Sunday, December 12, 2010

FINAL PAPER Sex and Gender Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Gender Roles Yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Tennessee Williams A Street Car named Desire

For my final essay I will be focusing the depiction of gender roles in the 1940’s and today’s popular culture. The representation of men and women has evidentially become a product of social construction. With the use of Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Names Desire, I will explain how American life, and the depiction of gender roles, especially on women, have undeniably developed since world war two. According to Chris Barker’s Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, “sex and gender are held to be social constructions intrinsically implicated in matters of representation. He argues that women all across the globe are seen as the second sex, subordinated to men. With the help of Barker as well, I will focus my essay on how the representation of women during the 1940’s helped Tennessee Williams construct the female characters of Blanche and Stella. I will also use Barker to emphasize on the evolution of popular culture and women’s representation from the time of the play, till now.
The 1940’s developed a culture of war that greatly affected and re construction of gender roles during that time. In this essay I will discuss how several of the characters in A Street Car Name Desire by Tennessee Williams are a representation of gender roles of that time. I will support this by providing evidence from the play along quotes from William Graebers text, The Age of Doubt American Thought and Culture in the 1940’s.
William Graebers text gives some insight on how millions of real women were caught between Post-War America, and needing to obey their traditional domestic roles. “Women were seen as bearers and nurturers and were being called upon to produce during the conflict of war.” (Graeber) The social conventions at this time highly valued the importance of marriage and family. “Women spent the decade meeting needs of men and capital; filling the factories as producers, then, after the war soothing fragile male ego, doing housework, and heading the family’s department of consumer affairs.”
“Feminists influenced by the poststructuralist and postmodern thought (nicholson, 1990;Weedon 1997) have argued that sex and gender are social and cultural constructions that are not to be explained in terms of biology or to be reduced to the functions of capitalism. (Barker 183) According to Graebner, women did not only have to need the needs of men, but also were expected to comfort the male ego when soldiers returned from war. The man during the 1940’s on the other hand carried a more masculine role. His job was to protect and produce money to maintain his family. Much of women roles relied on those of men. Looking through the eyes of post-feminism “The fundamental argument of feminism is that women are oppressed by and subjugated by men as a consequence of being women. That is, all women are oppressed by all men. Thus, feminism pointed to structural inequalities in the economy and in the institutions of social and cultural power. Further it suggest that certain male attitudes and behavior could oppress women.” (Barker285) In the 1940’s Men were viewed to carry more aggressive brutal primitive nature. The plays characters of Stanley, Blanche, and Stella all conform to the roles of men and women during this time.
Stanley’s character in the play represents an extremely dominant male figure. He’s described to be masculine and athletic. His character is mostly defined by the relationship he carries with his wife, Stella, and her sister Blanche. All thorough the play he is extremely loud authoritative and demanding. This is introduced to the reader within the first scene when he throws a piece of meat to his wife Stella as he’s yelling for her.
Bellowing “Hey there Stella baby!” (1:1) An specific outburst that shows his attempts to exercise his dominance is when he smacks Stella on the thigh. “Stanley gives a loud whack of his hand on her thigh.” He not only uses words but physical actions to attempt to control her. His physical dominance is also greatly shown when he beats pregnant Stella after losing his temper.
In Barkers , Sex Subjectivity and Identity, we learn that the identification of oneself as male or female is a foundation stone of self-identity that is widely held to be the outcome of particular bodies and their attributes. We learn that mens grater levels of testosterone will cause them to be likely to be greater risk-takers, Have higher propensity to find multiple partners, dispose to anger and less to empathy and are less likely to verbalize action. The character of Stanley is the epitome of “Man”. Through his behavior and actions we see his male animalistic empathetic attitude.
Another of his male traits is also the desire of fulfillment. He carries and enormous drive to expose Blanche as a liar. His physical forcefulness is also represented with his interest with gambling and money. One of the reasons he is desperately determined to expose Blanche, as a liar is to attain money left from Stella’s family property. Money, which does not, exists, but if it did, would be rightfully his because he’s Stella’s husband. He declares himself to be the “King” of his house and is willing to satisfy his needs as a man without regarding the harm he is causing to those around him.
