Male dominance and feminism in Their Eyes Were Watching God

One of the reasons I am enjoying the Marrow of Tradition so much is because I find many of the statements about women fascinating. These statements are usually seen in men talking about possessing or controlling women, or the ways in which women are oppressed by men. Statements such as “Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none themselves” (71) helps illustrated the mindset behind this sexism. Men truly believed that women were not capable of intelligent thoughts, and furthermore, that they are things to be owned. Ownership is shown through the ability to cause physical manipulation and abuse. For example, when Tea Cake beats Janie, he explains his reasoning as: “Ah didn’t whup Janie cause she done nothin. I beat her to show dem Turners who’s boss” (148). It “reassured him of his possession”. This comes as a surprise because of how well Tea Cake has treated Janie up until this point. In fact, I have noticed that there is also constantly confusion about the motivation of the men and a questioning of their intentions. For example, when Janie is left agonizing whether Tea Cake stole her $200.00 and ran off. His integrity is restored when he returns, and their trust grows greater because of this. She describes it as a “self-crushing love” (128). However, after this, he still beats her merely to prove that he can, thus demonstrating the pervasive mindset of male ownership over female bodies. Females generally see no option but to accept this; however, it is that mindset that Janie hates because she identifies submission and servility with her Nanny, because of the way she convinced Janie to marry Logan Killicks. Janie has this mentality for a long time, but one day she simply can no longer remain silent to Jody. It is because of this resentment, and because of Janie’s free spirit, represented by the pear tree, that Janie seems to be more conscious of her own existence, stronger than most women, and able to recognize a feminist impulse to express herself in the face of male dominance.

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