Femininity and masculinity as single identities
We have been asked to look at the following question ‘It is no longer possible in contemporary society to interpret femininity and masculinity as single identities’. Explain and critically assess this view illustrating your answers with reference to sociological theory, concepts and research. From the minute we are born our gender identity begins even thou we are not conscious of it. We are allocated roles, like buying pink clothes, dolls, and teapots for girls, and blue clothes, monsters, and cars for boys. The media create and reinforce gender by publishing separate male and female magazines with the female magazines reporting on real life stories and male ones based mainly on cars, motorbikes and sports etc. Laquer argues that “the body is like an actor on stage; ready to take on the roles assigned it by culture”. Joan Smith 1997 reports that ‘Men and women become different because they are treated different’. Mead 1962 reports that femininity / masculinity is a culture conditionally rather than biological. Traditionally when we were born we are given gender based names like Pamela or Peter but names like Charlie or Taylor are now being given and they are unisex names. In today’s world we see men with longer hairstyle, wearing jewellery, buying and using cosmetics and men being more conscious about their looks and fashion sense.
Traditional characteristics of males would have been aggressive, having control on emotions, competitive, strong etc and woman would have been the opposite passive, emotional, weak etc. The male characteristics can be seen through the media as they play a big role in reporting in femininity and masculinity roles. One example of this is David Beckham being shown as a hegemonic/new man. He is shown in different views by the media for example in one story he will be publicised as hard / energetic football player and then on the other hand it is reported showing him expressing his feminine side through many of channels for example being a real loving husband and father, by him taking part in photo shoots and designing perfume and after shave ranges. This sort of man is known as a metro –sexual man, looking after himself. Whannell Garry describes Beckham as ‘He changes appearance more often than football clubs change their away strip, moving effortlessly from being a top footballer to a family man to a hard man’. Mac and Ghaill (1996) report that ‘crisis in masculinity’ If we look at an article that Carolyn Jackson wrote ‘Policing Ladettes’ she describes how women are now seen to be ‘heavy drinking, loudness, coarseness and a desire to party and have fun’ this would have been normal / traditional characteristics associated with males.
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Girls/ladies in Britain who are now taking on these masculine roles and are getting involved in gangs and crime. Females now in Britain now have more control over their femininity, values especially having more control over their sexual options meaning that they can now choose to prevent a pregnancy by taking contraceptive pills or on the other side by deciding to undergo IVF treatment. Seidler 2006 reports on dual femininity that Asian girls have traditional role in the home but adopt a more questioning femininity outside the home. Feminist for example Purdy (1997) argue that women are disadvantaged and exploited in family relationships largely because of child care responsibilities. Purdy reports that she believes that the only way to bring home to men the sacrifices of child rearing is for women is to stop having children – through a baby strike. It is argued if our behaviour is natural, instinctive or how much we learn or socially constructed. For example we learn human behaviour and our primary socialisation skills from our parents from a young age for example eating habits, speaking, walking standing etc and this can also be seen by parents learning their children to play with toys for example girls watch their parents washes the dishes, hovering and they copy.
This is also seen by children copying their mums by wanting to put make up on. Secondary socialisation is behaviour reinforced from many sources for example society, peers, religious institutions, the media and workplace. Secondary socialisation in schools/education is when people learn the norms formal (written) or informal (unwritten), values, what is behaviour is socially accepted and the social limitations and barriers that can be pushed. They are a number of types of feminism, for example a few of them are liberal, marxist, radical and difference. Liberal’s protest against sex discrimination and equality for women in today’s world including in the work place. They want to ensure that women are paid equally as men in the workplace when carrying out the same job roles. Marxist for example Benston protest that women reproduce the labour force. There are a number of factors that can influence a person’s femininity / masculinity some examples of these is religion, education, peers, income and social class etc.
All of these things play a role in peoples life’s. The media also play a big part of people’s femininity / masculinity as they report on what the stars are doing. According to Matthews – Baldock 1985 emphasises that changes have occurred in femininity over the 20th century, from women revealing their femininity through submissive acts unpaid work to women’s emancipation and allowance in joining the workforce. Behaviour based on instinct differ from behaviour based on culture for example culture includes the value, beliefs, customs and rules were as examples of instinct is regulations that are put in place. Postmodernists contend that changes/differences in gender roles are having a positive effect on female identity. Sharpe (1994) suggests that young female are becoming more assertive about their rights. Moreover there has been a rise in the number of divorces initiated by women.
One way that our femininity and masculinity boundaries/characteristics have changed is through economic changes as we are now seeing males and females carrying out different roles whether it is the house, work or socially. Factories have closed and men have been paid off. Examples of these changes are when we are seeing more females gaining better job prospects which see them going out to work and more men giving up their jobs and staying at home to be house husbands, minding the kids and doing most of the chores that a woman would have been seen to do.