Grace
Grace asked:

Does anybody else think that Steinbeck is a bit sexist and degrading towards women?

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Duane Well... I think nowadays we're supposed to apply situational ethics here, aren't we? To wit... :

If Steinbeck was a Liberal, we're supposed to excuse him by saying that"he was a man of his time", (like Woodrow Wilson belonging to the KKK, etc.).

But if he was a Conservative, then we're supposed to immediately write him off completely as being a racist sexist bigoted homophobe, etc.

Did I get that right? My PC-Ometer hasn't been calibrated recently so it may be a little rusty...
Sam Laughlin Steinbeck is definitely from an earlier time, and has attitudes that we, today, would call sexist. However, I do not believe that he is belittling the importance of women, or degrading them.

Steinbeck comes from a time when the roles for women and men were more defined. The characters in the book are playing their parts based on the roles society has for them. That applies to men and women both.

In multiple places in Steinbeck's work, women are seen as savior figures. Juana stays with Kino, and keeps him from turning into an animal. Adam thinks that Cathy Ames is the woman who will save him, only to find out that she was just using him all along. Cathy is a very empowered woman, even though she is evil. She is the exception that proves the rule. Even the girl breastfeeding the bum at the end of grapes of wrath is a female-saves-man trope.

In some situations, it is sexist, such as Candy's Wife, who never even gets her own name. I'm not going to say that that's not sexist. Of Mice and Men is portraying poor white trash men, who would most definitely have had sexist attitudes in real life.

There is a diverse variety of female characters in Steinbeck's work. He seems to see woman as the other half of man. Men are providers and defenders, while women are nurturers and home makers. This was the prevailing philosophy at the time that Steinbeck lived, and his work reflects it.

Yes, we can say that giving the sexes different roles is in itself sexist. But I think that attitude is taking it too far. Accepting that men and women are different is not a bad thing, and I think calling that sexist is an overreach.

I have respect for JS as a writer, and I don't like to see his work as sexist. But it is, technically. But then again, he lived from 1902 to 1968. Everyone who lived in that time was sexist. We have to accept history for what it is.
Holly No, I don't think so. Read East of Eden and you will see that he has a great deal of admiration and respect for women. It is true that not all of his female characters are noble humans, and some are downright despicable.......which is realistic.
Faith Perry No. He was actually a progressive thinker and someone I think who deeply loves and respects women. But he doesn't put them on a pedestal. Women are human and there are despicable ones and wonderful ones and some not quite good or bad. He is an authentic artistic writing what he sees around him at the time he existed.
Ginger ~ Pages from Wonderland I didn't see that at all. However Steinbeck was very much showing the implicit sexism in Kino and the others in their culture at that time. Juana was expected to be the quiet submissive woman. Realizing that Steinbeck is showing sexism is quite a different thing from him being sexist. Especially the two passages celebrating Juana's strength and power and wisdom. That was intended to be a more accurate view of reality.
Julie Suzanne In this book, The Pearl, Juana is the true hero of the story whose place is behind her man until the end, when they walk "side by side" when before, she always had to walk behind him. They only survived each scenario because of her and her ideas. Based on that, you make the call.
Ryan No.

And your next question?
Libby Stott Yes. I first sensed this when he had Kino describing Juana paddling the canoe. Kino was solely priding Juana on the manly qualities she had and describing her as almost not like a woman as a good thing. Then again, the books was definitely set in a sexist society, so he may have been conveying the values of the setting and not of himself. However, even when describing the natives, there was an undertone of racism that Steinback displayed. Although it is also possible that this can be ascribed to the setting, it is still something to acknowledge as it seemed a little to genuine.
Ben Babylon I'm very curious where you think Steinback is being sexist in this book, because I do not see it at all
K Many reviews chalk it up to being "a product of its time", so yes its not quite up to our current society's view of what is acceptable or positive.
T G Palmer He is telling a story set in a sexist world. That does not make him a sexist. Juana is a fabulous, strong character.
David Dyer At times, yes Steinbeck appears sexist. However, may I recommend The Grapes of Wrath which tells of a family whose future is driven by the matriarch.
Firaoli You have to consider the time period he us in.
Yumna Hussain I believe Steinbeck isn't really sexist and degrading towards women. He just is talking from a different era, a completely different society, and different traditions still present in some parts of the world.
Laura Herzlos I only read this book from this author, so I can't talk about Steinbeck in general. In this particular book, the treatment of his female characters (only two) was framed inside what he assumes "these poor savages" do, so... no clue how he wrote in other books.
Samantha I've read 6 Steinbeck novels so far, and yes, I do believe he is a bit sexist. His female characters are far less developed characters compared to the men. The women always seem very submissive to the men as well. It does bother me somewhat, but his writing is just so good that I don't stop reading his work.
Joanna
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Treg4Liberty Perhaps, if you are interested truly in the truth of the matter, you should turn to Steinbeck's biographers and ask your question to them? Perhaps his biographers will give you "good news"? Perhaps they will tell you that late in life Steinbeck actually jumped on board the cultural-identitarian-Marxist-feminist-nazi-crazy-train; i.e. the completely hateful & spiteful crazy-train that is completely sexist and degrading towards men. You know, that crazy-train that sees sexism absolutely everywhere, just like those morally self-righteous fools in 1692, all frothing at the mouth on a Salem witch hunt. Yes, it is a very popular train these days in 2021. I suspect next stop on the crazy-train will be hearings and prosecutions, yes even of the dead!
Michael Oritt Since this appears in a review of THE PEARL I assume Grace is focusing primarily upon the relationship between Kino and Juana and secondarily that of his brother and sister-in-law and the other men and women of their little fishing community.

To give an answer one must consider the time not only when the book was written but also when and where it was set: a small fishing village in rural Mexico, presumably some time in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

If Steinbeck is a product of his era he may have indeed had some mobility in forming and expressing his attitudes towards relationships between the sexes. But certainly Kino and Juana did not have this option or ability, and if they existed in any other roles they would not have ben able to have been the characters they were: there is simply no place for unconventionality in their archetypical lives in the small fishing village. Anything else would not be credible, much less appropriate.

I say no.
Jessica He was writing according to his own perceptions at the time and the society that he was writing about. Whatever is contained in a fictional book is related to the era, location, and society in the fictional story.
John E. Sexist? Maybe. But I don't see degrading. I think, as others have said more eloquently, was writing at a specific time. You could say that about any author who was writing at that time. You could even call Jane Austen sexist and degrading if you choose to look at it in a certain light. But I don't think you'll find many critics going down that road.

I actually find the women in CANNERY ROW quite empowering. I think the way he made all of those characters, all of whom were almost hopeless, sympathetic and empathetic at the same time.

As for THE PEARL, you have to remember he was writing about a completely different culture as well. The roles in that culture being were rigidly defined, as I think Libby mentioned.
Jeffery Spirek No, I do not think he is think he is a bigot, he is simply describing a time of which women were not seen as highly. Just the fact that you would say that about such a classic novel that has no intention other than to instill wonder and thought within its reader is a true representation on how people see the world and the past today. We do not need to cover up the ugly past of the world, it is our obligation to describe it and show it to the next generations as to tell them to not make the same mistakes and Steinbeck did a great job of representing the situation women of that time were in at that time.
Tanner yes the pearl is sexest
Randy Lowe i am absolutely certain there are many people who think that, yes.
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