From the moment we enter into the world to the time we are removed from it, we exist within Ideology, or a set of rules, ideas, and beliefs shaped through our real and imaginary relationships to social forces. With that being said, I’m a pretty average guy. This small essay is an auto-ethnography in an attempt to understand how I am interpellated into a gender role as a way to reflect what our culture deems the “correct way to be masculine.” I documented almost everything I did on Sunday, October 30th, 2016 and I hope my actions and thoughts paint a picture of how we as humans get interpellated into gender roles based on Ideology. I’ll being the essay defining Ideology, Interpellation, gender roles, and how these interact and work together then I will move on into my auto ethnography.
In an article entitled “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Louis Althusser, a Marxist scholar and philosopher, believes that Ideology, “represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.” (p. 338) What he means is that these outlooks, like the societal belief in God or Justice, which are admittedly imaginary, help us discover the realities of our world through this imaginary belief or relationship. Gender roles fall under this category of an “imaginary” outlooks that help us discover our own reality. Althusser then goes on to suggest that interpellation is how we are “recruited” or “transformed” into subjects of ideology (p. 344-345), thus how we become subjects of Gender roles.
I began my Sunday as I do almost every Sunday, playing video games with my friends at 12:00 AM. Very literally, the first seconds of the day were spent being interpellated into a gender role. I would consider video games to be a male dominated activity and almost every boy that I met as a kid had a gameboy or some type of game console. Whether the hobby/activity of gaming still persists amongst the youth today, I’m not sure, but I do know that the majority of the gamer population remains male. There is a stigma that women do not play video games, and by simply playing a video game, I became a subject of this ideology that I am no longer “feminine” due to my actions.
I wake up at around 11:00 AM thinking I can choose to do whatever, where whatever, and be whoever I want to be. Sadly, my subconscious knows that we live in a world with a gendered culture where there are certain spaces and signs that are designated to you that align with core cultural values. For example, I took a shower right after waking up and I use Men’s Shampoo to clean my hair and Men’s shower gel to clean the rest of my body. Simply by my consumption and use of these products, I am interpellating myself into the ideology of gendered roles. Much like every other man, my subconscious has been engrossed in this gendered rolled culture for so long that it tells me to buy this because it is the masculine choice. It’s through subliminal advertising, experiences with other men, and our ideology as a whole that tells me women do not buy these products for themselves, and I do not buy a woman’s product for myself, so go with AXE or OLD SPICE for your cleaning needs.
After taking my shower, I realize that my favorite English Premier League Football team, Chelsea F.C., is playing a match today and I instantly turn on the match. Much like my use of Men’s hygiene products, the act of watching and interacting with sporting events is a hegemonic masculine trait. Sporting events is one of those spaces that are designated to men that align with the core cultural values of masculinity. These values being brotherhood, drinking, and watching other men compete against other men in a sport that is made up of mostly men. Even if a woman likes sports, she instantly becomes “One of the guys” not “One of the women who enjoy stuff that guys enjoy.” There is a natural and subconscious link to masculinity and sports and it is because of ideology that this link exits.
In conclusion, I would say I’m a pretty average guy. I play video games, I use men’s hygiene products, and I like to watch and play sports. There a lot of things that I do, what I wear, shows I watch, and things I buy that interpellate me into Ideology. The facts are ideology is eternal and one cannot exist outside of it. We are, and will continue to be, always and already subjects of Ideology, whether we like it or not. Whether you identify as male, female, or transgender, there will always be those core values designated to that choice that interpellate you into those gender roles and into that Ideology. It’s almost sad that this is how culture works but the only way to make change is to recognize it, question it, and start REALLY doing what you want to do.
Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological Apparatuses.” Lenin and Philosophy. New York: Monthly Review, 1971. 142-77. Print.