The idea of equality of the sexes in the 1800’s and contemporary time may seem a bit odd. We seem believe as a society that things have gotten much better for not only women but men as well That we are much more understanding of softer men and stronger women. But according to this play Venus in Fur by David Ives it makes one question, how far have we really progressed.
One would assume that in 2016 the inequality of the sexes would be eliminated by now. But sadly in contemporary times, gendered inequality persists. Thomas, the first character we are introduced to at the beginning of the play claims that none of the actresses auditioning for him tare talented or smart enough for him. He chats away to his fiancé Stacy, saying that there are “No sexy-slash-articulate young women with some classical training and a particle of brain in their skulls”(Ives 7). He gives off an unlikeable feeling instantly. One must wonder how his fiancé feels about him talking so poorly of these women. His expectations of the women coming to audition for the part of Vanda are rather pompous and unoriginal, as he seems to only be looking for a beautiful and slightly smart girl he can boss around.. He seems to keep his ideas of women in a tiny box, seeming surprised that when he meets a competent woman who doesn’t sound like “six-year-olds on helium. ‘And I was all like whatever and he was all like y’know’”(Ives 7). This quote makes the readers believe that if a woman uses a certain kind of speech or dresses a certain kind of way or appears to act like a valley girl that she is not worth the time. It really emphasises the idea that a woman is a “commodity” only if she is intelligent but not too intelligent to threaten a man’s intelligence but she also must be beautiful. And this is what shocking about Vanda (A.K.A Aphrodite) is. Not only does she first appear to us in Thomas’s time of need but by the end of the play she has taken control of the entire situation. What Venus in fur is trying to say about the inequality of the sexes in contemporary times is that sometimes to make it through the door women can’t come off too threatening, too powerful or in control. Had Vanda walked through the door in her true form as Aphrodite letting Thomas get a taste of her rage letting him know what she really thought from the get go letting him know that “You thought you could dupe some poor, willing, idiot actress and bend her to your program, didn’t you. Create your own little female Frankenstein monster. You thought that you could use me to insult me?”(Ives 50) .she would have never been able to proceed with her mission to teach her lesson to Thomas. To teach him that women are not his play things and they that she can break and bend him down and change his “nature” just as easily as he thought to dismiss her when they first met.
During the 1870’s the wife or woman of the house was not independent she relied completely on her husband to support her. Women of the time were supposed to be meek, subservient and mild; they were to give all to the men in their lives. So it is very surprising to find that a man during that time would want to be in a submissive role to a woman he loved “If you won’t take me as your husband, then take me as your slave.”(26). Although it may have seemed like a role reversal here, that Kushemski really wanted to be Dunayev’s slave the story line flip flops at the end. It is no longer Dudayev who is in control it is Kushemski, “I did all this to save you. To show you how much I loved you to cure you. I’m the one who should be subjugated. I’m the one who should be bound and whipped.”(Ives 49). This reveals that the only job that the woman during this time is supposed to have was to concern herself with her husband’s burdens. It shows that no matter what you were made to believe that a woman’s place no matter what was to become of her she was never in control and that it is the acceptable thing want. “I wanted this from the moment I first saw you. Humiliate me. Degrade me.”(Ives 50). It appears that the only reason Dunayev is a part of the play is to play nurse to Kushemski. That it is the woman’s roll to care for his wellbeing and he need not to worry about his own or hers. She was never meant to be the hero of this story.
In conclusion, equality of the sexes in 1870 and contemporary times has never been equal. Men are typically displayed as the harsher and overall dominating ones in society. They have been portrayed as the bread winner and master of the house (or his domain).Women have unfortunate gotten the short end of the stick being portrayed as meek mild subservient creatures only used to feed and please their husbands. Although there has been socially changes that have made men and women fare more equal in society today, it is unmistakeable that not everything has changed. Men are “supposed” to be strong and manly and women are “supposed” to be dainty and lady like. The stereotypes associated with these two genders have done nothing but caused turmoil and damage thus far. But one can hope for the future that both men and women will be able to one day express their dominant and submissive sides without ridicule regardless of whom they are.