Women are More Than What They Wear

Gender roles are something that influence popular culture and everyday life. Society has shaped women to act in certain roles because of their gender. This is exactly interpellation. I see this on many television shows that I watch regularly and all over this college campus. I took a couple of days to really focus on how these gender roles are displayed around me here at the University of Illinois.

The first example I saw was when I was working in a group project with a mix of female and male students. I noticed how when one of the female students would take charge or argue her ideas with the male students, she was seen as being too bossy. In a way, I found two of the male students in the group sort of dismissing her ideas and not taking her as seriously as a group leader. In contrast to this, when one of the male students took the lead, he was seen as being in control and knowing what he was doing. The group took him more seriously and didn’t argue with his ideas as much. This was surprising to me because in the millennial generation, I assumed people would be more accepting of each other and respect each other regardless of their gender. The idea of respect and gender inequality led me to think of Mary Celeste Kearney’s article Pink Technology: Mediamaking Gear for Girls that we read. In the article she talks about the Barbie camcorder made by Mattel. This toy represented this idea of the male gender being in charge and being more respected because they are the ones behind the camcorder. The female gender was supposed to be in front of it being the focus of it just for their appearances. Their ideas were not heard and instead, it was indicated that figuring out how to work the camera would be too complicated for them. This portrayed gendered marketing as a reflection of marketers’ beliefs and assumptions about essential gender differences. Even though the situations are different, the idea behind gender inequality and gender norms are present in both.


Another example I saw here was how much pressure women put on themselves to be skinny, work out, and be considered beautiful. The media is filled with models, like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, who are skinny and always showing off their bodies. Our generation is constantly on social media whether it be Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat and more. All of these forms of media influence how we feel about our appearance. Through social media people can filter pictures and we still find ourselves getting nervous about what other people will think about what we post. When women go out here, they look on these social media sites for inspiration for outfit and makeup looks. They conform to what the media is telling us that the beauty standard should be. They wear crop tops, short skirts, tight clothing, and other outfits that are revealing. In college there are many themed parties, where the female gender is assumed to dress in a “sexy” costume whereas the male gender is assumed to dress in a “funny” costume. By doing this, they are appealing to the term, male gaze, which is another thing we learned about through Kearney’s article. Male gaze is the way in which visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. By dressing in these ways and showing off their bodies, the female gender is falling into the gender role of being objectified by men.

My last example would be in sports leagues. Sports fans as a whole are more likely to watch men’s sports. I recently did an advertising project on the WNBA and it got me wondering why people are more likely to support one gender’s sport over the other’s. Even the female gender watches more male sports as a whole than women’s sports. This is because gender stereotypes present sports as a manly activity. Females are often referred to as the weaker gender and males are seen as the stronger gender. Ballet is a very dainty, graceful sport that is categorized as feminine. It is also associated with the color pink, which we had discussed in class about how the color was perceived as representing femininity. On the other hand, football, basketball, and hockey all involve rough play. In the eyes of the majority of sports fans, these are manly sports. Yes, women do participate in them, but the sports community is not familiar with them. Many people can name five male players right off the bat of one of those sports, but if asked about women players in those fields, they probably would not be able to. Gender roles plays a huge part in sports.


Overall, gender roles are extremely present not only throughout popular culture but in our daily lives as well.



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