What is gender?Gender is not biological but refers to asocially constructed set of behaviourpatterns.Your sex, whether you are male orfemale, is biologically determined.However, femininity/masculinity areculturally determined and a matter ofchoice – they refer to patterns ofbehaviour and qualities that we normallyassociate with being female or being male.
As we grow up, we ‘learn’ what isexpected in terms of our genderidentity from a range of sources:parents, school, books, the media,peer pressure…The power to conform is so strong inus that we tend to copy the gendermodels we see. Thus, by the timewe have started school, most of ushave “learnt” how to be masculine orfeminine as our culture defines it.
Think about the way girls are oftendressed in pink and bought“domesticating” toys like dolls andplay ovens and toy vacuum cleaners,whereas boys are usually dressed inblues and non-pastel colours andgiven toys like guns and constructionsets and cars, developing skills thatare outside the domestic sphere.
Over time, the two genders have developedquite distinct and often oppositional gendercodes – activities, spheres of activity andqualities that are deemed to be exclusive toonly one group.TASK:In groups draw up a list divided into twocolumns and label one side MASCULINEand the other FEMININE and see whattraditional associations you make with eachgender under the headings on the next slides
•Colours•Clothes•Toys•Jobs•Leisure Activities•Responsibilities in the Home•Drinks on a Night Out•A Typical Night Out•Favourite Genre of Films•Typical Character Qualities
What do you notice about these differentideas associated traditionally with eachgender?What image do they conjure up of eachgroup?
Traditionally men have held power in oursociety – this system where men have powerand control in society is called patriarchy.Patriarchy = society runby men for men
The result of this is thattraditionally male qualitiesand attributes havegenerally been seen to besuperior to femaleattributes.Consider, for example,the fact that traditionally itwas the eldest son whoinherited – even if he hadseveral older sisters!
This was often reflected in the media, asmost media companies were run by men!Masculinity was often represented in waysthat were shown to be superior to femininequalities. Men were often shown to be moreimportant and powerful than women.Women were often shown in roles thatsuited men and which kept them fromchallenging men for power.In other words, the media showed men andwomen how men wanted them to be!
List some typical action films – think about thetypical roles assigned to men and women?How do these link to patriarchal ideas aboutgender?
Two of the mostcommon traditionalroles women wererepresented in underpatriarchy were thehappy housewifeand the sex object/Glamorous Ideal.Can you think howthese stereotypessuited patriarchy?
TASK:We will now look at some short extracts –see if you can see how these traditionalideas about gender were reflected?
1 – Calamity Jane2 – Fairy Snow Ad (1960)3 - Persil Ad (1958)4 - Kelloggs Ad (1950s)5 - Oxo Ads with Katy and Philip (1960s - 70s)6 - Toni Home Hair Perm (1961)7 - Prom Home Perm Kit (1961)8 – Goldfinger
From the 1960s onwards, feminismchallenged patriarchy, seeking to gainequality for women. They gained increasedrespect, opportunities and legislation forwomen, giving them the chance to step intowhat had once been men’s shoes...
Suddenly gender roles were less rigid anddefined and this is often reflected innewer media representations.TASK:Again, we will look at two short extractsto see how men and women are beingrepresented today.1 – Million Dollar Baby extract2 - Aero Melt ad
Suddenly it wasn’tunusual for women to:•Have a serious career•Wear trousers•Smoke, drink and swear•Play football•Downplay the domesticgoddess roleRoles traditionallyallocated to men.
How does the emergence of the kick-assheroine reflect these changes inrepresentation?
And we start seeingmen switch some roles,too, occupying someonce reserved forwomen:•The house husband/ stay athome dad•Men starting to get intocooking•Male grooming products•The New Man – in touchwith his feelings
Some writers have even talked about a Crisisof Masculinity – as women are adopting rolesand qualities once occupied by men, men aresaid to be confused about what they should belike now.
Some see two responses inmodern masculine identity:•A feminisation of the male ashe adopts traditionally feminineroles and attributes e.g. themetrosexual•Hypermasculinity – an extrememacho identity aimed at makingmen distinct from women alongtraditional line e.g. the Lad•
This doesn’t mean it’s all out with the oldand in with the new. If you watch TV or film,you will still find many of the older, moretraditional representations of genderalongside some of the new.
This reflects our varied views ongender roles today – a recentstudy has shown that increasingnumbers of modern women arerejecting the feminist legacy ofthe working mother and movingback into the home and moretraditional feminine roles. Theysee this not as retreat but theirright – to choose a role thatfulfils them rather than adoptone men or other women say isright.
Some feel we have entered an era of post-feminism – a stage where equality hasbeen achieved and women are free to bewhat they like.This often includes adopting what wereonce perceived as sexist roles like sexobjects.Some women see this as a positiveassertion of choice; others claim it is simplyretro-sexism and reflects a new era offemale oppression.