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