Oppression is a word that is often misunderstood and misused. In Marilyn Frye’s article, Oppression, a central theme is created that focuses on male control, and how it is a form of oppression that affects the lives of women (Frye, 9). My reasons for agreeing with Frye’s argument that only women are oppressed as their own gender will be further discussed by focusing on how women are forced into particular roles.
Additionally, I will explain how there is a mutual barrier of oppression where women are oppressed for the benefit of men, and how women will always be immobilized and degraded to benefit other groups regardless of their race or economic status. Frye defines oppression as often being thought of as the limitation or suffering of any human for any reason or cause. She argues that this statement is incorrect and highlights that humans can be miserable without being oppressed. Frye defines being oppressed as similar to being molded, immobilized and reduced by forces or barriers.
She relates this concept to the “category” of women and how they are constantly caught between forces or barriers that are a disadvantage to them. It is explained that women, regardless of race, religion or economic status, will always be oppressed because “being a woman is significantly attached to whatever disadvantages and deprivations she suffers, be they great or small”(Frye, 16). Frye highlights that oppression is a double bind barrier in which one group will suffer for the betterment of the other. Men oppress women with a variety of different elements that collaboratively immobilize, reduce, and mold the lives of women.
She concludes that women are oppressed as women, which adds limitations to what they can do in life, and men are not oppressed as men by shedding light on the fact that being a man is something that they have going for them (Frye, 9-16). It is clear that everyone, either male or female, acts a certain way around someone of the same sex, as opposed to someone of the opposite sex. Frye explains that both males and females have certain restraints on what behavior is acceptable for them, and how “women restraint is part of a structure oppressive to women and the men restraint is part of a structure oppressive to women” (Frye, 16).
Women can act “un-lady like” when they are only around other women, however as soon as men are in the picture, a woman is expected to act a specific way. Men and women have grown up in different gender roles, where they do certain things and act in a certain way that differs from the other sex. Nonetheless, men seem to oppress women into certain roles so strongly that it results in men also having to live up to particular roles. If a woman is expected to sit up straight, then a man is expected to play the opposite role and slouch, to ensure their masculinity.
If a woman is expected to eat healthy and stay slim, a man is expected to work out and get buff. By creating standards or roles that women have to live up to, men create social standards for themselves unintentionally. However this does not mean that they are oppressed, because men do not miss out on opportunities for being a male. Being able to recognize this difference is crucial. There are several ways in which men oppress women, in turn creating social standards for themselves without being oppressed. Frye uses the example of a man opening a door for a woman.
At a microscopic level, it looks like the man is being polite, and removing a barrier for a woman to walk freely (Frye, 12). By simply opening the door for a woman who is capable of doing it herself, men are oppressing women as unable (Frye, 12). As a result, men create a new social “mold” for themselves, where they have to be a gentleman and ensure that they get to the door first. So does this mean that women oppress men? Fyre argues that there is a mutual barrier within oppression. For example, when looking at a prison, there is a barrier that separates the prisoners from citizens.
The prisoners are restrained to ensure the safety of the citizens outside of the prison. These barriers take away from the freedom and liberty of the prisoners, while intensifying the freedom of the citizens (Frye 14). This scenario is similar to how men oppress women. Men sometimes believe that they are oppressed into the “mold” of masculinity, and are unable to be nurturing (Frye, 14). Nonetheless, men restrict themselves to this role in order to maintain their superiority, while women are oppressed into roles, which act as a huge disadvantage to them.
As a result of being oppressed by men, women will always be immobilized and degraded to benefit another group. Although men are constrained by the oppression of women, women have to fit into a tighter mold. Frye underlines that one’s suffering is partly because one is a member of a specific category. In this case, being a woman is a huge factor that gets in the way of her everyday life (Frye, 16). McGinn (2012) explains that in the early 19th century, women were not expected to work and earn their own living. They rarely had careers, and most professions were refused to women and saved for men (McGinn, 2012).
Today, women are allowed to work, and have an equal chance of getting the same jobs as males. However, there are underlying bias’ that affect a woman from being respected in the position as highly as a male. For example, a lot of individuals take male police officers more seriously than female police officers, even though they have the same qualifications. This is just one of many examples of how women are oppressed and further degraded in order to give men the role of being the more dominant sex. Frye’s argument on how women are oppressed as women and how men are not oppressed as men is indeed correct.
Women are consistently degraded and shaped into particular roles, which benefit men and other social groups. Regardless of a women’s economic status, race, or culture, they will always be victimized for solely being a women. It is clear, that when looking at the barriers of oppression, that women are confined to the side that is oppressed, giving all dominance to the male sex. Future generations should work towards creating a more equal lifestyle between women and other social groups, allowing women to achieve roles in which they want to fulfill.