What common themes are present in this video?
The video’s primary themes involve the harmful effects of reductive gender stereotypes especially with regard to the media children consume. The video’s creator suggests that various forms of media, especially those geared toward children and young people, are rife with traditional gender stereotypes which limit men and women to certain methods of expression and being. The reinforcement of these gender stereotypes work to limit people and negatively affect their sense of well-being if they deviate from those stereotypes. The creator of the video invokes the notion of symbolic interactionism, or the looking glass self, which describes the ways in which people think others perceive them. She links symbolic interactionism to gender stereotyping in the media as one of the ways in which gender stereotyping is proliferated among people of all ages (Reinig 2012). When young people learn to act a certain way based upon various aspects of their own life (in this case, their biological sex), they become self-conscious if they don’t fulfill the role they’re supposed to fill. The video pinpoints certain examples within Disney films which espouse basic gender roles as evidence of this phenomenon. She suggests that the heroes and heroines of Disney films nearly always adhere to basic gender stereotypes. In doing so, they communicate that those are the natural roles for men and women.
According to the video, what roles are men expected to fulfill? What roles are women expected to fulfill?
According to the video, men and women are supposed to fulfill distinct roles outside and within the home. Men are supposed to go to work in order to financially support a family while women are supposed to stay home to fulfill various domestic duties (cleaning, cooking, child care, etc.). The video features clips from the classic doll experiment in which young children are presented with boy and girl dolls and asked to indicate which doll goes to work, which doll stays home, etc. The children in this particular clip appear to be pre-school age and are able to assign “traditional” roles to the “traditional” gender (Reinig 2012). This clip was included to show how early children can pick up the sub-texts present within the media regarding social roles. It seems that the video is suggesting that the roles men and women play, though limiting, are traditionally intended to be complimentary. Further, these roles hearken back to earlier conceptions about divisions of labor and the notions of the public and private spheres in which men occupy the former and women occupy the latter. Of course, those narrow divisions do not necessarily account for socio-economic factors; historically and in the modern age, many women must work in order to support themselves and their families. Adhering to the traditional feminine role of remaining within the home is simply not feasible.
How do you think these images can affect our attitudes and our expectations for gender roles?
Such images serve as a traditional blueprint for the ways in which men and women should conduct themselves and clash with ideas about healthy self-expression. If people deviate from that blueprint, that affects how people see themselves and how others perceive them. If one does not adhere to traditional gender roles and they’re punished in some way for it, it would cause them to question the place of those gender roles. There are also those who largely conform to traditional gender roles and possibly look down on those who don’t conform. Images in various forms of media have most likely had a part in their embrace of gender stereotypes. The video focuses on images in modern children’s media, but these gender stereotypes are also present in many parts of life: adult media, divisions of labor (both domestic and professional), various relationship dynamics, etc. To see constant reinforcement of these stereotypes might lead one to believe they’re valid and based in truth.
What does it mean to act like a man? What words or expectations come to mind?
Manliness seems to be an expression of strength in all forms. To act like a man indicates one is physically, mentally, and emotionally strong. Someone who acts manly controls their emotions—especially with regard to sensitivity and revealing sadness, grief, etc.). Manliness seems to include traits like courage, bravery, responsible, independence, assertiveness, and resilience. Manly men are hard workers who aren’t afraid of physical labor or feats and they get the job done, so to speak. There’s a sexual component of manliness as well. An aspect of true or genuine manliness is the idea of irresistibility with regard to women—a manly man will never suffer from lack of attention from the opposite sex and he’s a desirable partner. Lastly, the idea of manliness seems connected to a certain kind of respectability among other men and a certain kind of gentlemanliness in relation to other women.
What does it mean to be ladylike? What words or expectations do you think of?
Ladylike indicates femininity in both appearance and manner. Ladylike women dress fashionably but somewhat modestly. They’re graceful, kind, inclusive and welcoming of others, nonthreatening, and classy. A lady is definitely not sexually promiscuous or a serial dater, but engages in romantic relationships slowly and carefully. In the last few decades, it appears ladylike has also come to encompass ideas about confidence, doing well in the workplace, and raising children while pursuing a fulfilling career. Again, however, these things are all done in a way that doesn’t threaten other people and ensures that the ladylike woman in question also fulfills domestic expectations placed on women. It also seems like there are certain racial and socio-economic expectations associated with the idea of ladylike. Women of color and those from less privileged backgrounds have more hurdles to jump to be deemed ladylike.
Are there social consequences when we do not live up to or display behavior that argues with these stereotypes?
If people do not fulfill these stereotypes in whole or in part, they may face varying degrees of social exclusion or punishment. Some of these exclusions or punishments might include lack of friendship or romantic partners, teasing and other verbal abuse, and accusations about someone’s sexuality or biological sex. These consequences might lead to a variety of mental health problems or possibly escalate into physical retaliation. The last listed social consequence, accusations regarding sex and sexuality, seem especially devastating. If someone does not perform their gender correctly, they’re assumed to be gay or queer. While the status and social perception of LGBTQ+ individuals are rapidly improving, gendered epithets and slurs involving homosexuality are still common. Accusations of homosexuality often come in response to men who are effeminate or women who are masculine. Of course, these are not accurate indicators of one’s sexual preferences and such accusations are increasingly becoming relics of a time when homosexuality was deemed unacceptable.