Tag Archives: Lorber

Miley Cyrus – Notions of Femininity

This clip was shown as a commercial on MTV advertising highlights of the VMA’s to viewers. It briefly shows the now infamous and controversial twerking move performed by Miley Cyrus – when she bended over and danced on Robin Thicke. In the context of this class, I thought about how her behavior might me perceived to a huge audience of girls/women. Although Miley technically should have the freedom to behave as she pleases, I do believe she has a responsibility to the millions of fans that allowed her to become famous; that allowed her to become what she is. Is it possible that her extremely sexual dancing might project to women that this is how all women should act? It appears that although Miley may not have been performing solely for a heterosexual male audience, that audience was watching as well and analyzing her behavior. Perhaps women might think that in order to gain attention from men, they need to pattern their behavior after their role model, Miley – further polarizing gender binaries and defining what it means to act like a woman/act like a man. Even worse, it might be extremely influential on a huge population of young girls. In this unit we explored gender as a social construct through authors like Judith Butler and Judith Lorber. Lorber especially emphasizes that gender is constantly being done through our day to day interactions. With this in mind, Robin Thick and Miley Cyrus are indicative of cultural norms; or with this performance, they are establishing a new cultural norm that men and women will strive to imitate. I think that women who have platforms like Miley Cyrus have the capacity to further perpetuate societal definitions of what it means to be feminine, and in this case, the definition isn’t exactly a good one.

Sources
Lorber, Judith, and Susan A. Farrell. The Social Construction of Gender. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991. 113-18. Print.

Boys Act, Little Girls Appear

I’ve been seeing this video of an “adorable 911 call” on Facebook and other social media sites a lot lately. In the video, a five year old girl named Savannah calls 911 when her dad has a heart attack. Savannah is helpful in her conversation with the operator, but what makes the video so “adorable” is the way Savannah steers the conversation to her clothes. At 1:54, after the dispatcher tells Savannah that people are on their way to the house to help, Savannah says “Ok. We’re in our jammies… and I’m in a tank top. So… I’ll have to get dressed.” Again at 1:59, Savannah says “”I dont…what I am gonna wear, but… he really needs oxygen.”

The video is garnering attention because Savannah is cute and funny. It is humorous that a little girl is preoccupied with what she will wear to the hospital after her father has just had a heart attack. However, I find the video a little sad because it shows how a five year old girl is already so preoccupied with her appearance. Bergen said in Ways of Seeing that “women appear,” and this video proves that girls internalize society’s expectations of women as decoration at an extremely young age. Savannah must have learned this mentality from female caretakers in her life, as well as media influences. I think this video is an example of gender as a process, and shows how young girls interpret what it means to be female.

Can We Transcend?

In 2013, can the Western world transcend sex and gender? Moreover, has sex and gender’s significance become obsolete? Gender and sex are not the same thing. However, these terms have been historically conflated. Sex is biological, while gender is social. Technological advances and legal changes have facilitated the flexibility of these two terms. For instance, medical procedures – such as anatomical reassignment surgery – and childrearing methods – such as raising genderless children – both show that sex and gender are malleable. Due to the implications of these changes, binary gender constructs are not necessary. As Fausto Sterling contends, a gender spectrum is now possible and should be implemented. Due to technological advances and legal procedures, any person can elect to embody the gender of their choice. Additionally, people are now able to elect or reject gender without sacrificing their social goals such as marriage or childrearing. However – even if alternate routes are taken – gender is inescapable. By rejecting gender’s binary construct, there is a cognizance that gender constructs exist and this alternative community is still ‘doing gender’ due to their cognizance (Lorber). While gender will always be present, society can rise above its’ subjugation and transcend.

