Tag Archives: gender norms

Cinderella: A Critical View

While it is apparent by this point in our lives that the Disney movies are extremely gender normative and have consequently filled little boys and girls with plans and idea for how they should be acting and wanting out of life. I watched Cinderalla with my sister and inadvertently (and much to my little sister’s annoyance) saw everything under a more critical lens. Cinderella is characterized as weak and spends her day hoping for aspects of her life to change instead of making them happen.  Her salvation comes only in the form of the Prince’s ball and his consequential pursuit of Cinderella. This shows that a woman’s only salvation was either the company of another man or misery.  She epitomizes the central “someday-my-prince-will-come” mentality that portrays women as helpless and dependent on a male figure, almost like a father. Cinderella also shows that male/female interactions are dependent solely on physical characteristics rather than intellectual ones. She makes a whole new dress just to make sure that the Prince will notice her when she is at the ball and only when she dresses in this way does she attract the attention of the Prince.  Because Cinderella’s stepsisters lack beauty, they show that women who weren’t as attractive were generally mean and overlooked by men. Women are also placed in specific roles in society. In a musical number, as the mice are scurrying to make Cinderella’s dress, one female mouse tells a male mouse, who is carrying needle and thread to “leave the sewing for the women.” A simple line like that shows the roles that people feel women should play. Women should be in charge household chores like sewing, cooking and cleaning; all things that Cinderella does in the movie. More so, the movie tells men that they shouldn’t be partaking in these activities because it is a women’s responsibility.

What Is Fairness? Dividing Housework and Childcare

Women are expected to do the housework and childcare. In the US, women with husbands and children often have to go to work along with taking care of their home and children. They usually receive little to no assistance from their husbands. “The wife-to-husband ratio for child care in the United States is close to five to one.” (Belkin) Even couples who decide to equally split the housework and childcare often run into difficulties. Because of the influence of societal norms, men may have less flexible work schedules and women may be judged more on the appearance of their home and children. So what is fairness in the realm of housework and childcare?

Fairness varies depending on the couple. The division should be discussed between the parents until a split that satisfies both is reached. While I believe that an equal split in housework and parenting is ideal, it is undeniable that each couple is unique, with a different situation and desires. Still, theory may not work in practice, which is why the couple should be open to negotiating the division again if someone finds themselves dissatisfied with how the split is playing out. Open communication is key to fairness in partitioning housework and childcare responsibilities.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 15 June 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Pediasure 2013

Pediasure is a dietary supplement for small children. However, its advertisements go beyond promoting the product and both reinforce and reflect traditional views of women’s role within the family. This Pediasure advertisement , in Spanish, exemplifies the company’s explicit and implicit messages of healthy family dynamics. Initially, scenes of mothers playing with and feeding her children flash along with a voiceover saying (translated): “Moms were born to feed our kids and we do everything we can to make them eat healthy but half of children leave part of their meal uneaten during the day …” Immediately, the ad has become a manifesto on the appropriate roles for women in society. Women are “born” to take care of their children–it is their biological destiny. The advertisement reinforces the notion that women are inherently better caretakers to their children, a societal norm that plays a key role in the unequal distribution of domestic duties in the household. The very last scene ends with the children quickly gulping down their Pediasure before heading off to school has the mother overseeing the breakfast, while the father, in the background, dressed in his suit and tie, waves goodbye to his daughters. This scene reinforces the idea that the man is the best bread-winner, but the least adequate to care for his children’s physical needs.
One could make the argument that Pediasure commercial is just a response to the reality that women buy most groceries , so marketing Pediasure to women is a passive acceptance of this reality by the company. However, Pediasure goes pretty far to emphasize the message that a woman’s life centers on her children and her responsibility to feed and nurture them with men contributing little in this respect. Nowadays, when women are gaining equal positions in professional jobs, advertisements need to depict women and men caring for their children in order for society to expect and accept a similar equality within the domestic sphere.

Bored of Princesses

Only one in seven engineers is female. (Huhman) GoldieBlox, a toy company that seeks to alleviate this gender imbalance, recently debuted a commercial for engineering toys targeted towards girls. In the advertisement, three girls are bored watching pink princesses on TV, a traditionally feminine image. They grab tool kits, hard hats, and goggles, building a complex machine that eventually turns off the television. In the background, a different version of the song “Girls” by The Beastie Boys plays. “Girls, that’s all we really need is girls/To bring us up to speed it’s girls/Our opportunity is girls/Don’t underestimate girls.” While encouraging girls to take part in traditionally masculine activities, the advertisement also avoids demonizing femininity. Some of the machine and toys advertised are bright colored and pink, but still seen as fun.

