How is true happiness assessed in a woman if she is not societally equal to her sexual counterpart?

Sarah- Renee Garner

In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle poses the question “Is happiness acquired, or the gift of Gods or of chance”. He then argues the claim that if acquitted, then it will be accessible to everyone, except for people who lack a capacity of excellence; those people have to acquire it by trying hard to acquire it.[1] In today’s society, women are still not considered equal to their sexual counterparts; however, that does not mean that women aren’t working hard to acquire that equality, thus proving the idea that happiness can be accessible to everyone.

Aristotle defines happiness as a certain kind of exercise of the vital faculties in accordance with excellence or virtue however, centuries upon centuries of history, proves that women have not always been exceptionally daring or “excellent”[2]. Most women engaged in the typical way women should behave; they were submissive to the men in their lives, they spoke only when spoken too, and they acted unbeknownst to the affairs of men, and while that might make some women happy, some women in the United States were at their wit’s end.

Feminism is an idea founded on the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. Feminism, in both past and present cultures, is not well liked. Looking at the bible, God tells women to “submit [themselves] unto [their] … husbands” [3]and then proceeds to say that women should “learn in silence with all subjection”[4]. This biblical evidence shows just how long women have been silenced in the name of being submissive to men: continuing on to present day, women are still being silenced on issues that deal specifically with women, by men who feel the need to impose their thoughts and their views .Centuries later, the fight for equal rights amongst men and women has undergone some of the most mournful losses to the women of the United States. Almost a century after the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress, 15 states still have not ratified it, as it is believed to be a bill that is about making women superior rather than equal.[5] This instance of men not listening to women has proven to be detrimental to the United States societal development because women are still unhappy with the way in which they are treated differently than men. Furthermore, women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920, yet men have had that right to vote since the beginnings of this nation. Similarly, as a prominent figure in popular culture, Beyoncé receives constant criticisms for dancing provocatively and embracing her sexuality while rappers such as Lil’ Wayne and Riff Raff exploit women through their degrading lyrics. This hypocrisy is what caused women to start fighting back for that same happiness that man already had. Women developed opinions, they developed sexuality, and they developed minds. Now in some cases, this new way of living did not always work out in the woman’s advantage: many women were continuously judged and taken advantage of my men even after their outward display of radicalism; thus proving that this pragmatic way of thinking hinders societal development, and overall societal happiness. The inequalities between these two genders, in both past and present culture, show the importance of why feminism needs to take a stronger stand: more than just a belief, but a reality.

In the twenties, the United States went through a devastating recession that led into deep economic debt and later the 1930’s Great Depression. Many women could no longer afford “house-girls” or maids, and the luxury of tailored clothing grew scarce. These “women had worked during World War I and developed a new sense of independence and freedom, and….the new generation of younger women needed… practical clothing: even middle class women… could no longer afford… servants, and were required to do it for themselves.”[6]Therefore, instead of wearing longer, heavy garments, young women decided to wear light and accessible garments.  Many people thought a woman wearing shorter dresses was just a desperate way for them to try to enforce their independence, but women did what they needed to do in order to get by. This new style of dressing did not really resonate well with most men, particularly fathers, husbands, and brothers. These men did not appreciate their daughter, wives, or sisters wearing shorter clothing; they did not consider the wants of the women, only how others perceived the women. The relationship between men and women changed as the expectations and the norms of women shifted; many more women began to call out men for their actions and behaviors, and men did not welcome this idea with loving arms, but it made women happier knowing that their voices were at least being heard.

Likewise, the stigma amongst women in popular culture is to be modest and traditional when it comes to public appearance; however, this same stigma is not put on men in popular culture, having an unbalance in the way at which women are supposed to be happy, versus men. Beyoncé, categorized as a feminist, makes sure that her songs, as well as her performances, display a strong sense of gender equality, and “girl power”. She is often critiqued for her seductive-like dancing, and the content of her lyrics in which she uplifts women.  Many people, particularly men, have critiqued Beyoncé; saying that she should not perform sexually provoking dance moves, even if that makes her feel empowered or happy, which  further proves Beyoncé’s reasoning for including feminism in all of her songs. In Beyoncé’s song ***Flawless, she specifically includes “We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings // in the way that boys are.” Why is Beyoncé not allowed to do the same exact thing that her male counterparts do? Why aren’t influential males in the music industry reprimanded for their degrading – almost dehumanizing – lyrics about the exploitation of women? This hypocrisy has been prominent in popular culture since the beginning of its time: whether it’s about how promiscuous Marilyn Monroe was compared to all other conservative women, or how Beyoncé is deemed a “whore” due to the fact that she embraces her sexuality. The constant struggle for feminism in popular culture amplifies why feminism is needed in present cultures, and why feminism ultimately leads to that happiness needed for all people: it is unfair for people to differentiate the standards of men and women just because of societal expectations.

