Critique On “How the Superwoman Myth Puts Women Down” By Sylvia Rabiner

The article “How the Superwoman Myth Puts Women Down” is written by Sylvia Rabiner, an American woman who got her education from Hunter College and the New York University. She is an active freelance writer, a high school teaching consultant and a mother of two. Her life is a combination of struggle and constant hard work.She is a lady from a mediocre background and also a single mother and have faced the difficulties and hardships that an average woman of a modern day society goes through. The article is a sort of persuasive text with a comparison between author’s life and that of ideal women of the current society on real grounds. It describes how those poster ladies who achieved big and are so called superwomen of the society are causing a sense of inferiority and lack of confidence in the average women of society. Also, it revolves around the comparison between author’s circumstances and that of idea’s to portray the concept of Superwoman, in an average case, as a myth or a false ideology. The author describes the struggle a woman has to go through to keep her lifecycle run smoothly when she has to start from the zero point. The article also put some light on the psychology of a woman as well to support the idea and emotional factor is also involved.

The article is written in a very informal style. Sentence structure is simple and the text is easy to apprehend. As the author is currently alive and the article was written in post-post-modern time, the text is written in an unconventional manner and grabs the attention of the contemporary audience and is easy to apprehend. Also, she mentions some superwomen of her time and without bothering about their history, she bought them in her discussion by quoting only their achievements because achievements were the main thing bothering her mind at that time and neglected their effort as a whole. She lies stress on her effort persuasively but gave zero importance to the hardships and efforts of all those successful women.  She propagates the ideas in a very systematic manner but her article lacks the research element in it. She made a comparison on the basis of her own life experience but in the real world, experiences are so diversified that one cannot negate anything on the basis of a single subject. She makes a generalization of the average women on the basis of her own hardships and life experiences. Her article is making a comparison but in a very biased and emotional manner which makes her idea somewhat weak and hollow because it lacks logical and neutral grounds.

The first two paragraphs of the article have more depth than it seems to be. The author describes the success of Linda Kanner by pointing out the exact words said in her glory. This gives a sense of satire or jealousy to some extent. From the very beginning, she makes her readers realize that despite all the other news on the Times she got depressed and gloomy over the only article which describes the success of a woman. This to somewhat extent portrays that the author is not satisfied with her life and seeing other women making progress make her feel embarrassed. Through these two paragraphs, she is depicting her personal bias toward the successful women. She says “Every time I come across such articles I am beset by the self-contempt, loathing, and failure”. By this line, one might wonder why she is getting so upset over these inspiring stories rather than becoming motivated and passionate to thrive? Rather than thinking of how she could have made her life better, she is infuriated as she didn’t get the equal opportunity as those women got. She is getting her frustration of deprivation out by criticizing the applause and appreciation for those “superwomen” of her time. She also cites the incident of her mom comparing her with the smart cousins of her that shows her emotional eagerness and anger toward the successful competitors is a part of her since her childhood. It is a drawback of our society that we teach our children to win by making others lose and as a result, a phycology develops in people from the childhood that someone’s success is our failure. This leads to criticism and jealousy for successful people in their heart and a negative mindset is created which one can observe in the text as well.

In academia, a writing is evaluated on the basis of the amount of research done and the logical or ethical appeal of the text. The article lacks deep research. It only deals with three perspectives of a woman’s life: career, husband, and children. The things such as the background, starting point, struggles, hardships, problems faced by those women are completely taken for granted. This special attention to the achievement only makes the article unbalance and logically depriving. A success never comes for granted. Then how in the cases of those inspiring women with remarkable success it all became possible by making half the effort? One cannot neglect the hard work those women did to get that life. She talks about the Letty Cottin in the fifth paragraph and talks about what a great career she lead at such a young age. Author signifies the hasty development of Letty in her life but when it comes to acknowledging her struggle authors uses a reluctant approach and start talking about her own life in a pessimistic manner. She first creates a background of inspiring triumphs and then suddenly shifts the flow towards the mediocre, pitiable life of hers with a sympathy catching sentence “Now, where does that leave me”. This shows that she is using the success of others to get sympathy for herself so that people get convinced emotionally that she is leading an average life in which she made struggle but can’t reach up to the superwoman level. And through this emotional molding of ideas, she is trying to convince people that every average woman cannot be as successful only elite can. But we cannot neglect facts.

