The lesser sex:
Exploring the portrayal of women in “Boys and Girls”
The role of females and males is a touchy subject for many. Added to this sensitivity and further complicating the topic of females and males are the values, beliefs, views and stereotypes associated with the two sexes. As some stereotypes go, women are often attributed to have ‘softer’, ‘caregiving-like’ qualities, and men are expected to be rough and always ready for the next adventure. Munro paints a picture of women as the lesser sex using overtones of absence of feminine voice, a strong focus on professional or occupational roles and value-laden statements of important characters.
An obvious argument in favour of women being the lesser sex is noted in the minimized voice the women appear to be given, including the narrator. One such example is found early in the story when the protagonist’s father and the salesman are speaking and the salesman remarks, “I thought it was only a girl” (Munro 494). The protagonist does not respond, but simply turns away. A second example is found when the mother approaches her husband to address her concerns about their daughter and the protagonist observes her father “stood listening, politely as he would to a salesman or stranger, but with an air of wanting to get on with his real work” (495). The obvious absence of the feminine voice in the story is noted; women do minimal speaking and appear to only speak about proper and improper roles of girls and women. This is reinforced during the grandmother’s visit as she reprimands the protagonist with “Girls don’t slam doors like that” (497). This minimized feminine voice reduces the sense of power and privilege awarded women and the reader begins early on to experience a sense of agreement with Munro.
Accompanying the minimized feminine voice is the strong focus on profession and occupation. The air of importance awarded the men in the family for their profession and...
Cited: Munro, Alice. “Boys and Girls.”, Introduction to Literature, 5th ed. Findlay, et al. Toronto:
Nelson, 2004. 491-502. Harcourt Brace Canada.
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