Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

13

Psychological Disorders in Women:
Indices of Role Strain

Jeanne Marecek

Women's roles are currently undergoing rapid change. The ultimate goal of the movement for change is more freedom, satisfaction, and personal fulfillment for women and men. But, the process of change may produce conflict and uncertainty for those involved in it. For instance, some women may feel guilty when their career role detracts from their maternal role. They may have absorbed the belief that growing children deserve instant access to their mother; however, they may also have been educated to aspire to a challenging job. Other women may find that their choice of career, life-style, or sexual orientation estranges them from their parents or friends. They may be forced to choose between frustrating their own needs and losing the esteem and support of others. Still other women may find culturally approved roles personally distasteful, yet perceive no other options. This seems to have been the case of Sylvia Plath. In Plath's autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar (1971), Esther, a college student, speculates about marriage:

... one of the reasons I never wanted to get married {was that] the last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement.... I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters ... (p. 62 and p. 68-69).

Later, in her own marriage, Plath struggled to write poetry while running a household and raising children. Eventually, physical exhaustion, feelings of isolation, and depression led her to take her own life.

-255-

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