Gender + Popular Culture

Like many others, my idea of gender has changed drastically since childhood, and even more so since my early twenties. It was not so long ago that without being aware, I was following in line with the social constructs that I have unknowingly been subject to, since day one. Through discussion, reading, and gender studies classes, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that gender is a learned idea and the constraints on us all, as a result of this truth.pic

My earliest memory of noticing these social constructs must be from when I was roughly eight years old. I was dressing up my younger brothers (per their requests) in my outfits and putting clips in their hair. When my Mother saw what we were doing, I thought smoke might actually begin blowing from her ears. I will never forget my confusion when she said “You can’t put them in dresses. They’re boys! You’ll confuse them!” Even at that young age, I understood that there were simply ideas about gender that I did not agree with.

If a boy wanted to wear a dress, why couldn’t he?

As age and life experience has brought about a certain level of awareness of the fact that we do gender, what has remained in the background (or at least my background) is the way in which these ideas are not only introduced but also rein20692a42083820eb1c35c31eb752fdad.jpgforced in our modern day, North American society.

Two words: Popular Culture

Lets take apart this ad for a moment. While on a surface level, this ad may be marketing Special K cereal, it’s strengthening a much larger idea than breakfast. It’s utilizing the already present ideals set in place for women and what it means to be a woman and associating them with the cereal. Eating this cereal will work alongside your beauty routine, eating this cereal will give you the same hour glass shape the bowls image and reflection creates on the model, and above all, eating this cereal will make you FABULOUS. #cantpinchaninch

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Why Pop Culture Matters

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is seen all too often as a harmless indulgence in entertainment and far too little seen as the most powerful platform in (arguably) the world, that it is. This platform is feasibly responsible for influencing our ideas on everything from gender and relationships to self-image and self-worth. How can we be so naive to think that this overwhelmingly evident yet oftentimes unnoticed sector, does not hugely impact us?

And how does this play into gender studies?

I’m just going to say it: Pop Culture is everywhere. Because of this, women are growing up, not only being subject to male gaze but also viewing themselves through it. Male gaze is training men and women alike to view women as the viewed and men as the viewers, and it is not a new idea. 491967330

This truth has struck a bit of a cord with me. I’ve begun thinking about the things I like and in this, realizing that much of this is seen through this tunnel vision. One example is the artwork  roy_lichtenstein_nude_with_red_shirt_d5621949gof Roy Lichtenstein which I have adored since as long as I can remember. Lichtenstein uses a common focus of one specific woman in much of his work. I was hard-pressed to find an image where she was not seen through the male gaze – but couldn’t. I wonder how many other things I enjoy just like Lichtenstein’s work, have unknowingly shaped my ideas of what it means to be a woman.

I wonder too, how has media unknowingly shaped other sectors of life that impact me? What it means to be constantly viewed and on display?

Is this why I feel the need to do my hair and makeup before leaving the house, but my boyfriend can simply role out of bed, good-to-go?

Is this why I prefer working out in the women’s room at my gym? Do I inadvertently shy away from the rest of the gym because I see it as men’s territory? Or is it because I don’t deem my body as male-gaze, ready?

Does this mean I should not like the things that I like or does it mean that I’ve been taught to like the things that I like?  

These questions are problematic in so many ways, and if I’m being honest, I don’t have a definitive answer for even one of them. Through identifying this idea of male gaze in pop culture and becoming increasingly aware through active discussion among other things, we (all of us!) will better equip ourselves to grow towards autonomy regardless of the images and messages surrounding us. While we cannot deny the impact popular culture has, we can control how aware we are. If nothing more, it’s at least a start.

Where do Men Fit in?

Hegemonic masculinity is something that without previously knowing the term, I think on at least some level, I have always been aware of. For the majority of my childhood, I grew up in a single parent home, with a Mother who was my soul caregiver.

I remember from this early age, knowing that my family dynamic did not fit into the cookie cutter image that had been popularized as normal. My Mother was both breadwinner and homemaker, there to pay the mortgage bills, harp on me to practice martial arts, and have dinner table-ready when I got home from school to boot! I grew up with the idea that women could do it all, because this woman really had. I also know of many situations where this role was played equally well with the sole parent being a Father.

Men, like women, are constructed and deconstructed. This idea that men are the strong caregivers, while women are simply passive and needy undermines not only women but men too! When what is in your nature, is something seen against what society deems appropriate, you are being put in a box, and that is never okay. Women might be kept under a glass ceiling but men are victims of similar restraint as well.

When we look at the idea of language (a necessary stepping stone in popular culture), it is impossible to not see the how it relates gender to power. One example of this that I was recently reminded of, is the upcoming passing of Canadian politician, Mauril Belanger’s  Bill C-210  to change the lyrics of O Canada from “all our sons command” to a more gender neutral, “all of us command”.

Havflag.jpging now passed the Senate, C-210 is well on its way to officially being changed. One only needs to look as far as the public feedback on the bill to see that as a country, the term man is not under one universal definition. The dissatisfaction expressed from so many in parliament alone, stands to reason that we are a split nation in this regard.

By drawing attention (through the many facets of pop culture) to the implications these separations in opinion, have on society, it is my hope that our overall ideals will change to a more realistic and unified tune. People are people after all; nothing more, and nothing less.

Continue reading “Where do Men Fit in?”

Celebrity Feminism

As  a celebrity, Emma Watson is well aware of the platform she has and she is well know for mindfully using her fame like a podium with which to draw attention to the causes of her choosing. When she came into the picture as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, I remember the impact of her first speech which introduced the public to her campaign HeForShe. While there was a lot of praise for Watson, I also remember a lot of the opposite as well. Many felt that she was too far removed from issues of suppression to have a voice. Personally, I was impressed with Watson then, and I still am now. In more recent news, Watson has also caused a bit of an uproar with her new film, the remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Watson has definitely received a bit of skepticism in regards to her acceptance of the role of Belle who is commonly thought to be a victim of stockholm syndrome. While I can’t go too far into my opinion yet (ask me again in March), I can say that I’m impressed with the influence she has had so far. To this point, we know that Watson refused to wear a corset and has influenced the role of Belle as being not only a bookworm, but an inventor just like her Father. By encouraging development of the character, and cutting ties to certain expectations for women (and in this case, Disney heroines), Watson is quietly utilizing her power as a pop culture icon, to draw change into pop culture media. In my opinion, that’s a pretty huge feat!

While reading about Watson and Beyonce, and the debates surrounding their claims of feminism, my mind kept wandering to another celebrity who has suffered a great deal of ridicule over the years for not falling in line with ideas of how women should act. tumblr_nqqwj46s331uxcda4o1_1280While she may not be a spokes-model for modesty, I find Miley Cyrus to be a fantastic example of Feminism. She has used her massive platform of celebrity to raise awareness to the many issues (gender and otherwise) supported through her nonprofit organization

Feminism, much like gender, does not simply have one presence. Sure, feminism can be done wrong in a lot of ways, but it can also be done in incredibly abundant right ways too. Let’s start celebrating that!

…Okay?