Stella’s character appears to be very simple. In the plays she has the role of a sister and a wife. She is stuck between making choices between family and the man she is in love with. Her character is sensitive, loving, and even independent at times. She genuinely loves Stanley, despite his aggressiveness and violence toward her. Like many wives during the 1940’s she is happy to please the man she loves. She is willing to stay with him after he beats her when she’s pregnant with his child and after he rapes Blanche. Stella chooses to think Blanche is lying about the situation. “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley.” (11.24) Her decision to believe Blanche was lying and stay with Stanley was not necessarily by choice but rather by need. Stella returning to Stanley reinforces the idea that women during this time relied on men. Women at the time were not able to support themselves, emotionally and most importantly, financially. Women were seen as unable to live independent lives and because of this, men continued to be the overpowering sex.
“As essentialist answer to the question “What is a woman?’ takes the category “woman” to be a reflection of an underlying idenity based on either biology or culture.” (Barker)
One of those most important characters that portray women’s gender roles during this time is the character of Blanche. The only power that Blanche believed she carried as a woman came from her social class. Her family’s fortune and tradition is what gave her importance but this importance was dissolved when she arrived to stay with Stella in Elysian Fields as the reality of her having no wealth finally struck her. During this 1940’s work overpowered tradition, Blanches social class had no impact. Blanche also uses her woman sexuality to attempt to gain attention and control from other characters in the play such as Stanley and the Paper Boy. This clearly shows to fail when she has no power over the emotional and physical abuse Stanley has put her through by end the play. Her most disempowering moment would have to be after Stanley rapes her. This shows vulnerability of her character and of women at the time, towards men.
The 1940’s were a time of extreme economic and social conditions. All which contributed to the construction of gender roles at the time. This post war mentality crated a culture that undeniably helped Tennessee Williams represent his characters gender roles in his play, A Street Car Named Desire. The characters of Stella and Blanche were those of typical women during the 1940’s who were overpowered by men and were made to solemnly meet their needs. Stanley’s character represented the male of all males during this period of time. The moneymaker, alpha male, provider that advocated his aggressive and animal like violent behavior. This generation helped produce stereotypical and dominant ideas about men and women, which allowed Tennessee Williams to successfully represent thorough his characters appearance, description and physical action through the play.
Ultimately, these “biochemical arguments should not be used as an excuse not to test the limits of the culturally possible” (Barker 287) These biological and sociological consequences should not obstruct men and women, their chances in life and our chance to realize ourselves and accept fellow persons beyond bio-social structures. Foucalt argues that sexuality was a focal point for exercise of power and the production of subjectivity in western societies. He focuses on the “discursive fact” in which sex is put into discourse. He suggests that the discourse of sexualities has been disseminated through medicine, the church, psychoanalysis, education programs, and demography. “The discourse of sexuality produce particular subjectivities” (Barker 292)
“Sexual identity” is not an essence but a matter of representation. (Barker 297) According to Chodorow, there is nothing inevitable about our sexual object choices and identification, sexual identity is formed through a developmental process in the context of our first relationships and our sexualities are regulated in ways that are particularly costly for women. This is clearly, a demonstration of the reproduction of male dominance and male contempt for women. Judith Butler argues, the discourse of sex is ones that, through repetition of acts they guide, bring sex into view as a necessary norm. Sex is a construction, but an indispensable one that forms subjects and governs the materialization of bodies. (Barker298) In Western culture at least, today is the first period
Popular culture indirectly teaches society how to be, how to act, and how to look like. Social constructions such as the media, television, newspapers, all play part in the way they portray and distribute the object of sex. Women are supposed to be skinny, sexy, and yet submissive while men have the freedom to play the parts of romantic womanizers who have multiple sex partners. These images produce an incredible amount of pressure on both men and women to live up to these standards, which for some might be impossible to meet. Women thrive on emotion, go on diets, and are seemed to be the most likely to attempt to construct in order to meet their cultural standards. People unable to meet these standards lose confidence and can even impair the way they function their daily life. Popular culture has a great influence on both men and woman. In an attempt to become the “ideal” person, people excuse behaviors, tendencies, and even stereotypes to be believed are okay, and expected from their genders.
Gender roles have incredibly developed from the 40’s to today, but time has only developed the constructions placed on both genders. Sexual identity is held to be not a universal biological essence but a matter of how femininity and masculinity are spoken about. Barkers book attempts to make people aware that we (society) should be concerned with the matters in which we represent people, ourselves, and specifically sex and gender. Women especially should be concerned, since evidentially we have constituted as the second sex, subordinated to men for decades.

