – real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and – fluttery. How – she – did – change." .
The women tidied things up as they moved around and about. This is reflective of how they acted at home. In the normal course of their lives that would include dusting and setting out fresh towels. The absence of this was telling in the women’s eyes. Then loaf of bread left on the counter instead of in the bread box was a part of this. The one remaining jar of cherries added to the growing store of reminisces and information about the woman who lived in that particular the farmhouse kitchen. .
Eventually the women discover the carefully wrapped dead canary wrapped in fabric and laid in a decorative box. They know that this is the only piece of evidence the men would see as pertinent to the crime. Nevertheless, it would be the damning evidence they sought against Mrs. Wright. One of the wives hides it as the men enter the room. By this action, Mrs. Wright does receive the judgment from A Jury of Her Peers and is found innocent. The play ends when one of the men asks condescendingly if the women determined the quilting style and the response reflects that Mr. Wright was strangled with a rope. The reply is that the quilt was not sewn, it was knotted.
All this would appear as a study in nostalgia; and a bleak look at the wrongful treatment of women and how they responded to find justice for themselves. Surely, in the 21st century we, as a society have moved beyond all that. Women are the equals of men; and boys and girls deserve and generally receive equal treatment. As safe as that assumption would seem to be in 2008, CCC published an article in their Parenting – busy moms’ staying afloat section entitled “Is it harder to raise boys or girls?” Written by Paula Spencer and updated on Tuesday, June 17, 2008, the anther starts out by writing, “I often say that I spend more time and energy on my one boy than on my three girls. Other mothers of boys are quick to say the same.” . Now this article could be seen as just the observations of a few mom. It seems that science and schools would give equal treatment for boys and girls from, but apparently not.
On September 18, 2005 Newsweek published an article that was updated again on March 13, 2010 entitled, Boy Brains, Girl Brains, it involves Foust Elementary School in Owensboro, Kentucky and Jeff Gray, the principal’s success in improving test scored by dividing the classes by gender and using different teaching methods on boys and girls. These test groups received markedly different treatment from what they received in the mixed gender classroom. However, there was no control mixed gender group that received the revised teaching techniques. The test scores improved and the results were reported as indicative that boys’ brains function differently from girls’ brains.
The early conditioning boys and girls receive can result in vastly different treatment and life choices later on. This is not confined to how children were treated a hundred years ago; gender bias still exists in today’s society. From birth girls are differentiated from the diapers on out. It seems impossible that at least some of this is not internalized and the mother who bemoans how much more attention she has to give her son because "Somehow it's been changed to boys being made of 'fights, farts, and video games,' and sometimes I'm not sure how much more I can take!" This was an observation made by Sharon O'Donnell, a mom of three boys and the author of House of Testosterone and quoted by Paula Spencer in her article Is it harder to raise boys or girls? .
It is small wonder that because of this divergent treatment boys fidget more and girls tend to bond together while their parents are paying attention to the boys. Of course there are different serotonin and oxytocin, children have been developing their brains, and are rewarded for behaving consistent with gender stereotypes since day one. It must be assumed that this behavior modification and socialization would result in life choices. This establishes the concept and thesis that the early conditioning boys and girls receive results in vastly different treatment and life choices later on.
Glaspell, S. (1916). A Jury of Her Peers. Retrieved from Annerberg Learner: http://www.learner.org/interactives/literature/story/fulltext.html
Newsweek. (2010, 03 13). Boy Brains, Girl Brains. Retrieved from Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/boy-brains-girl-brains-118279
PBS-Stoff. (2014). Poems - Lucille Clifton: Adam Thinking/Eve Thinking. Retrieved from PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/foolingwithwords/t_txtclifton.html
Spencer, P. (2008, 06 17). Is it harder to raise boys or girls? Retrieved from Parenting: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/family/06/17/harder.to.raise/index.html