Their Eyes Were Watching God
How we cite our quotes:
[Joe]: "Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves."
"Ah knows uh few things, and womenfolks thinks sometimes too!"
"Aw naw they don’t. They just think they’s thinkin’. When Ah see one thing Ah understands ten. You see ten things and don’t understand one." (6.180-182)
Joe considers women on the same intellectual level as children and domesticated animals. He imposes this view on Janie, never considering how it feels to be a woman. When she protests, he gets more adamant, attempting to maintain a position of authority by harping on women’s stupidity and lack of perception.
He [Joe] wanted her submission and he’d keep on fighting until he felt he had it.
So gradually, she pressed her teeth together and learned to hush. The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlor. It was there to shake hands whenever company came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again. (6.183-184)
Here, Hurston gets to the heart of the matter. No matter how smart or spirited women are, some men simply want them to be submissive. And women, whose oppression was tolerated by society in Hurston’s time, often have no choice but to hush and bow their heads. This, of course, destroys any illusion of love in a marriage and leaves only a pretence of love that flaunts itself to the public.
It happened over one of those dinners that chasten all women sometimes. They plan and they fix and they do, and then some kitchen-dwelling fiend slips a scorchy, soggy, tasteless mess into their pots and pans. Janie was a good cook, and Joe had looked forward to his dinner as a refuge from other things. So when the bread didn’t rise, and the fish wasn’t quite done at the bone, and the rice was scorched, he slapped Janie until she had a ringing sound in her ears and told her about her brains before he stalked on back to the store. (6.185)
Many men in the book reserve the right to beat their wives and insult their intelligence simply because they’re having a bad day. Joe considers his home a refuge made comfortable by Janie and when the reality doesn’t live up to his expectations he takes out his frustration physically on his wife. Men in the novel, even Tea Cake, seem to endorse some level of domestic violence as a means getting out their frustration and showing women who’s boss.