As a woman in our society, I was always aware that there were gender norms and society’s construct of what femininity means. I typically go about everyday life without paying specific attention to gender norms through the media I consume or my everyday life. For the past two days, I paid special attention to gender construction and analyzed what I found about what femininity means. I took note of the media I consumed, like the shows I watch, and the activities I participate in. I noticed specific instances where I felt as though society and culture was subtly influencing gender norms through social construction.
The first time I noticed the role of femininity in pop culture was when I was watching one of my favorite shows, Shameless. In season 7, episode 4, the show opens with a woman soaking herself with a hose because of how hot of a day it was. The actress was wearing a white shirt without a bra, and the camera zoomed in on her chest exposing her breasts underneath her wet shirt. Simultaneously, the man she was with was blatantly staring at her as she was doing this. To me, this was clear that the woman in this scene was being used as an object for pleasure because of the way the male character was staring at the female character. This was an example of the concept of the “male gaze” that we read about in Kearney’s article, Pink Technology: Mediamaking Gear for Girls. Kearney states, “Rather, girls are encouraged from a very young age to internalize the male gaze so as to adorn and comport their bodies in ways that boys and men find attractive.” This was a perfect example of how the show used the actress’ body solely for the male character’s gaze. Another example I picked up on that constructed masculinity was in the very same episode. One of the characters is a young boy who is looking to go to military school. One of his mentors explains how he should go because that’s where you go to learn how to be a man. This adds to the gender construction of masculinity and what it means to be a man in today’s society because of the “toughness” factor that comes along with being in the military.
The second instance where I recognized the role of femininity in pop culture was in comedy in general. I’ve been doing improv comedy for about 8 years now and have recently gotten into stand up comedy. I have always noticed it was a male-dominated field. I’ll never forget walking behind two gentlemen when I was a teenager who out-right said, “Women are not funny.” Of course, this angered me as someone who is so interested in comedy. I had an improv show Tuesday night and I picked up on the fact that majority of the improv troupes were male dominated. Even when I have participated in stand-up open mics, out of 12 guys, there is usually only about 2 girls. Society has constructed this view that women aren’t funny simply because they don’t need to be. Author, Christopher Hitchens, can attest this idea. He explains in this interview why he genuinely believes women aren’t funny. You can view his interview here. The article we looked at in class about Adult Swim not hiring female writers ties into this as well. The article states that no women were hired because when you put women in a room, you don’t get comedy, you get conflict. Current pop culture has made an effort to squash this stereotype of women not being funny by creating films such as the newest Ghostbusters, which featured an all female cast and same can be said for other recent films and the show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which we watched in class.
The final thing I noticed as I was paying close attention to femininity in pop culture was when I was watching the Cubs game. I noticed how during the commercial breaks, there was a commercial shown multiple times for a new show called Pitch. It’s about the first woman to participate in Major League Baseball. I thought this was interesting because it got me thinking about all sports leagues in general. You start to notice how we have sport associations such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) or the Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA). However, it’s Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA) for the women’s leagues. Women’s sports overall are not as popular and are overlooked. I noticed too how those associations were seen as branches off of the main, male associations otherwise it would be MNBA and WNBA-where the M stood for Men’s. This can be shown from Messner’s reading, The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events. All of the sports ads feature guys watching the sports game together and the woman is used as an object or just an addition to the commercial. Even with the insane popularity with beer commercials, nowhere do we see a beer ad featuring women watching sports with a male waiter. Overall, I found my experience to be enlightening to the fact that pop culture still has a long way to go in terms of portraying men and women as equal.
Messner, Michael A., & Montez de Oca, Jeffrey. (2005). The male consumer as loser: Beer and liquor ads in mega sports media events. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30(3), 1879-1909.
Kearney, Mary Celeste. (2010). Pink Technology: Mediamaking Gear for Girls. Camera Obscura 74.