As of today, the average woman makes only 79% of what the average man makes for doing the exact same job (Hill 7). If this is broken down by race, Hispanic women only make 54%, American Indian women only make 59%, Native Hawaiian women only make 62%, African American women only make 63%, White women only make 78%, and Asian American women make 90% (15). [7]Therefore, not only are women being cheated out of money that they’ve earned; they are also being divided up by how they identify racially and ethnically, which further shows how misogyny affects women of different cultures. The gender pay gap, along with other policies, proves how the continuity of misogyny is detrimental to societal growth and development. Despite this fact, women have pushed the issue of the gender wage gap to the faces of political incumbents. The way in which women take their happiness is truly admirable, further proving Aristotle theory that happiness is accessible to everyone.

In conclusion, it is evident through the reiteration of feminism in past and present cultures that feminism is more than just an idea thought of by women who recognized the social, as well as, political inequalities that were, and still are, present. Feminism needs to be a reality, because until then, women will still be expected to behave in a certain manner that pertains only to a woman. Feminism is not another form of saying misandry: it is the fight for social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Feminism being taken seriously proves Aristotle theory of taking the happiness that is acquitted to oneself.

[1] Aristotle, W. D. Ross, and Lesley Brown. 2009. The Nicomachean ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[2] Aristotle

[3] “Ephesians 5:22”

[4] “1 Timothy 2:11”

[5] “ERA In the States.” ERA:. Accessed April 29,2016.

[6] McEvoy, Anne. “Chapter 3: 1920s Casual and Day Wear.” The 1920S and 1930s. New York: Chelsea House, 2009. 18+. Print

[7] “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2016).” AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. Accessed April 29, 2016.


4 thoughts on “How is true happiness assessed in a woman if she is not societally equal to her sexual counterpart?

  1. Hey Sarah Renee this is Hayley Schrakamp. I loved your article and totally agree women should be able to dress the way they want or express themselves how they please without being criticized. How are we as women supposed to be truly happy if we are always being torn down and held back. I would have appreciated possibly more references to Aristotle, but I can forgive this because your article was AMAZING!!

  2. Your article was very eye-opening and shocking to me. It truly worries me that the bible says that about women submitting to their husbands. I think the things you stated in the third paragraph are so important for women today to remember, when they are supporting Trump or Cruz without thinking about the politicians ideals. I like how you tied it in with Aristotle, and I think this is altogether a very important article that needed to be written.
    Olivia W.

  3. Not only do I agree with your general stance represented in this post and celebrate your courageousness in all things relating to equality among all people, but I appreciate the large amount of information present in your article that I will be able to use in the future to fight and argue for equality between all sexes and genders, as well as races. I loved your comparisons between Beyonce and her male counterparts.
    You mentioned in your article that women developed thoughts and opinions; however, in my personal opinion, I believe women already had their own thoughts and opinions and embraced their sexuality privately, but that these aspects were repressed and restricted by the misogyny they faced on a daily basis and that they were revealed when women made the decision to change their situations.
    Overall, I loved your blog and I am so happy to see this subject being addressed.
    Rachel C.

  4. I like the point you make, especially the points you make about equality. The double standards you point, with Beyonce and Lil Wayne, reflect the mistreatment we women experience. You could also mention how men are allowed to walk around shirtless and expose their nipples, but it is illegal in 36 states for women to do the same, despite the similarities in anatomy. In the 1930’s men won the right to do this, yet women are not allowed to.You could also mention some double standards that men face and how the media portrays men’s beauty. I love the point you make about the gender gap, too.
    Celeste Hannan period 3

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