Gender Studies Exam Essays Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Women, Gender, Feminism, Gender Equality, Women's Rights, White, Media, Advertisement

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/02/07

1. This advertisement visually underscores the sexism that was salient during the 1960s.Popular culture indeed diffused ideas about gender and sexuality. A woman’s head is attached to a rug made out of tiger skin. A man donning Mr. Leggs dress pants triumphantly steps on the woman’s head. Clearly, the focus of this advertisement is selling the slacks that the man is wearing. The advertisers visually articulate the argument that men who purchase and wear this particular brand of pants will help them control the women in their lives. The woman retains a merely decorative function in a male-dominated world in which sartorial fashions played an integral role in a man’s identity. Sartorial consumption clearly retained social and cultural currency especially when situated in a particular context in which the public can see and assess them. This advertisement makes a statement about the race, age, gender, and economic status through the objects included in the advertisements, the main actions that are occurring within the scene, and the blatant omissions within this image.
A white man stands on top of a white woman whose head is attached to the body of a presumably dead tiger. Because the 1960s was such a tumultuous and turbulent decade in terms social movements chafing against the status quo and white hegemony, it is unsurprising that advertisements featured white men and women to underscore the notion that whiteness remains a prerequisite for American citizenship. Indeed, the media distorted race and ethnicity issues “because the voice or perspective of the media typically represents a majority standpoint rather than the voices and perspectives of people of color” (Sanchez-Hucles et al. 185).The stance of the man on top of the woman is a domineering one, as the positioning of his hands underscores the notion that he feels accomplished because his pants enabled him to conquer and overcome his female corollary. Moreover, his stance mirrors those of famous Roman emperors or autocrats, which imbues them with a sense of greatness, power, and stature. Because the man’s head/face is not included in the picture, this advertisement orients the gaze of the viewer towards the clothing that the man wears on the lower half of his body. Moreover, there is a phallic dimension in which the viewer connects the phallus—which is at the center of the image—with the man’s manhood. As such, the viewer can glean that ideal manhood during the 1960s was directly connected with sartorial consumption and the notion that consumerism was a manly activity. Such a conclusion deviates from traditional framing of shopping and consumption as a purely female and effeminate endeavor. Cultural mores included in this advertisement convey the fact that this advertisement was geared towards a male audience guided by the notion that purchasing the slacks would facilitate a man’s ability to tame women who act as wild as tigers to. Moreover, a woman would willingly succumb to the desires of the man if he purchased and wore the advertised slacks. The text included is located in various parts of the advertisement. The phrase “it’s nice to have a girl around the house” is located at the bottom of the advertisement, and the specific wording of this phrase further objectifies the woman as a mere object or trifle within the house. This narrative is reified by popular television shows such as the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which perpetuated rigid gender distinctions between the public lives of men as conspicuous consumers and women (Bathrick 155). Such logic is undergirded by traditional notions reified by the separate spheres ideology that permeated the Victorian moral canon and gender discourses for centuries. Not only are women degraded in this advertisement, they are also sexualized to an extent. The body positioning and clothing mesh together in a way that sexualized white women as dominated by their male counterparts (Sanchez-Hucles 193). Although the woman in the advertisement is white, the advertisers nonetheless portray her as exotic by attaching her head to the body of a feline tiger, which is often associated with Chinese culture. Such a discursive framing ultimately perpetuates a stereotype of ideal womanhood as passive and fetishized (194).
2. Gender studies as well as feminist practices retain the potential to immensely improve the quality of women's lives in the contemporary U.S. society. Feminism indeed opens up a space for women at both the micro and macro levels to exercise political and socio-cultural agency in order to effect change in their lives, as feminist activism has evolved into a potent and nuanced tool used to gain gender equity. Despite the fact that the media has declared it “dead,” feminism and the women's movement remains nuanced, vibrant, and useful. Feminist scholar Estelle Freedman right postulates that feminism has reached a critical juncture in its trajectory in western society, as it has gained much traction and momentum from which it cannot turn back (Freedman 2). Social trends have developed during the twenty-first century that attest to the Foucauldian notion that conflates knowledge with power, thereby underscoring how feminism has the potential to enact change for future generations. The rising birthrate in non-white populations underscores the potential of global feminism within an American society in which white women have historically dominated. This trend indicates that white women in the future will eventually no longer constitute the majority, so subaltern agency vis-a-vis the feminist movement in the United States will unequivocally shift and reshape the contours of the feminist movement in a postmodern vein.
Postmodern theories of society and culture directly influence the intersecting issues of race, class, sexuality, and gender, which cinema and television both reify. Sanchez-Hucles et al. investigate how stereotypes, biases, and mixed messages are grafted into advertisements in magazines (Sanchez-Hucles et al. 196). The paucity of non-white women in consumer advertisements combined with discursive framing of non-white women as exotic conveys certain racial and gender stereotypes that persisted within postmodern epistemologies. Feminists have lamented about the fact that too much feminist theory has both excluded and devalued subaltern women by focusing solely on the white, middle-class woman as a barometer for the progress of women in western society and culture. Indeed, white feminists theory functions under the assumption that there is a naturalized split between the public and private spheres, or public life and the private, domestic world of the family. Black feminists, however, along with minority leaders, have opined that in the majority of subaltern families, the private sphere ceases to exist as it is ill protected against state intervention. As such, various feminists have rendered postmodern theories attractive and fruitful because of the undergirding arguments regarding multiplicity and incommensurability that lacked clear-cut and definitive answers. Postmodern theories including Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Lyotard, among others, argye against blind faith in universal reason and Enlightenment philosophies and epistemologies inherited from European society and culture, thereby rejecting all-encompassing stories about human history. Rather, postmodernists articulate arguments that not only reject all-encompassing stories about human history in favor of social and cultural criticism that functions in an ad hoc manner that is contextualized, contingent, plural, and ultimately, limited.
Men and women are discursively framed in the media through the prisms of class and gender. Indeed, the media constructs race and class in a ways that fashions the media itself as an “ideological terrain or struggle” (Hall 18). The political deployment of psychoanalysis elucidates how film has been used to reinforce certain subjectivities and social formations that have molded men and women despite the salience of postmodernism, which embraces heterogeneity and multiplicity (“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”). Postmodern approaches to gender and sexuality with a degree of skepticism regarding the biological, natural, and the real, thereby promoting a “denaturalizing” approach which eschews the deconstructs essentialist and biological views of race and gender in favor of social constructionism. Indeed, Judith Butler, who is considered one of the most influential postmodernist in the realm of gender. Butler famously argued that “there is no gender identity behind the expressions of genderidentity if performativey constituted by the very expressions that are said to be its results” (Butler 33). As such, Butler deploys postmodernist thinking to illuminate the power dynamics of popularized perceptions of what is natural or real within stringent binary thinking. Gender, thus, is not a stable construct but rather a fluid one that manifests itself in the external performance of one’s gender. No stable or essentialized gender identity exists. Gender thus can be reconstructed vis-à-vis hegemonic discourses and rearticulated according to epochal exigencies.
Television shows and films both reveal the performativity of gender and race in a litany of ways that reveals the currency of postmodernism for feminists. The second-wave feminist movement emerged during the 1950s due to the return of the cult of domesticity in the aftermath of the second World War, which various television shows such as Leave It to Beaver! and I Love Lucy demonstrate. Television and film culture, however, have recently depicted the performativity of gender and gender undone in a postmodern vein.

Works Cited

Bathrick, Serafina. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Women at Home and at Work.”
Braudy, Leo. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. 5th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. Print
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.
Freedman, Estelle. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002.
“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.”

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