Everybody Needs Respect

In Faith Baldwin’s Skyscraper, Lynn is stuck between the ideas of work and marriage. Somehow, it would be unacceptable for both of them to be a part of her life. Early on it is revealed that Tom is totally against women working. When he is noticing and admiring Lynn’s feminine features, he resents that she is a working woman, thinking it is a “shame that pretty women have to work” (13).

When I was reading this, I thought about Tom’s attitude toward Lynn and her choices, and I wondered what would cause a man to think this way in the first place. Why would Tom think such a thing? Where did that even come from? What about that matters so much to him?

Today in class we talked about some things that could be possible answers to these questions. Someone mentioned that during the time period, it could essentially be a mark on a man’s reputation for his wife to be working. For example, it might seem that he doesn’t make enough money to provide for her or that she isn’t satisfied with how much he brings it, which could make the wife look bad, and then that would be a double whammy against the man (bad wife equals a bad life decision). The idea is that a man wants power, prestige, status, etc. to make him feel respected among others, and he wants a wife who will support him in that regard, but he also wants her to do it his way—by staying home like a “good” wife, and cooking and cleaning and having babies, and not doing anything at all for herself, but letting her life revolve around her husband.

This is a possible explanation for Tom’s thoughts about Lynn because there are actually people today—a time when it’s socially acceptable for women to work—who carry the same attitudes that Tom does. I know many people who, sadly, are like this. However, for the most part, it seems that this mentality has migrated out of the city and into more traditional and conservative places, such as rural small towns and regions, where certain religious beliefs are perceived to support the views depicted in Skyscraper.

It seems that cities and what is popular go hand in hand with each other.  Since Skyscraper represents life in a city, it is probably representing the most popular things in life at the time that it was written. Today, the independent woman is rather glorified. In Skyscraper, the man and his needs are depicted as more important than the woman and her needs, whereas in American culture today, women are regarded with much more respect and praised for doing the things that they enjoy, even if that involves being a multi-tasking individual.

Though it is popular now for women to be regarded as—quite frankly—people, too, will it always be this way? Will women continue to be respected, or will things shift as times and cultures change? There isn’t really a sure answer to that, but I would hope that both men and women alike will continue to be honored for their skills, talents, desires, and hard work without it being viewed as a competition. People could just do what they love in peace. Reading Skyscraper is interesting and offers insight to a life before my time, which makes me really appreciate today’s liberty to be a woman who can actually make personal choices without the crushing pressure of how I will be viewed by society as a result.

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1 Comment

Filed under City Cultures, Continuing Class Discussion

One response to “Everybody Needs Respect

  1. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I definitely don’t think the kind of mentality in the book has disappeared from the country. It might be useful to think about the separate spheres argument too; that’s still used by people who think women should stay at home. What do you think about the places where the narrator shows us Tom’s insecurities? Does that make his demands on Lynn more comprehensible?

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