Gender in The Joy Luck Club

Gender in The Joy Luck Club

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The Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan

Is it fair to judge someone by their sex? In traditional Chinese culture, many judgments were made about a person just by observing their sex. The woman was looked upon as an inferior being. They had little or no status in society, and little was expected from them. They were discriminated against when they tried to stand up for themselves. Chinese culture was customarily male dominated. The male was expected to do most of the work, and the woman was expected to stay at home with their mouth shut. This custom leaves an unwelcome feeling in a woman's heart. They feel like no one cares, and it makes it much harder to live with an optimistic view on life. In the novel, The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, reviews the lives of three Chinese women, Ann-Mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying Ying St. Clair. These women grow up in traditional Chinese homes, where there is sexism. They deal with serious problems that corrupt their lives. Through perseverance and the passing of time their lives return to normal. Ann-Mei, Lindo, and Ying Ying are subjugated by males because of their sex, and Chinese tradition. Ann-Mei was oppressed in many ways. Her mother was invited to spend time at the home of a wealthy merchant named Wu Tsing. At night he would come into Ann-Mei's mother's room and rape her. Despite emotionally scaring Ann-Mei this demonstrates the lack of respect for a women in China. Ann-Mei's mother is forced into concubinage because of her lack of power as a women. She becomes the third wife. As a third wife she maintains very little status in the home of Wu Tsing. Ann-Mei's family disowns her mother because by becoming a third wife she has brought shame to her family. "When I was a young girl in China, my grandmother told me my mother was a ghost". Ann-Mei is told to forget about her mother and move on in her life. The fact that Ann-Mei is told to forget her mother because she has become something she could not control, is preposterous. She was raped and forced into concubinage. The lack of appreciation for a female causes this feeling of shame for the Mei family. Since rape and polygamy is accepted in China, it makes it appear that what Ann-Mei's mother has done is wrong, and what Wu Tsing did was right and normal.

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Ann-Mei's daughter Rose, reaps the disadvantages of being a woman because she feels that she can't make decisions. "...Ted decided where we went on vacation. He decided what new furniture we should buy...We used to discuss some of these matters, but we both knew the question would boil down to my saying, ‘Ted, you decide.'" This illustrates Rose's disability to be assertive, and her dependence on a male. The life of Ann-Mei demonstrated how women were undervalued in society. The story of Lindo Jong allegorizes how women were discriminated against. At the very young age of twelve, Lindo is betrothed to Tyan-yu. This is an example of the insignificance of a female's feelings. Nobody wants to have an arranged marriage. Marriage is sacred, and is supposed to be exercised by two people who are in love with each other. This is an act of extreme unfairness to Lindo. This shows how an accepted Chinese practice is in actuality hurtful toward the female sex. "I [Lindo] once sacrificed my life to keep my parents' promise". Here, Lindo is talking about her arranged, loveless marriage. Chinese tradition is restricting Lindo from being her own person, and living her own life. She is unable to make her own decisions. Lindo is so willing to sacrifice her life in order to preserve the honor of her parents. There is no honor in forcing someone to be unhappy. On another note, Lindo was quickly blamed for not having children. Actually, their lack of offspring resulted from Tyan-yu's lack of interaction with Lindo. It was impossible for Lindo to stand up for herself because no matter what, the male would be believed over the female. Lindo is a perfect example of how Chinese tradition prohibited the female from having status in society. Ying Ying St. Clair's life suggests a lack of honor for the female. As a sixteen year old, she attends the festivities after her aunt's wedding. There, a man plunges a knife through a watermelon, symbolizing the loss of virginity. This is a sign of profound discourtesy. A man who treats a woman like this and gets away with it is very cruel. Something is wrong with society, if it allows gestures like this to go on unnoticed at a public party. This taunt deeply hurt Ying Ying, but her strength helped her overcome its pain. Later, she married this man. He began going on business trips to the north. Ying Ying came to know he was leaving her to live with an opera singer. "That I [Ying Ying] thought of throwing myself into the lake like the other ladies of shame. And I will tell her [Lena] of the baby I killed because I came to hate this man so much". This shows how badly this man made Ying Ying feel. He pledged love to her, but it showed that he undervalued Ying Ying once he left. Ying Ying was unable to really ever love again. Lena became involved in a terrible marriage also. She subordinated her spirit to her husband, and she bitterly resents his domination over her. She can do nothing to stop this, because that Chinese culture calls for male domination. Ying Ying's life as a female was poor because how males treated her was accepted by Chinese society. The lives of these women represent the oppression women have felt throughout time. They also represent the constant fight women have to attain power and status in today's
society. Amy Tan has portrayed the sad truth through these tales and I believe that she got her point across. I believe that women are ataining more power and responsabity every day and through books like The Joy Luck Club, and other women writers, womans struggle to be equal has gone many steps forward and will continue to go forward as long women strive for equality.
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