How gender stereotypes in regard to control, are reversed in the novel “One flew over the cuckoos nest” by Ken Kesey.
Until modern times, society has advocated that the male role was at work, whilst women were expected to remain in the home, adopting the role of primary care giver. Men were automatically granted power and authority as the women we pushed into the category of subservient domestic supporter.
Within their social circles, the males fared an elevated status should their success be measured in terms of domestic harmony. It was the woman’s role to ensure this, least forces of discipline by installed.
These roles extended far beyond the family circuit into the mainstream of society, materialising in areas such as education, politics and employment.
Although many women in most industrialised countries had won the vote by 1945, their status was still far from equal to men. In the early 1960’s women began campaigning for the right to break free from traditional roles and to participate equally with men in every sphere of life.
It was at this time that the United States Feminist Movement gathered strength from the U.S Civil Rights movement. Literature played an important role in the conquest for Women’s liberation. Betty Friedons controversial; “The feminine mystique” had a profound effect on feminists, she challenged the values and status of marriage in society, describing it as a myth created to justify the treatment of women as second-class citizens.
Ken Keseys’s novel “One flew over the cuckoos nest” although written in 1962- a year before the publication of “The feminine mystique”- emanated the popular ideology of the woman’s mission for equality at the time.
He constructs a microcosm of the 1960’s American society, based within the confines of a mental institution. This reflection of society challenges the assertion of gender-based control, where the tyrannical female oligarchy Nurse Ratched, manipulates and oppresses the pusillanimous chicken-hearted men, with her comparably totalitarian-esque regime.
In the early 1960’s the contraceptive pill became widely available. This substantially reduced the risks of unwanted pregnancy, giving women much greater sexual freedom. For the first time, women were able to possess maternal control, they could choose how many offspring they wanted, and at what time to conceive.