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Through examining the second wave feminist fictional novels The Handmaid’s Tale, Revolutionary Road, The Bell Jar, and Surfacing, I explore how the overarching theme of female characters who transgress against the role of wife/mother by choosing to work outside the home contributes to their fates, confuses traditional gender identities and curtails their agency. Comparing these texts with a number of third wave feminist nonfictional works, I challenge the ways in which women have allegedly gained progress within the workplace through stepping outside of the gender binary, as well as the false notion of choice in considering a career and/or motherhood. Using gender and feminist theory, specifically the ideas of gender fluidity and gender performance proposed by Judith Butler, I argue that women in today’s workplace face a similar backlash to the women found within the fictional novels because of their noncompliance to the feminine gender roles dictated by an institutionalized patriarchal system. In my critical essay, I explore how the gender binary can be altered in order to find a gender performance for women that will allow them to maintain a sense of identity outside of being man’s Other, one that will hopefully allow them greater agency within both the workplace and the home.
Smith, Macy, "Women in the Workplace, Then and Now: Gender Inversion vs. Gender Equity" (2015). English Summer Fellows. Paper 3.