There are many women in history who tasted the glory and started from even worse circumstances such as Harriet Powers. She was an African-American slave woman and was an artist. She was born in 1837 a century before the author’s date of birth (she should have known about her). She recorded folk songs, bible stories and astronomical events on quilts and lead a successful career along with a husband and children. Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, famous as Coco Chanel, is another example that negates the author’s point of view. She was born in 1883 to a single mother in France. Her mother worked as a laundrywoman in a charity hospital. Her mother died when she was 12 and left her with nothing. But later on, same Coco Chanel became a famous fashion designer and businesswoman of France and was the founder of the brand “Chanel”. She also got married to a textile firm owner at the age of 23. If we are counting the successful women than a slave and an orphan who started from nothing and made their way to the top can never be neglected. These examples completely defy the author’s claim that successful woman started their journey with the half way already covered.

Also in author makes a statement “Women are self-critical creatures. We can always find reasons to hate ourselves”. This statement leads to a fallacy that generalizes the nature of women. Not every woman is emotional and self-critical there are women which are not as pathetic or over thinking type. Also, the writer uses the local artist “Sammy Davis Jr.” and “Bed.-Stuy”( a school)  axiom to make a logical connection with her own thoughts and ideas. But what if a person from the far east is reading this article, how he/she is supposed to make any logical relation out of it because he/she does not know the artist and the School and is unaware of the local popular norm about these two. Use of such connotations is making this article restricted to only American natives and bounds other people to understand completely what the author is up to. Also, the author relates the superwomen with the fictitious characters such as “Cosmopolitan girl” to say that to be a superwoman for an average women is possible only in dreams. But in reality, there are women in history who had done it in the past such as Harriet Powers and Coco Chanel. If the author had done thorough research before writing down her thoughts she might not have used such weak point in her article. Her base of the writing is very narrowed and specifically constrained to the elite women which elevated to the top but she intentionally ignored the women which counter her argument.

Despite all these flaws and biases writer be able to convince the general public to some extent. The article is in a story format and hence is very easy to get its readers involved quickly. The life experiences discussed are real and if you see things from the perspective of the author, she is evaluating the success of others through her own life experiences which are making the article a bit interesting and believable. A large chunk of general public nowadays is not familiar with the ladies discussed in the text. So, due to lack of background knowledge, they text might get involved and could relate to it emotionally. The text is beautifully written in a fairly simple language. People get attracted by the use of colloquial words such as “God Forbid” and the informal structure of sentences. Sentences are in accordance with a common man’s usual conversation. Also, the order of ideas also plays an important role to make it effective emotionally. As article talk about taking down feminism’s “capitalist woman” approach so anti-feminists might get attracted to it. But a majority of the audience will not be convinced because the text is personally biased and addresses the audience in the first person. The author talks too much about her own inclined thought that got shaped through her own experiences. As the world has great diversity so anyone can negate authors point of view merely on the basis of his or her circumstances.

To a nutshell, the text is fairly simple and eye catching in the present era but is biased and is inclined towards a particular thought that writer wants to be accepted by readers. The article is an informal addressing to the general public but in academic world it is ineffective. Lack of research and emotionally biased ideas make this article weak from the perspective of academic writing. The article has more weaknesses than strengths in terms of logics.  The author’s ability to analyze and research needs to be improved. Propagation of ideas and sentence structure are very beautifully formulated to involve the readers and make them interact emotionally with the text. But using personal emotions in expressing an opinion might get a good response from a general public but to convince a formal academic audience one needs a lot more than the pathos. This text needs to more professional more insightful and this can be done by doing a good research and analyzing the data accordingly and should portray a neutral perspective based upon facts, figures, and logics.

Featured Image Credits:  Odyssey

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