Education is roughly defined in the keyword essay as teaching children to read and write, and has been historically done in very gendered ways. Mountain Wolf Woman’s story is a good example of this, as she was taught to do stereotypically female-gendered tasks by her mother from a very young age, and only given the opportunity to go to school when it was permitted by her older brother. In conjunction with these historical ideas are those expressed in Netflix’s newest drama, You, which – apart from the stalker – does an excellent job of embodying the experiences of 21st Century collegiate women who find it difficult to be taken seriously in academic or professional settings. Both You and Mountain Wolf Woman showcase the keyword, “Education” in ways that are rooted in sexism and gendered norms, and although these two pieces differ in context, show an important paradigm on women’s access to quality education throughout history.
The main character in You, named Beck, is a twenty-something year old attending grad school in New York City to become a writer. Her first major instance of sexism appears when she takes a TA position that includes subsidized housing in order to afford her schooling, and her advising professor makes sexual advances at her and threatens to withhold his professional contacts with her if she refuses. Beck continues to face obstacles related to her gender in her quest towards becoming a writer and obtaining her degree, including many editors turning her down without reason or continuing to offer their contacts in exchange for her body. Even though this story is set more than a century after Mountain Wolf Woman’s, the similarities in gender inequalities when it comes to education are ever present.
Mountain Wolf Woman, although she had a very different upbringing than Beck, was still influenced by gender norms in her educational journey. She was taught to perform “female” tasks by her mother, like harvesting food and cooking for the men. In her pre-teen years, her eldest brother decides that she should start attending school, and then proceeds to pull her out a few years later so that she can be married. Despite her protests, she doesn’t have any say over any of this; the decision had been made for her.
The stories of Beck and Mountain Wolf Woman have shockingly similar themes, despite taking place in vastly different cultures and time periods. While a young adult Beck struggles with being objectified by professors and editors, teenage Mountain Wolf Woman experiences similar feelings in terms of her all too brief schooling and marriage. Both characters have a lack of agency in terms of obtaining educations, and show the struggles that women have endured throughout time – and still do to this day.
(the video quality is poor but it’s the only one I could find)