Restrictions on Women, as seen in “The Oval Portrait” of Edgar Poe

Throughout time, women’s status in human societies has been subjected to many transformations. Nevertheless, restrictions and limitations toward women still exist in all human societies. These restrictions imposed toward women are portrayed in many areas of their lives. These restrictions may differ from country to country, but they mostly interfere with women’s well-being.

One common and most important restriction the society places on women is seen in the professional world.  In fact, like people in antic civilization who thought that the worth of a person is related to his physical capability, therefore women who are considered as weaker than men are worthless in the professional world.  They are so limited to stay home.   In fact, in many countries, women are still not allowed to have a professional occupation because they are considered the one who has to take care of the house.   Housekeeping and child care are considered as women primary duty.   Additionally, in other countries where they are allowed to have a job, women can barely reach a high-ranked position.  Besides, the salary of women participating in the workforce is most of the time less than the salary of men for the same occupation.  As for education, women are not expected to have a high professional qualification.


Unlike men, women are considered the one who should have the most appropriate behavior in the society.  Thus all cultural and religious rules command women to stay pure.  Therefore in order to be considered righteous, women must follow what men, their parents, husbands suggest them to do.   Also, in most cultures, it is used to be expected that men would not discover sexuality before marriage and it is not the same for men.  Women also should not express their sexual desire, unlike men. In addition, in most cultures, women are imposed a certain dress code which restricts them wear what they want. Women’s clothing code is influenced by their menstrual phases. In literature, this fact is portrayed in “The End of Summer” of  Kimberly Gorall, a teenage girl discovers that she will be obliged to change her dressing habits because she will begin soon to have her first menstruation. Kimberlay Gorall turned a brief childhood conversation between a mother and his teenage daughter into a statement about womanhood. The teenage girl learns callously about some unwelcome new rules that would govern her future manner of dress and behavior. Aware of these restrictions, the teenage girls ended in tears.

Furthermore, like the woman in “The Oval Portrait” of Edgar Allan Poe, which was obliged to sit as the model of a painting, without saying a word, women are restricted on their freedom of speech and decision making.  Despite the fact that the “The Oval Portrait”   is centered on the painting of a woman, the painter’s wife, the model, was essentially the passive figure in the story. She was obliged to stay passive and docile, leaving the only active role to his husband, the painter.  The painter was totally overwhelmed by his art to the point where he can no longer see his wife except through the lens of his painting. As he was so caught up in the painting, he did not realize that his wife was dying. And when he finally puts the last stroke onto the painting, the painter turned to her wife and saw her dead. Despite her poor health, the wife of the painter was restricted to stay and order to please her husband.

In many cultures, women are not allowed to decide for themselves and are dependent on their husbands.  One actual and most important example is the status of women’s reproductive rights. In fact, there is today an increase in laws restricting abortion even if the pregnancy could affect the health of the woman or the woman bearing the pregnancy had been raped.  Women have lost the right to choose.

Women are subject to many restrictions in our society. These restrictions are mostly due to cultural and religious believes and could have sometimes many negatives consequences on the development and the well-being of women. Today, women have more rights than before but these rights are still less than men’s. Nowadays women are advocating for more right all over the world. They are mainly fighting to break the stereotypical role given to them by men as child-bearers and housekeepers.  Gender inequality continues to be a powerful barrier shaping the rights, capabilities, and opportunities of women from birth throughout a lifetime. Fairness and social justice cannot be attained if women are stigmatized at birth, if their rights and entitlements are violated, and if they do not have equitable control over resources and decision-making.

Nevertheless, one’s should acknowledge that men and women are different physiologically and psychologically. These differences should allow us to conclude that there is a natural role given to each gender. Thus, fighting to break the restrictions placed on women should not mean allowing women to behave like men.

Alexandre Koffi

Entrepreneur, space enthusiast, dreamer, cosmic messenger.

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