Graebner, William. The Age of Doubt: American Thought and Culture in
the 1940s. Boston: Twayne, 1990. Print.

Barker, Chris, and Paul Willis. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles [u.a.: SAGE, 2008. Print.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Social Networking

For our group presentation i covered the topic of "Identity" in Social Networking.
I was able to help the group by summarizing how social networking has become a way of experimenting with ones identity in todays culture.

A part of social networking is the ability to share your identity with the world, or those whom your privacy settings allow to view your profile. People have the ability to experiment with their identity through profiles, comments, and “befriending others”. Once a profile is created, these social networking sites have features that you can share such as photo uploading, quotes, status changes, interest, and affiliations. What’s your favorite music, sport ect. Where did you go do school? Who are you friends?
Developing these profiles can get pretty elaborate. How much time people are consuming creating and uploading can be questioned. This has created a way for people to experiment with their identity. “Friend feed back” is often offered by many of these sites, which enables the user to modify and evolve this “created self”. If someone doesn’t like something about your picture, comment, ect. They can just leave you a comment and you can easily change it/take it off.
“Friending” most importantly, has also become a way of experimenting with ones identity. The number of friends one has adds to he identity of that user. The more friends you have, the more popular you are and the more access you are providing people to view and comment on your profile (vise versa) “We live our lives in the contexts of social relationships with others” (barker218) subjectivity & identity.

Social Networking has now become way of experimentation for self and social identity. In Barker’s Chapter 7 Issues and Subjectivity and identity, Gidden describes identity as a “project”. Idenity is our creation, something we “move towards” rather than “arrive at.” Pg217 The evolution of Social Networking and its features, is providing just that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

American Psycho

“There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman some kind of abstraction but there is no real me only an entity something illusory.”

In our lass class discussion we touched on the Film American Psycho.

We once again discussed the difference between self-identity and social identity.

Self-identity is the verbal conceptions we hold about ourselves, and our emotional identification with those self-descriptions.
Social Identity is the expectations and opinions that others have of us.

The subject (Patrick Bateman) in this movie seems to have control of his self-identity. He has constructed an “idea” of who he is and wants to be. He represents himself as a materialistic, self absorbed and shallow human being. But acknowledges there is not real side to him.
“There is no real me there is an illusion”

Sunday, November 14, 2010


“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being but the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness.” (Marx)
This week we also touched on Marx.
Super Structure

We saw Alec Baldwin’s monologue in the film Glengarry Glen Ross.
Going back to a post I had written about before the ideas in this monologue parallel to our readings of Baudrillard, The System of Objects. This also parallels the ideas of Self identity and social identity. Self identity is the verbal conceptions we hold about ourselves and our emotional identification with those self descriptions. Social identity is the expectation and opinions that others have on us.
Blake: You got leads. Mitch & Murray paid good money. Get their names to sell them. You can't close the leads you're given, you can't close shit, *you are* shit, hit the bricks pal, and beat it, 'cause you are going *out*.
Shelley Levene: The leads are weak.
Blake: "The leads are weak." The fucking leads are weak? You're weak. I've been in this business fifteen years...
Dave Moss: What's your name?
Blake: Fuck you. That's my name.
[Moss laughs]
Blake: You know why, mister? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. *That's* my name.
In this scene Blake, (Alic Baldwin) is explaining to the real estate agents how they have become nothing because they are not being successful in closing their leads. In attempt to motivate the salesman’s he explains that if “you can’t close shit, you are shit”. When one of the salesman asks for his name he mocks him by saying “you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. *That's* my name.”

The role of todays society has become very communistic.
We live in a world where " Cash rules everything around me"
Its a cynical world and we do in fact live in business of competitors.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Imitation and Gender Insubordination
Binary is intelligible.
Construction of what it means to be man/woman is oppressive.
The history of itself is in fact influx.
Sexuality, Gender, and sex, are not exclusive.
The representation of something always has access.
The Midiam is the message.
The way you receive the message already bias your way of in taking that message.
T.V is what creates our reality.
News is represented as “reality”.

In class we watched a few scenes from the film Team America World Police. This animated film was used as a satire representation of created clich├ęs and stereotypes on American and Politics in many other popular big budget films. The title of the movie comes from political criticism that U.S one-sidedly tries to control or “police” the world. We also see the current representation and stereotypes of the Middle Eastern other.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knocked up

This week our classmates shared their presentation of the film “Knocked Up” which happens to be one of my favorite romantic comedies.

This film can be seen as both traditional and non-traditional romantic because it’s a story about two strangers (Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl,) who meet each other at a club, have sex, don’t see each other for months and then try to figure out what they are going do with their lives after they realize they are going to have an unintended pregnancy. After struggling to figure out if they are compatible enough to stay together, they finally do, which is totally traditional.

Seth Rogans Character is a lazy, nerdy immature pot smoking jobless guy, where As in Katherine Heighls character is everything opposite.
Her character is smart, beautiful and has a career in television business to develop.
A classmate pointed out that the only way Seth Rogans character was able to get the girl in the first place was because she was “under the influence of alcohol” when they had sex.

Overall I think this was a good example of radical romance.
Not really the traditional boy meets girl, boy peruses girl, boy gets girl boy looses girl boy wins girl back.