Part of the reason there is a large gender gap in “masculine” fields is because girls are not encouraged to pursue them. “[Parents’] treatment of girls and boys is often different and produces gender differences.” (Martin 475) Since “it is widely accepted… that parents, schools, and the media shape gendered behavior to some degree,” (Martin 467) advertisements like this are important in encouraging women to enter technical fields, rather than discouraging them from a field they may love.

Huhman, Heather R. “STEM Fields And The Gender Gap: Where Are The Women?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 June 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.

Martin, Karin A. “William Wants A Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing.” Gender & Society 19.4 (2005): 456-79. Print.

Gender Stereotyping

This hearing advertisement by Widex takes on a different marketing approach to their products as they use a stereotypical portrayal of a man to their advantage. The caption “Men never listen. Still, it’s nice to know they can” speaks to the notion that men have selective hearing when communicating with women. This advertisement suggests that, if men buy this product they do not have an excuse not to listen to what women are saying. As mentioned by Lorber, “in social interactions… individuals learn what is expected, see what is expected, act and react in expected ways, and thus simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order” (Lorber 115). This add reiterates her point because it demonstrates how men may behave with women based on the social constructions that encourages them to detach from expressing emotions and fully communicating. Men are encouraged to look at women but not listen. Paying attention to details is not considered a macho trait and is not widely used to describe a man’s personality. This social construction as well as the many other traits learned by men encourages rational and less sensitivity to details whereas women are stereotyped as natural listeners capable of empathy. As Gloria Anzaldua mentions in La conciencia de la mestizo, acting macho is a learned behavior that is the result of hierarchal male dominance. With these gender roles men may become “confused and entangled with sexist behaviors that they have not been able to eradicate” (84).For these reasons, men may oppose the behaviors they feel inclined to in order to maintain their constructed gender roles.


The Social Construction of Gender by Judith Lorber

La conciencia de la mestiza; Towards a New Consciousness by Gloria Anzaldua

What Is Normal?

According to Judith Butler, “A norm operates within social practices as the implicit standard of normalization”(84). In other words, the reproduction of norms creates this expectation for people to act a certain way according to what is considered “normal”. However, besides the fact that it discriminates those that do not act based on these cultural norms, there is a significant problem that arises from them. Because they are accepted as normal, sometimes it is hard to discern when these norms are harmful for society.

In the case of gender and sexuality, norms differ across cultures yet are harmful nonetheless. In the Western world for instance, there is an expectation for people to develop heterosexual and monogamous relationships, which alienates everyone that does not fit that norm.

Even more extreme, other countries’ norms such as Yemen’s are terribly dangerous. For instance, more than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry. The practice of forced marriage was normalized by people acting upon it so that it is now part of Yemen’s culture, and thus part of its reality. In turn, Yemenis are blind to the cruelty of this practice, which evidences how norms can be detrimental to society.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2382145/Nada-al-Ahdal-Doubts-raised-11-year-old-escaped-child-bride-telling-truth.html  (Video of 11-year-old Yemeni girl claiming she will commit suicide if forced to marry)


Chambers, Samuel A. Reading the L Word: Outing Contemporary Television. Kim Akass and Janet McCabe, eds. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006: 81-98.

“Perfect Match”

This video is, to say the least, controversial. The woman represents the “sexiness” of the company while the man is portrayed as the “brains” of the operation. She of course, is wearing a tiny pink dress, showing off her cleavage while he is wearing glasses, a button up, and a tie. The commercial shamelessly adheres to every stereotype. Both the man and the woman are decorated with “gender markers”, a fraise used in Judith Lorber’s book Paradoxes of Gender. Additionally, the idea that women are seen solely as sexual objects is exemplified in this video in that the woman only brings sex to the company while the man brings the substance.

Finally, the title of the video, “Perfect Match”, whether it was intentionally or unintentionally given, also perpetuates gender inequality. On the surface, the commercial is saying that the combination of sexiness and intelligence is the “perfect match”. However, through illustrating this “perfect match” through a man and a woman, the title also infers that a man and a woman create a perfect match. Thus, labeling any other relationship other than a heterosexual relationship imperfect.


Lorber, Judith. Paradoxes of Gender. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994. Print.