Hegemonic Ideals of Woman in Gwendolyn Brooks’ Sadie and Maud

Hegemonic femininity has been conceptualized in the literature around gender for so many years. Scratch from Gramscian conceptualizing hegemonic gender forms that deals with some of the problems and goes some way to avoiding an inbuilt gender binary. (Francis, Archer, Moote, Witt, & Yeomans, 2016) The underlying sexism within society at large has crept into and pervaded feminist theorizations so that we have barely noticed the lack of focus on women and girls. By concentrating on dominant men and their relationship with other men, we have ignored, or taken for granted, the positions of women. (Paechter. C, 2018) Connell defines hegemonic masculinity as: The configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimation of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women (Connell, 1995). To naturalization of male sexual dominance or hegemonic masculinity, there is the rise of hegemonic femininity concept rationally. (Schippers, 2007) To begin with, hegemonic femininity terms known for consists of the characteristics defined as womanly that establish and legitimate a hierarchical and com-plementary relationship to hegemonic masculinity and that, by doing so, guarantee the dominant position of men and the sub-ordination of women. (Schippers, 2007)

Gender hegemonic often being a crucial theme of literary works as a shout out of their concern and voices. Various author and poets particularly in 1940s write it though. In the 1940s, patriotism kept women away from feminist meeting halls thus I belief that is what makes gender hegemonic terms arise. Hegemonic femininity comes from the term of hegemonic that is used in the context of the social or political dominance of women, whereas femininity explains the quality of being womanly or feminine. As there are many works written, the fact that women graduated from college in a tiny percentage back then. Also women had very little say in society and were stereotyped to stay home, make babies, be a good home maker and wife. The list of woman ideals so go on for in 1940s when ideals and expectations for women were more enforced and precedent to follow while sometimes it is pointless.

As Gwendolyn Brook is one of the most highly regarded, influential, and widely much-honored African-American Black poets of 20th-century American poetry. Brook lived through a time period when women had to do everything they were told and if they didn’t do it will leave women would end up alone. Hence the idea of what is ideal for women is enforced. From the definition above about hegemonic femininity particularly, there are some points in her “Sadie and Maud” poem that is found to had some ideas about woman ideals as enforced that is women went to college for a better future and Sadie and Maud in the poem used as symbolism by showing what society wanted from women.

First, Sadie in the poem represented an uneducated women that did not go to college then she frowned upon by society.

Sadie stayed at home.

Sadie scraped life

Sadie was one of the livingest chits

Brook depicted Sadie as made the most out of life because of how she lived her life. Sadie celebrate and live her life to the fullest as she made sure that she did not miss a thing around even though she did not go to college. She wanted to make sure that she was happy by doing everything she wants although that is not what the society beliefs.

As I belief that “Sadie and Maud” poem is based on what Gwendolyn through so I always think about Sadie and Maud too as a African-American Black women. Thus Sadie breaks all the ideals or standards that have been put forth for her to follow by society and the hegemonic groups that determine what those standards are.

Sadie bore two babies

Under her maiden name.

Maud and Ma and Papa

Nearly died of shame.

Back then in 1940s it was a big taboo for any women, especially African-American one such as herself who is already looked down upon due to her skin colour in fact that Sadie going into motherhood without a husband. Sadie depicted really demolishes the gender roles that have been ingrained in society. Sadie’s family, Maud and Ma and Papa as told in the poem is ashamed of her while actually Sadie doing well and happy even without mentioned. It proves that going against society is at times acceptable and even necessary to be truly happy.

Second, Maud follows the societal rules by going to the college hoping for educated women will have a better future. Maud follow very strict gender guidelines dominating by hegemonic groups throughout her life.

Maud went to college.

As it stated before back in the 1940s not many Black women go to college, so Maud is one of them that managed to go. But in the end of the poem, those phrase is repeated but this time using accentuation.

Maud, who went to college,

Is a thin brown mouse.

She is living all alone

In this old house.

Maud is result of the fallacies that come with the misconception that following rules and socially constructed guidelines does not equate to happiness in the present and in the future. Can be seen by the she end up living alone as society thought women whose uneducated will be. Maud, the one who went to college, was the one that really knock out on life because she is now living all alone in the old house.

Socially constructed ideals pretty much state that if a women goes to college and gets an education, listens to her parents, and stays within the moral she is very likely to be happy in the future. Hence this poem is a criticism of the society Sadie and Maud grow up in. Hegemonic ideal of women in 1940s can be seen as pointless and enforced to fulfilling other gender ego so far. Fact that “Sadie and Maud” poem consist points of opposite ideals also the contrast of women’s choice of life based on society guidelines ideals in 1940s. The points are educated women and likely to live happy while uneducated women will leave all alone in this world, that is the guidelines society beliefs make it as a hegemonic ideals and this poem break it all.

nothing in between.