On Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”

 In “I Stand Here Ironing,” the mother character is recounting her experiences with her daughter. The most striking part of the story is when the mother talks about her daughter’s crush. I think that this moment serves as an allegorical representation of the inequality of the sexes in heterosexual relationships. The daughter is not only stealing from her mother, but she is lusting after the boy’s attention. Her amoral behavior (stealing) coupled with her lustfulness just goes to show how much a women has to do in a relationship. And after all of her work, the boy is still interested in “Jennifer” (ie. not the little girl whom we have become attached to). This seemingly innocuous moment in her daughter’s life is actually representative of the perils that women face when trying to enter into a relationship with a man. They are expected to be the givers, not the receivers. They provide a home (ie. maintenance) and raise the children (these generalizations are just a couple of the things expected from women. So it is telling when a young girl is forced to do all of the work in the “relationship”, or lack thereof. Which brings me to another point; while women have to do all of the work, it is the man who decides whether or not to cast the women aside. The power structure of heterosexual relationships is SO wacky, SO stilted. Why aren’t women screaming from their roof tops about this? It’s just plain ridiculous.




One thought on “On Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”

  1. To respond to your question, I think that women do not always feel the implications of the power structure in their relationships. I think that many women will bear most of the weight in their relationships, and not question the disparity of responsibility and duty. It’s almost innate to most women–even to society itself–that there is a defined role of women in heterosexual relationships that includes physical duties and mental inferiority. The latter is portrayed through various means, whether it be movies, tv shows, books, or magazines. Women are “told” that they should do the cooking, the cleaning, and the coddling. Women are also “told” that they should strive to make their boyfriends/husbands happy at all costs, and if they don’t, men have the right to dispose of them to find a new woman to serve their “needs”. But the issue lies in the blatant disregard and ignorance with which the power structure is treated. It is simply an accepted aspect of our society that women have the lesser role in these relationships. Until (more of) society is conscious of the distorted power structure in heterosexual relationships, a change in the power structure norm is pretty infeasible.

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