Could Women Be More Than Just Someone to Look At? MJohnson

Mary Leapor’s “Essay on Woman,” discusses the pain and sorrow created, in the lives of women in the eighteenth century, by gossip and bullying. She discusses the idea of a woman being more than just someone who was gossiped about, and more than just someone  who was used to look at (like a piece of art). One part of the poem reads,

“And Wisdom only serves to make her know/ The keen Sensation of superior Woe. / The Secret Whisper, and the list’ning Ear,/ The scornful Eyebrow, and the hated Sneer;/ The giddy censures of her babbling Kind, / With thousand Ills that grate a gentle Mind…”

These few lines of the poem say, to me, that if a woman was caught reading, or even attempting to educate herself, she was looked at unkindly, and people in the society would talk about her, or glare at her. Much like today when a person does something society doesn’t approve of, society makes that person feel horrible for it. A woman was expected to look pretty, to do the domestic work of the household, and nothing else. She was not praised for her work, or seen as an important part of society.  If she was mentioned in a conversation or a poem, I can only assume that her beauty, or non beauty would be the focus of the conversation or poem. Leapor, seems to have written this poem to ask us to look at women differently. She gives us a sympathetic look at how women felt when they were treated inhumanly. She says women felt like “slaves,” to society’s idea of them. She also says that to be a woman with an education was rare, and the opportunity to be an educated woman,  faded away with each scowl and scornful look that was sent to any woman who attempted it. She explains the reason why women rarely chose to  disobey society’s expectations of them, and why they rarely escaped the cycle of “slavery,” that society forced them into. They were bullied into being the vain, “giddy,” “babbling” kind that they were.

Ok so how does all that connect with my photo?

Well my photo is of me reading  from the dictionary, and the photo in the background is of me and my three friends making mean faces. What I was looking to portray here is the connection between the fading picture of the girl reading, and the predominate photo of the women making mean faces at her. The photo displays the idea that the more society treated women unkindly for reading or attempting education, the less likely it was that women would try to educate themselves, because they did not like ” the keen sensation of superior woe.”


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