The Role of Men in My Antonia
Gloria Steinem once wrote that "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Clearly she is attempting to assert women's independence and further the liberation movement. However, her analogy is not quite complete. A bicycle has absolutely no place in a fish's life, but whether she needs him or not, men are very much present in a women's life. While a women can survive without a male influence, his influence shapes much of her personality. This role of man manifests itself in the lives of the women of Black Hawk but most vividly in the form of the working girls.
While working in Black Hawk, the hired girls assert their independence from men in practical matters but also proclaim their dependence in defining their personality. Tony, Tiny, Lena, and any other country girl ever to work in town can clearly survive without a male influence. They are, in fact, supporting the men with the funds they send home. However, as each is independent from men for survival, each is still defined by their actions and attitudes toward men. Lena Lingard is most outwardly defined by men. In the fields and the cattle she exists in a male vacuum where she can be wild like the fields around her. Once she is exposed to town life and men, she still retains the wild nature, but it is now covered by a facade of new dresses instead of her earlier rags. "The unusual color of her eyes - a shade of deep violet - and their soft, confiding expression" are no longer representative of her pure nature, but instead an object to be lusted over by men (150). Lena doesn't need men to survive, but she needs men to be beautiful. In similar fashion, the farm physiques of Tiny and Ant...
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...back], you're here, like my father. So I won't be lonesome" (256). Those memories of her father and Jim are all that Antonia posses of her past and they are all that shapes her future
No woman truly needs a man to sustain life; but men will often shape their future. As clearly shown in My Antonia , men often have an undeniable impact on women's' personalities and choices of lifestyle. Mrs. Steinem's metaphor does not hold. A bicycle has no place in a fish's world, but men and women cannot be separated. Any past action inevitably shapes one's future. If a man exists anywhere in a woman's world he will affect her life whether it be in a positive or negative fashion. The more appropriate metaphor would be something like "Women need men like a fish needs nuclear waste". You certainly don't need it, but if it's there, it's going to have an impact on your life.
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