Women Rights Protection. The Color Purple Essay Example
Rape, abuse, and assault. These are only some of the consequences given to women who step outside their feminine social construct. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is a diary of an uneducated African-American girl who wrote about her oppressed life. Celie, the main character, and the other women around her endured great abuse under the hands of men. While most women were too terrified to stand up for themselves and break gender norms, those who were brave enough to do so were heavily persecuted. When female characters took on traits from the opposite gender, other characters either degraded them or attempted to force them back into their gender role to destroy the power of those women.
Characters in the book degraded woman who embodied traits from the opposite gender to diminish the power of those women. Shug Avery is a sensual and powerful performer; due to this, many people felt threatened and did not like her. “Shug Avery sick and nobody in this town want to take the Queen Honeybee in. Her mammy say she told her so. Her pappy say, Tramp. A woman at church say she dying—maybe two berkulosis or some kind of nasty woman disease” (Walker 48). Being openly prurient and determined was a trait that men carried during that time.
People did not approve of her unbound manner, so they resorted to calling her names and spreading rumors to destroy her dominance. Similarly, Celie’s husband, Mr._____, felt powerless against her when she decided to leave him. “Mr._____ reach over to slap me, I jab my case knife in his hand. You bitch, he say. What will people say, you running off to Memphis like you don't have a house to look after” (Walker 182). Men were the ones who decided the fate of a relationship, so when Celie told her husband that she was leaving him, he attempted to oppress her by physically abusing her and by making her feel bad for her power. Additionally, when one of Celie’s friends, Squeak, decided to stand up against a warden, she too was degraded. “Poor little Squeak come home with a limp. Her dress rip. Her hat missing and one of the heels come off her shoe” (Walker 94). For a woman to speak up against a man was unorthodox, so when Squeak spoke out to the warden he felt like his power was being taken away by someone inferior to him. As a result of this, he raped her to make himself feel more dominant.
When women took on traits from the opposite gender, other characters attempted to force them back into their gender role to weaken the power of those women. Harpo, Celie’s stepson, married a woman, Sofia, who dominated the relationship and made him feel submissive. This submissiveness made him feel less manly, so Harpo asked Mr._____ for advice. “Wives is like children. You have to let ‘em know who got the upper hand. Nothing can do that better than a good sound beating” (Walker 42). It was the woman's role to be compliant to her husband; however, when Harpo’s wife broke those norms, the only solution for him to feel more masculine was to beat her into obedience.
This quote specifically shows how a woman was forced into her gender role due to the vulnerability of a man. Furthermore, Sofia was also forced into her gender role after opposing a white family who asked her to be their maid. “Sofia say, Hell no. He slap her… Sofia knock the man down. The police came.” (Walker 86). Women were inferior to men, especially black women; therefore, it was outrageous for Sophia to rudely decline the man’s offer. Even though the man slapped Sofia first, she was the one sent to jail. However, she was released from jail and had to serve the remainder of her prison sentence working as the maid for that family. This shows how at the end Sofia was forced into being inferior to the man because she broke a gender norm.
When female characters took on traits from the opposite gender, other characters either degraded them or attempted to force them back into their gender role to destroy the power of those women. During this time, men received a great source of power from dominating women. African-American men, specifically, had close to no power because of racism, so the only source of power they had came from being superior to women. Every time a woman was seen embracing traits that were usually expressed by men, people would try to take that woman's power away because they felt like they were losing control. Women have been silenced and suppressed for a very long time, but just like the characters in the book women should remain adamant about their rights, and only then can women gain equality to men.