Tag Archives: social construction

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.


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.

Carbon Copy Cuties

Our media encourages women to believe their natural bodies are unattractive. To fix this, they must buy products to “improve” their appearances. Corporations want to milk the most money out of this vicious plot. Along with bombarding women with photoshopped, airbrushed, and otherwise unreal images of women, body parts are broken into separate problems, all with a product solution. Want perfect lips? Buy this lipstick!

L’oreal’s Colour Riche Privee Collection ad depicts a group of conventionally attractive women chatting and smiling blithely as they put on lipstick. The commerical implies that wearing L’oreal’s lipstick will make you beautiful, popular, happy, and distinctive. “It’s totally unique,” one woman claims, looking at the viewer. How will buying a mass-produced product make you unique? It’s especially jarring because the models are all so similar-looking, I had difficulty telling their faces apart, including the few that were not white. Placing so many “beautiful” models side by side just drives home how narrow our concept of beauty is.

It’s no surprise that being bombarded with these strict, false images of beauty harms women’s self esteems. “A woman was twice as likely to rate her attractiveness as low, between 1-3 (on a scale of 1 to 10), than a man was.” (Hesse-Biber 63) The plot was successful; now, women strive to become carbon copies.

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.” The Cult of Thinness. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. 61-82. Print.

Ad Critique: Girls Poop (But They Shouldn’t!)

This commercial provides an example of the social reinforcement of the institution of femininity. The narrator, a well-coiffed, feminine young woman in a 1940s-inspired party dress, promotes a product that conceals, as she describes it, “the subtle scent of a 300-cow dairy farm,” a clearly non-feminine phenomenon. She spends much of the commercial graphically and enthusiastically describing her own bowel movements–again, seemingly subverting a feminine gender norm. But while acknowledging, with great gusto, that girls do poop, the narrator repeatedly reminds us that they should pretend that they don’t: “how do you make the world believe … that you never poop at all?” By saying this, she suggests that women must adhere to feminine gender norms, despite how clearly those expectations are socially constructed.

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

Listen to your wife.. get rewarded with a Klondike?

Klondlike’s new series of commercials are based upon their motto: what would you do for a Klondike bar? The purpose of the new series “5 Seconds to Glory” is to show the extent to which people will “suffer” for five seconds to obtain the new minty, chocolatey ice cream sandwich.

The “Good Listener” commercial features a guy who seemingly endures “actually” listening to his wife for five seconds. Prior to the 5 second challenge Mark, the challenger, is presented as being fully focused on the TV until his wife shows up. Apparently “actually listening” to your wife means putting on an overly embellished enthused face while her slur of words plays in the background. The reward for doing such a difficult task is celebrating with balloons, confetti and young women in short, tight dresses.

Perhaps Lorber can help explain how Mark’s aggressively uninterested attitude towards his wife’s words became acceptable. “In social interaction through their lives, individuals learn what is expected, see what is expected, act and react in expected ways and thus simultaneously construct and maintain gender order” (Lorber 118).

Claiming that society is to blame for this constructed hierarchy between men and women is only reinforced from this Klondike commercial.

Lorber, Judith. “The Social Construction of Gender.” Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Comp. Estelle

What is Inequity?

What is inequity?

Inequity is being denied the right to determine one’s gender. In Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body, she heavily, and rightfully so, criticizes genital reconstructive surgery on infants. When a child is born with an ambiguous or unidentified gender, the first reaction of both parents and doctors is to “fix it.” But what are they really trying to fix?

Gender cannot be fixed for it is a social construction. Surgery may change a child’s biological sex, but it will not change his gender. Gender is a formulation of social, cultural and personal influences. Every child has his own gender. It is a creation of his environment and of his free will.

Determining a child’s gender for him is inequity. Inequity is being denied the right to choose and experience your own gender. Performing surgery on an infant to correct his natural, biological sex to fit society’s gender norms, as either male or female, utterly disregards the child’s right to choose his gender identity and forces the child into a life of physical and emotional pain.  As Fausto-Sterling says, “we protest the practices of genital mutilation in other cultures, but tolerate them at home” (79).

Why in a modern society do we continue to change the course of nature?

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 78-115. Print.