Marilyn Frye’s Oppression september 27, 2013 In her essay “Oppression,” Marilyn Frye argues that women are oppressed simply because they are women, while men are not oppressed because they are men. To give an example for her claim, Frye mentions that men think they are oppressed because they cannot cry. This, however, is an example of suffering that men might feel, and it is not a legitimate reason to call the male gender oppressed. She argues that men are not oppressed because society does not restrict men with the double bind, while it does for women.
Frye focuses on the root word of oppress, “press,” in defining oppression. Society presses women to mold into social norms of femininity, yet when they do, they are condemned for it. The double bind works in that it restricts a group of people in the options that they have. For instance, women are in a double bind when it comes to their level of sexual activity. When women are sexually active, they are criticized for being an easy lay; but when they are sexually inactive, they are pressured into giving up their virginity and are even worried about.
No matter what a woman chooses to do or say, she will receive criticism or rebuke from society, so she cannot comfortably make her own choices. Thus, women are in the oppressed category because they are pressed on all sides so that they lose their personal freedom, limiting their mobility. If there is an oppressed group, then there must also be an oppressor group. Frye argues that men are not caught in a double bind because they have the privilege of mobility. The fact that men generally can’t cry doesn’t work against them; it doesn’t harm them in any way.
In fact, this comportment can help men with their self-esteem, as society views them as tough and uneasily swayed by emotions. On the other hand, when men go against the social norm and cry, this also does not negatively affect their social standing. Women often praise men who can cry because they are perceived as sensitive, and not always steely. Men cannot be categorized into the oppressed group because the social norms that men are bound to don’t negatively restrict them.
Instead, these social norms are often used to men’s advantage, reflecting the male gender’s ecause of their gender; rather, it is because of another social category that they identify with, such as race (in which case, women may also be part of). Frye argues that women, however, are caught in a double bind that disadvantages them no matter what position they take. Society has created a system that penalizes women when they do and don’t conform to social standards. Though men may feel oppressed because they can’t cry, it can only be considered a hardship they face because it doesn’t take away from their social standing or self-esteem.