To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (chapter.paragraph)
"For one thing, Miss Maudie can't serve on a jury because she's a woman-"
"You mean women in Alabama can't-?" I was indignant.
"I do. I guess it's to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom's. Besides," Atticus grinned, "I doubt if we'd ever get a complete case tried—the ladies'd be interrupting to ask questions."
Jem and I laughed. Miss Maudie on a jury would be impressive. I thought of old Mrs. Dubose in her wheelchair—"Stop that rapping, John Taylor, I want to ask this man something." Perhaps our forefathers were wise. (23.43-46)
The "polite fiction" of the South is that women are delicate and need to be protected. Maybe the men are really just afraid that women would use power in a way that men wouldn't like.
Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere, but this feeling was what Aunt Alexandra called being "spoiled."
The ladies were cool in fragile pastel prints: most of them were heavily powdered but unrouged; the only lipstick in the room was Tangee Natural. Cutex Natural sparkled on their fingernails, but some of the younger ladies wore Rose. They smelled heavenly. I sat quietly, having conquered my hands by tightly gripping the arms of the chair, and waited for someone to speak to me. (24.13-14)
For being so fearful of ladies, Scout sure knows a lot about them, down to the brands of makeup they wear. (Or maybe that's the only kind available in Maycomb? We're guessing there's no nearby Sephora.) The level of detail in her description suggests that maybe Scout's just as fascinated as she is scared.
I was more at home in my father's world. People like Mr. Heck Tate did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unless you said something stupid. Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemed unwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them. But I liked them. There was something about them, no matter how much they cussed and drank and gambled and chewed; no matter how undelectable they were, there was something about them that I instinctively liked... they weren't—
"Hypocrites, Mrs. Perkins, born hypocrites," Mrs. Merriweather was saying. (24.54-55)
Like magic, Mrs. Merriweather finishes Scout's unspoken thought. At this point Scout feels like she understands men and their rules, and that she can trust them to behave in a certain way. The idea of being "at home" in the male world is a little weird, as if womanhood is an undiscovered country that Scout has to discover and map in order to make it her own. (Also, we think Jem is learning the same lesson—men doesn't always operate by the visible rules, either.)