Gender and Popular Culture

‘Gender and popular culture’ is the third topic of the course ‘gender across cultures.’ This topic revolves around uncovering the subliminal messages different occupations, objects and media translate to propagate ‘doing gender.’  There is a multitude of things one comes across daily, both men and women use different branded shampoos, girls and boys have different toys to play with. This topic highlights how certain elements of our daily life give rise to gender disparity.

A note on male disadvantage

image: steemit

This topic begins where the previous topic ended; highlighting the male disadvantage. However, this topic takes it a step further to talk about the occupational male disadvantage. This subtopic states, that in some contexts where companies are gender informed, they prioritize both men and women for the sake of development.

Room of one’s own- Virginia Woolf

image: azquotes

This is a story written about William Shakespeare and her hypothetical sister. This story explains how Shakespeare had the privilege to visit libraries, to explore places, and to write peacefully in his own room. Whereas on the contrary, his hypothetical sister, despite being gifted with the talent of literature, could not explore her writing prowess due to the lack of opportunities.

This idea was brought up by Virginia Woolf at that time because, dating back women were not allowed to visit libraries without a letter from their male counterparts, could not leave their house without a male family member, were not allowed to go to school, and were only resorted to cleaning and cooking. 

This simple yet thought-provoking story tells us why most of the notable works of literature are published by men and why most of the Nobel Prize winners are men. It is due to the lack of opportunities that many women in the past and some today cannot showcase their talent to the world.

Doing Gender- Gender and Popular culture

image: the independent

Doing gender is a term coined by Don. H. Zimmerman who explicitly states in his definition that one unintentionally ‘does’ gender in their daily life.

‘Not simply an aspect of what one is, but, more fundamentally, it is something that one does, and does recurrently, in interaction with others”

The idea of doing gender originates from the notion that gender is something man-made and societal, not biological as conventionally interpreted. He states here that fundamentally people ought to do what they are prescribed to do and what the society deems to be acceptable. Every interaction and action is an outcome of ‘doing gender.’

Walt Disney- Gender and Popular culture

image: disney wiki

Walt Disney is the childhood dream of every child in the world. Every child grows up watching Disney cartoons and movies. However, what we do not realize is that whatever children see, they tend to follow it in the future. The ideas fitted into the minds of children at a very young age tend to stay with them forever.

Walt Disney is often accused of the gender-based subliminal messages it passes across to the child. Every movie reinforces the notion of unrealistic beauty standards for women and how they rather stay at home and get work done. This course involves students analyzing movie trailers to seek the pretty apparent messages behind the storyline.

Gender free Toys

This subtopic is the highlight of the course outline since it interprets, how from a very young age, we instill in the minds of children certain standards. In 2015 a revolution took place, a French supermarket chain introduced a holiday advertising campaign where it reminded consumers that there are no toys for boys and no toys for girls; there are just toys. Consequently, a commercial headline took over with the hashtag #genderfreechristmas. This campaign reflected on the clichés on what toys are attributed to girls and boys specifically. This includes boys having toys that promote action, excitement for e.g. guns, car e.t.c whereas girl toys are more passive, calm, and pink for e.g. kitchen toys.

However, this theory proved to be wrong as children were let out in a room full of toys and the girls ran towards the car and the boys ran towards the kitchen. The stereotypical conceptions not only were questioned but they completely fell apart. This again reinforces the fact that gender is a socially constructed concept rather than biological.

Another important issue raised in this specific subtopic is that gender stereotyping was not present until marketers realized they could yield more profits if they start targeting consumers on the basis of gender. They realized that the society has gender divisions and hence used it as an effective marketing tool.

Moreover, upon surveys, it was concluded the most of the parents were comfortable if their daughters played with toys socially prescribed for boys, however as for boys playing with toys associated with girls socially was hardly appreciated by parents. This is mainly because it is instilled into the minds of people that boys wanting to look up to girls is not OK and having feminine traits is not OK. While masculine traits such as aggression are often appreciated by saying ‘be a man’. It is socially constructed that to successfully ‘become’ a man one needs to resort to aggression and assertiveness.

Also read; Gender across Cultures

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