Isabelle Hoff: The Feminine Experience

For my freshman writing seminar I was asked to write about the feminine experience during the twentieth century in America using the texts from three authors. I have discovered many things about myself through reading and responding to these texts from Jane Addams, Gerald Early, and Joyce Carol Oates. First, I found myself relating to the experiences of the women portrayed in each of these essays. Even though I did connect to these women, I believe it was difficult for me to admit this. To compare myself with the women in these essays feels somewhat wrong to me as they have gone through much more than I have or ever will. Whenever I begin to think, “I’ve felt like this before,” I stop myself because I feel like it takes away from their experiences which were much more difficult to handle than mine. The comparison is unfair and nearly impossible. As a woman, I have grown to experience sexism and being treated differently throughout my life. I still feel guilty comparing myself to these amazing, strong, humble women. The extent to which women in the twentieth century had been oppressed had been enormous; how could one compare themselves to something like that?

After thinking about my connection to these women, I began to think about my own voice throughout the essay. For this assignment, I was asked to use the first person pronoun in order to respond to quotes and ideas which I was writing. This response caused me to create a deeper understanding of what was really going on in the text and what I was trying to convey. The correct use of quotes when using the first person pronoun to respond is important because I wasn’t just analyzing a quote, I was telling the reader how the quote made me feel. In my experience, I found that just analysis can be quite boring and it doesn’t allow the writer to create any sort of personal connection. This method of writing has allowed me to both connect to the authors and connect to the reader by portraying my emotions throughout the essay. I have learned that my voice is important when writing to convince because it allows me to express my point with more persuasion. Although I may relate to these authors to an extent, I still find myself surprised at what they have to say. This, perhaps, is part of what makes them such amazing authors.

I encountered beautiful pieces of writing throughout this assignment. But what intrigued me the most was Gerald Early’s essay. Of the three authors, Early was the only man who talked about the feminine experience. I thought this was an extremely interesting point of view because I hadn’t really thought about how a father of daughters may feel about the sexism present in society. While speaking about his African-American daughters, he mentions that they both had found pageants funny due to the extreme seriousness of the competition. Personally, I am a very competitive person so I find it difficult for me to not compare myself to others, especially other women. Additionally, I found it odd to find an essay about the feminine experience written from the male perspective. At first I was skeptical because I had my doubts about what a man would have to say about a woman’s experience. But through this, I was pleasantly surprised to read from a father’s point of view. It was quite refreshing to know that some men in the 20th century were able to recognize that, in general, women are faced with many more challenges than men.

At the end of this process I find myself thinking about how I can be a better person and apply what I’ve learned to my life today. There are many responsibilities placed upon women; most are unspoken. I believe that the best way to go about life is to always, no matter who they are, treat everyone with respect and kindness. I feel it is important to listen to others and tell their stories so that future generations can learn from them and grow as a society and as individual people. I will continue to grow and educate myself in regards to experiences of women throughout time. And to also find women and talk to them to gain personal stories in order to better expand my learning and understanding of what people have to go through. After writing this I find myself deep in thought. Although it may be easy to say what we should do to make the world a better place, it is a whole other thing actually doing it. I truly believe that our society is able to grow from these experiences. It may take a long time to get to a point where everyone is accepted for who they are but I do think we will get there. I am empowered to be a better person.

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