The Phallocentric View of Women Throughout History

This blog is intended to illustrate the New woman of literature; a woman who is written to show the true reality of female roles throughout history. The ‘traditional’ view of women is one of stereotypical roles, that being, women are the caregivers, and caretakers of the house and family – especially the husband – women belong in the private sphere, whereas men belong in the public sphere where they are successful breadwinners. These ideas and more are analyzed and challenged in this blog through the course of three different literary works. However, these literary works still show a phallocentric view of women, one where women are expected to adhere to a male dominant figure, and in some ways or another do adhere to the stereotypical roles women are portrayed with. The world is focused on a structure that gives males the idea that they are the most powerful, this is a phallocentric view of the world (Humphreys Jan 24). So even though authors are trying to make the new woman arise from the ashes of the old woman, the old can still be seen, even in this journey that is illustrating the true reality of woman’s every day life, there are still hiccups to contend with.

“Advice to Mrs. Mowat” by Anne Hecht
Small is the province of a wife                                                         
And narrow is her sphere in life,
Within that sphere to walk aright                                              The Good Wife's Guide
To grace the home with prudent care
And properly to spend and spare,
To make her husband bless the day
He gave his liberty away,
To train the tender infants mind,
These are the tasks to wives assigned. (12-21)
Then shun, O shun that hated shelf,
Still think him wiser than yourself.
And if you otherwise believe
Ne’er let him such a thought perceive. (78-81)



“Penelope” is the final chapter of James Joyce’s   “Ulysses” and it is narrated by a woman. This literary work illustrates a woman who is written into being quite successfully, even though the author is a man. However, the author still shows the problems of living in a male dominated society, problems that manifest themselves within the characters of the literary works I will examine. Throughout Molly’s dialogue in “Penelope” the reader sees a very open woman who says what is on her mind. A male dominant society, where things are judged by the way a man would have them is a distressing time and place, however it is and was very prevalent. While having sexual relations with her boyfriend she recalls how pleasurable the experience was and how she wanted to express herself but didn’t want to come off as obscene, “O Lord I wanted to shout out all sorts of things fuck or shit or anything at all only not to look ugly or those lines from the strain who knows the way hed take it you want to feel your way with a man theyre not all like him thank God some of them want you to be so nice about it” (Joyce 11).

A Penelope of Our Time: Blanche Devereaux

A Penelope of Our Time: Blanche Devereaux

Blanche finds out from Dorothy that women look better lying down in bed with men because if they are on top they become unattractive due to gravity.

So even though Molly is a woman who speaks her mind about her sexual experiences and enjoys whatever she can, she still thinks about how a man would perceive her in the midst of orgasm. I do not believe Joyce is writing this into the dialogue as a guide of how to behave/react in the middle of sexual relations, I believe that Joyce is making mention of this because this is how women think, and he wants to show how entrenched we are as a society in certain ideals and ideologies, and that they are only noticeable when spoken about. No matter how liberating Molly is in “Penelope” the male dominance is still visible and a part of Molly’s way of thinking.

Moll Flanders 

“Moll Flanders” is a novel written by Daniel Dafoe, and like “Penelope” it is a woman who narrates the story of her life. Through this narration the reader is shown a woman who is an early feminist because she must find her place within a male dominated society as a breadwinner, which she finds by the end of the novel. However, early on Moll Flanders gives into society’s demands and becomes a housewife to her first husband. In her early years, Moll is raised by a woman who takes in orphans and teaches them the basics to being a servant. Moll defiantly claims that she does not want to be a servant and will do whatever it takes to provide for herself as a gentlewoman. Moll has an entirely different definition of what a gentlewoman is, “by being a gentlewoman, was to be able to work for myself, and get enough to keep me” (Dafoe 13). But as she matures and grows within a household that takes her in after her Motherly nurse dies, she becomes vain in her appearance “I had all the Vanity of my Sex. That being really taken for very handsome, or if you please for a great Beauty, I very well knew it” (Dafoe 19) and conforms to society’s view of the necessity that all women need a husband to protect them and she marries one of the brothers of the household. Moll uses her body as exchange for financial security in this first marriage, as well as in her other marriages because as a woman of low class she has no other means in which to secure her safety and livelihood. So not only does society state that women must be protected by men, the grounds of this protection is based on marriage as a form of prostitution (Humphreys Feb 14).

The Walking Dead has many diverse characters and I would like to believe that in the event of the end of the world that women would not revert back to the society of Moll Flanders. But I am sad to say that some women do. In the entire first season of The Walking Dead, fans are introduced to a camp of survivors who take on VERY ‘traditional’ gender based roles, the women cook and clean and the men protect the camp of survivors.

These roles are accepted by the survivors and life moves on as normally as possible in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. However, by the second season Andrea breaks the norm of public and private spheres and becomes a female member of the group who wants to protect the farm. Lori on the other hand wants to create stability by reverting to a society where the men rule by dominance and power and the women take care of their basic needs.

Goblin Market

Goblin Market is a poem that does not have a female narrator, but it does have a female author. Christina Rossetti writes a poem that shows the dangers of a patriarchal society and what that society will do to a woman who falls prey to the men who try to tempt and destroy women. While Lizzie is able to run away from the goblins in the beginning of the play, “No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no; / Their offers should not charm us, / Their evil gifts would harm us.” (Rossetti 64-66). Laura stays behind to glimpse the goblin men. The goblin men tempt her with their chant of “come buy come buy”, and when they find her they, “[Leer] at each other, / Brother with queer brother; / Signalling each other, / Brother with sly brother.” (Rossetti 93-96). This poem looks at the gaze of women and the objectification of women when they give into the patriarchal norms of society. Rossetti is writing a poem that illustrates what happens to women who fall prey to men, but also of their redemption when women stick together.

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One Response to The Phallocentric View of Women Throughout History

  1. doctorsara says:

    I have never seen you write so much! Wow! The coverage here is amazing!

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