According to feminist theory, cultural meanings of gender functions can be patriarchal or antipatriarchal (Tyson, 83-86). In the short story “Everyday Usage,” Alice Walker illustrates her characters’ gender roles as antipatriarchal in the feminist theory context. Specifically, this idea exists in Mom’s physical look, the activities she partakes in, and her refusal to submit to authoritative figures. In addition, Walker favorably depicts antipatriarchal ideology through the character of Mom, particularly when she breaks conventional patriarchal gender functions.
Feminist theory takes a look at the methods which identity is molded by the cultural meanings of gender functions. According to feminist theory, there are 2 types of ideologies, patriarchal and antipatriarchal. In patriarchal societies, males hold all or most positions of power, while ladies are oppressed and have little opportunity. Patriarchal gender roles are really standard, suggesting that males are manly, strong, effective companies, though in some cases violent; and females tend to be womanly, submissive, nurturing, and motherly. Patriarchal thought praises individuals who embody these characteristics and condemns those who challenge them, while antipatriarchal approach does just the opposite (Tyson 83-85).
In “Everyday Usage,” Mama handles the roles of the guy of your home and is applauded for doing so, reflecting antipatriarchal ideas in the text (Tyson 99). She has no male service provider, but Mother strives to care for her household. She handles the role of the head of the home and tends to stereotypically manly responsibilities, embodying the traditional gender roles of a guy.
The opening line of the story is, “I will await her in the yard that Maggie and I made so tidy and wavy the other day afternoon,” (Walker 274) and right away paints an image of Mother’s ability to do manual labor. Walker goes on to highlight the significance of keeping an excellent, clean lawn, as it is “like a prolonged living-room” (Walker 274), therefore praising Mom for her efforts.
The strong, violent nature of traditional male gender roles appears in Mother. In the text she explains a few of the activities she takes part in:”I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a male … I can work outside all the time, breaking ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver prepared over the open fire in minutes after it comes steaming from the hog. One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall” (275 ).
Mama’s actions and her success in carrying out generally male duties to attend to her household need her to be powerful, both physically and emotionally, and require her to accept a violent nature, instead of a motherly, nurturing one.
Mom’s physical appearance is also extremely manly. She describes herself as “a big, big-boned lady with rough, man-working hands” (275) who chews tobacco and uses overalls to work in throughout the day and pajamas made from flannel in the evening, which are clothes usually used by working guys. in the story, Walker suggests that Mama does not think of herself as lovely. She thinks her daughter would like her to be “a hundred pounds lighter … [with] skin like a raw barley pancake” (275 ). Instead of be oppressed by these patriarchal concepts of society, Mom rises above them, and is positive of what she is able to accomplish on her own.
In “Daily Use”, Dee likewise embodies manly roles by replacing Mom’s missing other half. Dee goes to school and is well educated, a liberty seldom attained by females during that time. She declines to be “oppressed” by a name that was provided to her family by servant owners, which cause her to decline her heritage and feel a sense of superiority over her household. Dee believes she is entitled to the household quilts because she is informed. Nevertheless, Mom believes otherwise.
Mother claims to have already guaranteed Dee’s wanted quilts to Maggie. Dee argues that Maggie can dislike them and therefore she fights for the “priceless” artifacts. Irregular of patriarchal society, Mama declines to submit to Dee, who is a manly figure. In stories with a more patriarchal viewpoint, ladies are typically forced to give in to reliable tormenters, however Mom takes defends herself.
By applying feminist theory to Alice Walker’s “Everyday Usage,” it is possible to analyze the cultural definitions of gender functions as formed by patriarchal or antipatriarchal concepts. In the short story, Mom takes part in activities usually carried out by males, has a typically manly physical look, and declines to submit to authoritative figures. According to traditional patriarchal ideology, mothers ought to need to be womanly, nurturing, motherly, and submissive, yet Walker illustrates Mamas just the opposite. Mama defies whatever a conventional woman must be, according to patriarchal beliefs, however Walker commemorates her. For that reason, “Daily Use” exemplifies antipatriarchal ideology.
Functions Pointed out
Tyson, Lois. “Using Concepts from Feminist Theory to Understand Literature.” Learning for a
Diverse World: Using Vital Theory to Check Out and Write about Literature. New York, NY: Routledge, 2001. 83-85. Print.
Walker, Alice. “Everday Usage.” Knowing For a Diverse World: Using Important Theory to Check Out and Blog About Literature. Ed. Lois Tyson. New York City, NY: Routledge, 2001. 274-81. Print.