Lois Gould, “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” (1978)

Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender” (1990)

Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” (2000)

Ad Critique Post – DiGiorno Pizza Commercial

The DiGiorno commercial ties very well with the main ideas discussed in Beauvior’s text titled The Second Sex: Introduction and Lorber’s text titled The Social Construction of Gender. In this commercial both genders are stereotyped into traditional gender roles as the men are seen relaxing outside while viewing sports and the woman is seen heading into her home with two large grocery bags. The men decide to order a pizza – but the main male character decides to call his spouse instead to demand her to make him a pizza the way he likes it. She replies, “you know I hate when you do this” as if this is an everyday occurrence between the two of them. He then demands her to make the pizza quickly.  This commercial resembles how Beauvior discusses gender: “man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him” (Beauvior 33). Her existence is dependent on serving men instead of being independent to do the task she enjoys. Lober’s belief that gender “creates the social difference that define woman and man” because people “learn what is expected…thus simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order” (Lorber 115). This construction is seen as the woman is expected to make the pizza for the men as she always does. After making the pizza the woman retaliates by turning the sprinkler on the three men. The men have no reaction and continue to watch sports, as if they are oblivious to her existence. Their actions demonstrate that men are seen as the supreme and the woman is only significant in service to men. Therefore, the woman is only defined according to the men’s terms.

Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender”, 1990.

De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.”, 2003.

Big Question: What is inequity?

Inequity is a social institution. Judith Lorber contends that humans seek to organize and categorize, which leads to differentiation based on many factors, including gender. Gender categorization permits the division of tasks and roles between the genders (Lorber, 115). Ultimately, both the norms created by categorization, and the categorization itself, stratify society (Lorber, 116). The consequence: men are considered the dominant gender, while all others are devalued.

Inequity is found where you least expect it. Even within second wave feminist organizations, tension and inequity existed between women. White feminists, generally wealthy and privileged, invited black feminists to join their movement in sisterly solidarity (hooks, 133). bell hooks recalls feeling that it was presumptuous for those women to assume solidarity, given their own privilege, and also to “invite” black women to their pre-established club. Ignorance leads to inequality, and unfortunately, ignorance is quite widespread.

Inequity is unnecessary. Categorization might be human nature, but that doesn’t mean we can’t consciously and collectively make efforts to dump categories and ignorance in favor of spectrums and understanding. Fausto-Sterling suggests methods of literally eliminating categories from our lives, such as taking gender categories off of legal documents (111). She notes that gender equity is within reach, given improvements in public tolerance, political organization, and a fantastic “gender lobby” (124).

Sources:

Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” (2000)

bell hooks, “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women” (1986)

Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender” (1990)

Big Question: Free choice and ‘Lean In’

Our environment, including features like the people we are around or the ideas exposed to us, shapes how we make decisions. If our circumstances sway us to prefer certain options, perhaps our choices aren’t the result of free choice.

Lorber explains how this happens in “The Social Construction of Gender.” She points out that gender is pushed on us as early as birth. Based on gender, our parents give us boy or girl names and dress us and talk to us in ways that reinforce gender. Later, gender continues on to shape our values and behaviors. It also shapes our ambitions, influencing our future selves as well.

In Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, Sandberg cites gender as limiting the career plans of women. She brings attention to the values that we cultivate in young girls, like not being bossy. At an early age, we reinforce gender expectations for girls to not become leaders for fear that they will be seen as bossy. In this case, gender as a circumstance has limited girls. This is one example of social circumstances making choices for us.

Lober, J. (2006) The social construction of gender. In E. Disch (Ed.), Reconstructing gender: a multicultural anthology. McGraw.

Sandberg, S. (2013) Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead. New York: Knopf.

Modern Oppression: A Focus on Gender

When someone thinks of an oppressor, it is often the case that they imagine a tyrant from the middle ages, a slaveowner in the nineteenth century, or a cruel modern ‘president’. Although these are obvious examples of oppressors, in today’s world there is a more common form of oppression and it occurs on U.S. soil. Who exactly are the oppressors? We as a society.  I use ‘we’ because we are ultimately a part of society. Gender oppression has always existed and it is we who have allowed it to continue. Regardless of your gender, there will always be some sort of limitation imposed on you by society (Lorber). These limitations come in the form of gender discrimination at work, gender roles dictating what is expected, and ostracization due to ‘being different’. These types of limitations thus create a form of oppression (that of gender) within our society. Interestingly enough, the only solution to solve this oppression is by changing the way we, as a society, think. Perhaps future generations can be influenced by the progressive ideas of today, but until that happens we remain our own oppressors.

Sources:

Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Estelle Disch, editor. 4th ed. 2006.