Emergence of Women in the Great Gatsby

Emergence of Women in the Great Gatsby

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The Emergence of women and the decline of male dominance in the 1920’s

During the 1920’s, the role women had under men was making a drastic change, and it is shown in The Great Gatsby by two of the main female characters: Daisy and Jordan. One was domesticated and immobile while the other was not. Both of them portray different and important characteristics of the normal woman growing up in the 1920’s. The image of the woman was changing along with morals. Females began to challenge the government and the society. Things like this upset people, especially the men. The men were upset because this showed that they were losing their long-term dominance over the female society.
Daisy is in a relationship where she is unhappy. Not only is she unhappy, she is immobile and has no say in just about anything that goes on. Relationships in the 1920’s were just like this scenario. Women were dominated by their husbands and unhappy. They were objects that were to be domesticated and be under the command of “the man”. It was during this time that woman were starting to take a stand and be in charge. They were done with standing on the sidelines while their husband had reign over their lives. In the beginning of the twenties a change was made. On August 18, 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. This gave women the chance to have a voice in the government. In 1922 Nellie Tayloe Ross, the nations first female governor, was elected in Wyoming. Giving women the right to vote was the first step to helping them emerge from out of the shadows of a male dominated society.
Daisy wanted to drive Gatsby’s car and was cheating on Tom. Jordan was a golf champion. It was usual for the men to be dishonest to their spouses, but not for women. A thing like driving cars was a “mans thing to do”. Also there were certain sports that women just weren’t supposed to play. Along with the emergence into society, came a new set of morals. Women were beginning to think and act for themselves. They changed the man made stereotypes that they had been brought up to think, into something brand new. “Never had a drink before, but oh how I do enjoy it”(Gatsby pg.

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76). Daisy Buchanan who always tried to act in the past said this quote. Women were starting to smoke and drink which was seen as unacceptable. They changed the way they looked and felt. Also there was the beginning of the “working woman”. For example, Jordan had a job being a professional golfer where as Daisy relied on Tom’s money to get by. Although there weren’t that many women at the time getting jobs, and the salary was sometimes ridiculously low (at around the pay of a child), this was just another step that women took to show that men were no longer the dominant species.
Many of the rebellious women attended Gatsby’s parties.“…and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways…”(Gatsby pg. 40). Before the twenties the women was to dress in dark colors and conduct herself in an orderly manner. The hemline was strictly below the ankle and hair was to be worn long. The women were told to “hold their tongue”. Daisy was trying to stay in the past by obeying her husband and following the “rules”. At the beginning of the roaring twenties this changed. The normal look of a feminist of the 1920’s was the flapper look. She wore dresses that came above her ankle, and bold makeup. She cut her hair short so that it was by the neck. She danced “obscene” dances like the Charleston. The flapper was determined to express herself and break free from tradition. They were mostly seen in the big cities and college campuses. “While the hemlines, raised the stockings became more and more sheer giving the impression of nude legs,” (The Roaring Twenties Biography page 32). The women are no longer caring about being domesticated and under control. States tried to stop the movement by passing new laws, but women persisted. Things were going to change, and no matter what it took, women were going to break out of old traditions. They wanted to show that they were capable of just as much as men were.
“As he left the room she got up and went over to Gatsby and pulled his face down, kissing him in the mouth.” In The Great Gatsby, Daisy cheated on Tom, and was intimate with Gatsby. Daisy, the domesticated wife of Tom Buchanan was trying to stay in the past, but you can see by the way she is with Gatsby; she is already exhibiting the rebellious behavior of the flapper woman. Women at the time were only supposed to be intimate with their husbands. Men, on the other hand, were “allowed” to do whatever they pleased. This was another thing that women wanted to change. Women wanted the same sexuality rights as men. This part of the movement caused a need for a type of birth control. Margaret Sanger was the leading founder of making birth control widely available to women. She worked with women who were indigent, so they were unable to take care of these children. She said that women’s inability to control their reproductive lives caused problems. “It robbed them of their health, their economic stability and sometimes their life.” This movement caused an outbreak of conflicts, not just in society, but between the government and the church. Before, birth control was worked on in labs by scientists, but it was never really provided for the by the public. In 1923, she formed the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control and made it easier for all women to obtain birth control. Women had to burst through this shell to become more independent and no longer submissive to the other gender.
Tom felt that women were getting around too much. A lot of men felt this way at the time. Women had to fight through the ideas like this to gain their “freedom”. When the 19th Amendment was passed, all but twelve states ratified the amendment. The latest that the amendment was ratified was in the late 70’s. Also at the beginning of the flapper age, some states tried to keep it from happening. Mississippi passed a state law saying that the standard hemline was to be no higher than five inches below the knee. Also the government and Margaret Sanger went to court over the birth control issue. When the church got involved (which at the time was completely ruled by men), things were made even more difficult.
The female characters of The Great Gatsby represented the two types of females of the time period: the women who were willing to break free (Jordan) and the women who weren’t (Daisy). The American woman was finally getting the chance to show the world what she was made of. She was willing to break free of tradition and challenge her authority. She wanted to show man that she was in charge of herself and that she will no longer be repressed. The American woman would dress boldly and do whatever she pleased. When men would oppose, she would not take no for an answer, and get whatever she wanted. It is because of the courageous women of the twenties that the modern day women have the ability to do whatever a man can.

Works Cited
14 Oct. 2007 .
Fitzgerald, Scott F. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1925.
Hayes, Kelly K., and Julie L. Carnegie. The Roaring Twenties Biography. 1st ed. Gale Group, 2005. 244-245.
O'neil, Micheal J. America in the 1920's. 16-29.
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