An Australian writer, Germaine Greer, once quoted, “There has come into existence, chiefly in America, a breed of men who claim to be feminists. They imagine that they have understood “what women want” and that they are capable of giving it to them. They help with the dishes at home and make their own coffee in the office, basking the while in the refulgent consciousness of virtue. Such men are apt to think of the true male feminists as utterly chauvinistic” (AZQuotes.com). Women have put up with this in multiple literature works and by now we can see that women have changed in literature. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale and Nancy Meyers’ What Women Want both illustrate that women have not only slightly changed but have evolved.
During the time frame that Chaucer wrote The Wife of Bath’s Tale, we can see that women were looked down upon or more specifically their intelligence was. Women were expected to be housewives and have nothing to do with literature or writing because it was automatically characterized as a manly thing. Fast forward some years to the time What Women Want was released and it’s a dramatic change through the women in the movie now being able to input their opinion on literature works and much more. Women no longer had to be housewives, but could get jobs of their own, and were no longer being looked down on for their intelligence but their intelligence was being searched for.
Authority has been known to pertain to mainly men, especially in Chaucer’s time, but in today’s literature women are empowered to have their own authority as equals to men. In Leicester’s journal article, “Of a Fire in the Dark: Public and Private Feminism in the Wife of Bath’s Tale”, he points out, “Her public project does not really do justice to the complex and dynamic character of the now of speaking in both prologue and tale, the sense of ongoing life and discovery that cannot be totally reduced to an order or an argument, cannot be shut up in forms or completely subjected to authority, even Wife’s own”(). Here Leicester is talking about how the wife wanted to become an authority, because of her experiences, over the negative male world but later realizes that not everything can be solved with her authority. This then leads us to how Darcy in What Women Want is hired for her ideas in a magazine company and has authority over her fellow coworkers. With this kind of authority, Darcy pushes everyone forward to make ideas of their own from a woman’s perspective.
Now if were to go by statistics, the two literature works show that women were either still not being acknowledged as equals or have move up in society with contributing to writing that is no longer scorned just because they are a woman. Todorova, an , states, “Women consist almost half of the world population- by improving their rights and freedoms, the quality of life of almost half of the world will be improved, as ell as of the whole community”(). She uses this factual evidence to illustrate how the Wife wanted the women to be treated the same way men treated each other. Now in What Women Want, Darcy does not want to be looked down on just because she is a woman therefore also wants to be treated equally. Although the two both want to be treated equally, only does it happen to Darcy while the Wife gets scorned.
On the other hand, one’s mindset can sometimes determine how a woman or male will act towards the opposite gender. For instance, Steinberg states “The knight’s choice is simply between an old hag and a beautiful woman” (). He brings into light what is wrong with the knight’s mindset in Chaucer’s tale with him caring more about the outer appearance rather than the personality of a woman. Steinberg then goes on to explain that even though one is a knight, does not mean one is perfect for even this one raped a girl because he thought he was better than everyone. The main character in What Women Want, Nick, is one that views women as objects or prizes that he can discard at any moment he wanted to and blames it on the way he was raised. This then goes to prove that both women in each literature works does not approve of it but unlike the Wife once again, only Darcy goes out to put him into place.
Women empowerment has risen throughout the years and is even supported by most of the male population. The Wife in Chaucer’s tale states;
Paraventure, swich was the statut tho-
But that the queene and othere ladyes mo
So longe preyeden the king of grace,
Til he his lyf hym gaunted in the place,
And yaf hym to the queen al at hir wille.
To chese whether she wolde hym save or spille. (Shmoop Editorial Team)
This quote is denoting to when the knight is before the king and is going to be guillotined but the queen petitions for mercy on his behalf. Throughout the medieval time frame, women were known to be more expressive of their emotions than men and would make them yield to them for mercy. Yet, in the movie Darcy is the quintessence of empowerment when she is hired above the male executive, who thought he was getting the job. Darcy unlike in the Wife, does not display neither mercy nor emotions that the man is used to being given
In society, the desires of the people have a great effect on what is put on display for others, but is proven to always be changing. If the desires of women had not evolved over time they would not have succeeded in moving up in the world. “Somme seyde, wommen loven best richesse, somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse, somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde, and oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde” (931-934). Here the wife is referring to the list of wants she has and it ranges from riches to honor to happiness to lust and finally marriage. In The Wife of Bath’s Tale, the woman has gone through multiple marriages due to acquiring the man’s property after he dies and thus becomes a more desirable partner. Darci on the other hand automatically seems to want to become a woman that other women can look up to. She also does not want her ex husband’s thought of her being annoying and ugly for being outspoken to hold her back.
Careers are another important thing for society and if it had only stayed with men it would have lacked more singularity and The expectations of women have been a hinderance through many years and finally in What Women Want, the expectations have shifted. Aaron Steinberg, a previous student, wrote, “At the moment, women opting out of high-powered careers to stay home with their children are a minor element in a profound life-style trend that has extended over the last several decades – a development deftly portrayed, some might say celebrated, in the media.” Here Steinberg uses this quotation to demonstrate how women have changed throughout the past years along the lines of careers. In addition to this, the quote includes that women have rejoiced now that they can be more independent. Again, in the time period of Chaucer’s work women did not have jobs except for housework and being housewives. They were also mostly used as peacemakers to either settle wars or get in a good place with a higher up fmily. Now in Nancy’s movie Darcy has a job above the main male character and to debates and decisions.
Lastly, the “What kind of knight in shining armor would I be if the man I love needs rescuing and I just let him walk out my door?” This rhetorical question that Darcy asks Nick is a contradiction to the concept in medieval literature like The Wife of Bath’s Tale. In medieval literature the man is often always considered a knight for going by the conduct of chivalry and the woman is the maiden in distress and they save them.
In conclusion, women have changed in literature works and made societies more stable for the women in next generations to come. Women may have to still put up with men’s old-fashioned thinking, but now they have more room to have authority, be outspoken, do something about the situation, support of other women to be better, and