According to our text (Sociological Theory in The Classical Era), Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Key Concepts are ‘Gender inequality’ and Women’s economic independence’. In contrast to other fundamental sociologists who preceded her, it may appear that she didn’t have much to deal with in reference to her spreading her message. Her message was gender equality and economic independence for women; and rightly so. However, the issues she dealt with were primal, related to and stemming from the gender roles we learned to play from the beginning….to what is the present. She had the audacity to pause and question the integrity of what was developed upon up until that point in time. Right on! She had a huge work load in front of her.
One of the fundamentals which dictated the framework of what could, and would, be established was ‘the division of labor’. This aspect had physical ramifications which could not have been, and still cannot be, ignored to this day. However, what was experienced, and continues to be experienced by women, is something of ambiguous nature. There are realities which make it easier for most to simply go to extremes, accepting dogma to complete a picture which would otherwise remain incomplete. The following Gilman quote, coupled with her easy to see distinguishing physicality, points at the nature of the modern woman’s economic plight:
“It is not that women are really smaller-minded, weaker-minded, more timid and vacillating, but that whosoever, man or woman, lives always in a small, dark place, is always guarded, protected, directed and restrained, will become inevitably narrowed and weakened by it.”
When held in contrast to her contemporary W.E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), one can see some parallels. The most basic one that jumps out to me is the noticeably fewer number of key concepts as compared to other contemporary ‘white, male’ sociologists. Not unlike Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Du Bois had challenges in front of him made up of years of untruths.