In class on Thursday we discussed Marilyn Frye’s essay entitled “Oppression” in which she explores the nature of oppression of women. Her main analogy is the bird living within the many bars that form her cage. Each of the bars on its own may not constitute oppression, but together they form the structure of a cage and the bird is unable to fly freely. In her essay she uses the example of door opening to represent one of the bars of the cage. Men will hold the door for women because they are weak and fragile and need someone to do it for them. We contested that although this may be part of the door holding phenomenon, most of us in class agreed that is has become a common practice of polite behavior and for the most part did not represent a sexist act. However, this discussion made me think about all of the other bars on the cage and how the nature of oppression can be perpetuated by the “appeal” of the cage.
If we continue this caged bird comparison, it is easy to point out that the bird does not have to feed herself, create a home for herself, clean her cage, or be aware of predators that want to eat a bird. The bird is not self sufficient in any way and relies entirely on someone else to make sure she has everything one seemingly needs in life. This is an exaggerated example, in some cases, but I think that it highlights the fact that life in the cage can be easier and more appealing than a life free from the cage and the oppression it represents. Since I have come to college and moved away from home I have become increasingly aware of the appeal this “cage” can hold for many women. I am twenty-two years old and have only recently begun to be treated as a woman rather than a teenager or child, and this new treatment has absolutely opened my eyes to the way in which the cage structure is maintained by both men and by women. It is the ease and comfort that the cage represents that I believe makes it remain appealing to certain women.
If a woman enters into her metaphorical cage, she knows that there will almost always be food on the table, a home to live in, and someone to “take care” of her needs. I think this example can be illuminated by the concept of a gold-digger, and popular shows like Joe Millionaire. There exists a certain status that comes with being a trophy wife and not having to work in life. We all can think of cases, either among celebrities or people we know, where that woman would not be with that man if there wasn’t a very large bank account involved. There is no doubt that the life in the cage can have its appeal, and does for many women. Despite its appeal, it remains an oppressed life within a cage and women must remember this when seeking to cast off their oppression. Life outside of the cage can be much harder, and this has to be a trade we are willing to make if equality is what we really desire.