Has It Changed All That Much?

Thinking back on my blog post from last week that deals with the differences of women in public spaces leads me to some connections between Sophie Watson, discussions we’ve had in class, and Faith Baldwin’s text, Skyscraper. How are private and public spaces different for women than they are for men? This was a question posed in class discussion last week. We discussed the safety, visibility, and morality of women in public. The dangers of women being out in a big city, the question of why women are more visible than men in public, and the questionable morality of women who choose to venture out of the home and “go out on the town” were all issues raised in my previous post. After reading and discussing Baldwin’s work Skyscraper, I find it interesting that I can draw several connections between works from these two different eras in American history.

Today we like to think that our society has taken great strides, especially where women are concerned, since the time of the Great Depression, the time period in which Skyscraper is set. However, I can see that ideas about the safety, visibility, and morality of women in public are not all that different from the ideas present in our society concerning women and their safety, visibility, and morality in the public eye.

The safety of women in public is still an issue today just as it was in the 1930’s. Watson discusses how women are sometimes forced to restrain their movement from place to place at night in big cities due to the absence of lighting on the streets and the real dangers found in public transportation. Although Skyscraper doesn’t necessarily mention the dangers of public transportation, we can see the precautions that are taken for women in the city. For example, during Lynn’s time living at the Business Club, she is forced to abide by a strict set of rules. Yes, these rules were meant to protect her moral reputation, but I can’t help but think that they also played a role in her physical safety. Lynn was expected to be home at a certain hour, which   did not allow her to be out on the dangerous city streets late at night.

As I brought up last week, women seem to be more visible in public. Maybe that’s because they adorn themselves more than men? Whatever the reason, women are noticed. Lynn is an attractive young woman that draws the attention of Tom while eating breakfast, not even adorned for a night out on the town. Though Lynn is noticed by men in the public eye, she is also noticed on the work force. The fact that Lynn is out and about in everyday city life, rather than being confined to her home, allows her to be noticed by the well-known David Dwight. Maybe the idea that women are putting themselves in the public eye, especially in the eyes of men, is one of the main reasons why women working outside of the home is looked down upon?

This picture symbolizes the type of woman and wife that Tom desires for Lynn to be. He is set on her working in the home and letting go of her career that she is so passionate about. Is it fair for Tom to expect Lynn to be the type of woman depicted in this picture, or should he simply love her for her and accept the career woman that she has chosen to be?

The visibility of  women brings me to my next point… morality. Is it possible that women were/are considered immoral if they chose to leave the home for the big city? Were/are they thought to be neglecting their families? These are questions I posed at the closing of last week’s blog, referring to women in our present, post-modern era. These same questions seem to be raised in Baldwin’s novel as well. Although Lynn does not yet have a family, why does Tom become angry when discussing her continuing to work after they are married? Is it simply a question of him being able to provide for her, or is it something more? As seen in Skyscraper, Lynn is encouraged by Tom to stay at home, but she refuses. During one of Tom and Lynn’s many arguments about her continuing to work, Lynn makes the assertive statement, “Tom, don’t be childish! No, I won’t marry you and give up my job” (51). Another argument between Lynn and Tom arises when he refers to her work as slavery. Lynn immediately responds to this comment saying, “I like my slavery.” Lynn makes it clear that she is not willing to leave her job in order to marry Tom. Does this make Lynn immoral? Is it wrong for her to want to further her career and put her potential marriage on hold?


The Blackwell City Reader

Skyscraper, Faith Baldwin




Filed under City Cultures

4 responses to “Has It Changed All That Much?

  1. I think you’ve put your finger on one of the unspoken assumptions behind the separate spheres argument. There’s an assumption that women naturally belong home with children and if they don’t they’re neglecting their children (or their child-bearing ability). And you’re absolutely right that Lynn being out in the working world makes her more visible. That’s partly what Tom is worried about: “Lynn would give up the damned job, in which she was in danger of meeting undesirable people — which translated, read attractive men with money” (62). We’re going to talk about this more tomorrow.

  2. ecc0009

    I thought it was great that you touched on the different spheres because it is true even today. There are people in this world that are simply stuck on the fact that women belong in the house and men belong in the workforce. Back then how can we even say it made more sense other that the sheer fact that it was “what was happening in the time”. Not to take a strong feminist stance, but women obviously belong working as equal as men do. Although Lynn’s character is considerably dense, I admire her drive to stay working where some women would just rather get married. Great job!

  3. marximusvance

    That picture…she is so happy….too happy. It’s hard to look at.

    This is an interesting topic. And I like how you state that this country thinks we have made great strides for women in the work place, but it still is very similar for what it was back then. The sad thing about the novel, even though Lynn is a working girl and Baldwin puts emphasis on how much she fits there, there isn’t much else going on for her. Lynn is still naive and inexperienced and by taking away the decision between work and her relationship, it undercuts whatever stance Baldwin was going for.

  4. Great topic. I liked that you disciss gender issues, but in a different way, applying it to today’s society and views of women in public. After reading your post and personally comparing the views of women in public now and then, I came to the same conclusion that even though decades have passed and strides have been made for women, especially in the public space. I found it interesting that you used three elements relevant during the Depression and even now: safety, visibility, and morality. Obviously, women will always be seen as inferior to men and definitely more vulnerable, bringing danger to the public space as long as those views are still depicted of women. Generally speaking, a man will almost always prey on someone he feels superior to or stronger than–someone he is confident that he can successfully “prey” on. I love that you hit on the safety aspect of women in public space because it is something we as women still struggle with. I mean, even at Auburn all freshmen girls are required to attend a seminar about self defense, showing girls how to protect themselves, what to do in case their saftey is threatened, and making them aware of the public dangers. Of course, I’m not positive, but I don’t think they have these same meetings for freshman boys? This is just one example of how women are still viewed in public. It seems things haven’t changed all that much over such a long period of time, not to say that women haven’t made great strides, but they certainly are still viewed in a conventional way. By bringing Lynn into this discussion, I’m able to see the transition of women in the workplace, but it still doesn’t change much of how women in public are viewed. I really enjoyed this post and the ideas you brought together to compile these concepts. I think this would be very interesting to further your research on this topic by comparing even more of today’s conventions still active in our society. This would be a great final projec topic, I think! This post serves as a way to link so many different texts we’ve read and bring in all sorts of concepts from other authors as well. Great Job! This has so much potential!

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