How do we know if someone is sexist? In this context, someone is sexist if they belittle women or use stereotypical gender roles. An author who does this is F. Scott Fitzgerald. Born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Fitzgerald is an American short-story writer and novelist best known for his turbulent personal life and novels like This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and the Damned and The Great Gatsby.
The 1920’s was an era in which women had more freedom from the duties previously imposed on them, however Fitzgerald ecides to portray women in his novel, The Great Gatsby, as foolish and disloyal, ultimately bringing upon the downfall of men. The novel is set in the Roaring 20’s and it is narrated by Nick Carraway who arrives in New York in pursuit of the American dream. Nick is neighbor to millionaire Jay Gatsby and lives across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom.
Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the upper class and after seeing the ugly truth that hides behind the money he writes a book about impossible love, the American dream, and tragedy. In the novel, female characters are depicted as shallow, elfish beings that are seen as possessions, instead of people, by the men in their lives. Fitzgerald’s sexist behavior can be observed through his portrayal of women, more specifically through his portrayal of Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan. One of the most important women in the novel is Daisy Buchanan.
She is Nick’s cousin, Tom’s wife and the love of Gatsby’s life. However, there is very little physical description of her throughout the novel. What is most described about her is her seductive voice. Daisy is portrayed as the typical rich housewife. She is aloof, does not work and does not take care of her own children. We can see all of this within the first chapter. Daisy talks about the longest day of the year and how even though she always waits for it, she always misses it. This makes her come off as quite unintelligent to the reader.
As for her occupation, she clearly does not have a job as this is never mentioned and she never seems to be truly busy. Fitzgerald depicts Daisy as a bad mother; her child is taken care of by nurses rather than her. This can be observed when in Chapter 7 Pammy, Daisy’s daughter, is brought downstairs and Daisy tells her that it is because “your mother wanted to show you off” (F. Scott Fitzgerald. 117). After greeting Nick and Gatsby she is pulled out the door. Daisy is only with her daughter for a couple of minutes to parade her around her friends.
This shows how Daisy acts as a mother; she does not seem care much for her daughter. Another way in which Fitzgerald is sexist in his portrayal of Daisy is in the lack of respect Tom has for his wife. He cheats on her and does not even try to be secretive about it; as everyone knows that he has a mistress, according to Jordan. He also disrespects her by continuously cutting her off when she is talking. He clearly eems to think that whatever Daisy has to say could never be of any real importance. Daisy is just the dumb pretty girl of the novel, and nothing more, merely the object of Gatsby’s fascination.
Furthermore, Tom is very hypocritical when it comes to Daisy’s affair with Gatsby. In his opinion, women run around too much. However, he is doing the same thing with other women. He believes it is alright for a man like him to have a mistress but Daisy should not as it makes him look bad. He does not see that him having an affair also makes Daisy look bad, he is completely inconsiderate of Daisy’s feelings. Another way in which Fitzgerald is sexist is in how Daisy seems to be the one to blame for most of the tragic events that occur at the end of the novel.
She kills Myrtle and in turn causes the assassination of Gatsby and Wilson’s suicide. This woman is responsible for bringing upon the downfall of these characters, or at least that is how the reader feels due to Fitzgerald’s writing. The reader is introduced to Myrtle Wilson in the second chapter when Nick meets Tom’s mistress. Nick’s patronizing behavior towards Myrtle can be observed when he says that “Tom Buchanan and is girl and I went up to New York” (Fitzgerald. 26). He refers to her as “his girl”; she is not a woman to be respected in his eyes but merely Tom’s girl.
Nick often describes Myrtle as a seductive woman, who carries her flesh well. He does not mean this as a compliment as he finds her unattractive. Instead, he is objectifying her as a sexual object that happens to belong to Tom. She is not a person in his eyes and therefore merits no respect from him, a man from a prominent family. Yet, Nick is not the only one who disrespects Myrtle. When they are at Tom’s apartment in New York City, Myrtle riles Tom up and he esponds violently by “[breaking] her nose with his open hand” (Fitzgerald. 37).
No one, other than the women, says anything to Tom about his outburst, just accepting his actions as a punishment to Myrtle angering him. This man physically abuses his mistress in front of a room full of people yet goes on with his life as it had been nothing. In fact, to him it probably was nothing as he does not seem to hold women in high regards. Jordan Baker is the only woman in the novel that the reader knows is an independent self-made woman. However, Fitzgerald belittles the accomplishments of this woman by ortraying her as masculine and dishonest.
The only successful woman is the least feminine. He also depicts her as very dishonest. In fact, at the beginning of the book Nick mentions that she had been involved in a scandal in which it had been said that she had cheated during an important golf match. This goes to show how Fitzgerald felt about women. They could only succeed if they resembled men and/or lied. Another example of Fitzgerald’s sexist views in the novel is when Nick says, “dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply- I was casually sorry, and then I forgot” (Fitzgerald 58).
He is not at all urprised about Jordan’s dishonesty, because society expected women to be manipulative and liars, which reveals men’s low standards for them. Although Jordan could have been portrayed as a modern woman, embracing the new lack of limitations for her gender she is masculine, vain and untrustworthy. To conclude, a lot of evidence proves that F. Scott Fitzgerald was sexist in his writing of The Great Gatsby through his patronizing depiction of women. The main female characters in the novel, Daisy Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson and Jordan Baker, are portrayed in a harsh way. Daisy conforms to stereotypical gender roles.
Myrtle Wilson is a sexual object, deserving no type of respect from men like Tom Buchanan or Nick Carraway. Jordan Baker is a successful woman whose accomplishments are diminished by the way Fitzgerald makes her out to be haughty, dishonest and masculine. All this being said, it is hard to blame Fitzgerald for his prejudice and ignorance since he was raised in a world that thought men were better than women. However, as we are currently living in a patriarchal system, should we be justifying the actions of ignorant men or raising awareness and educating people on the importance of gender equality?