Femininity, Masculinity & Femininity, Why Feminism

Femininity

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The very idea that there are “opposite” sexes unnecessarily polarized women and men; it isolates us from one another and exaggerates our differences” (Serano 2016: 103). In this way, according to Serano, it is possible to project other oppositions on to ‘men’ (and ‘masculinity’) and ‘women’ (and ‘femininity’), such as aggressive and strong (men) in contrast to passive and weak (women).

In the documentary Miss Representation (2011) (Investigates the under-representation of women in powerful positions in the States and challenges the media’s very limited portration of what it means to be a woman in power) Ed.D., writer, and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne, state that:

Girls get the message from very early on that what’s most important is how they look. That their value, their worth, depends on that (…) We get it from advertising, from films. We get it from television shows, videogames – everywhere we look

(Kilbourne i Newsome & Acquaro 2011: 01:46)

The things young girls are submitted to as natural truths affect how they do their gender later in life. This is evident in relation to the sexy body as a power tool. Because of this belief, it is important to make sure the body remains sexy through constant attention, surveillance, and discipline. This is reinforced by the media, since the sexy body is central to the discussion of what it means to be feminine, which is why, the sexy body is one of the most important aspects of being a woman (Gill 2016: 255). The way in which the media constructs this need to look a certain way can be seen in relation to the focus on ‘reclaiming’ the right to sexuality (jf. Fourth Wave Feminism), in which a new subject position has been created: The sexual entrepreneur (Harvey & Gill 2013: 52). Sexual entrepreneurship, inspired by Foucault’s notion of power, is a term, that can be used to explain gender, power, and resistance. In Foucault’s later work, he viewed the subject as a result of ‘technologies of the self’, where the subject has a form of co-determination though it is still limited by certain discourses .

This is useful when looking at sexuality in which there are two notions that both make up the idea of sexual entrepenaurship: : ‘sexual subjectification’ (Gill) (how power works in and through subjects) and ‘technology of sexiness’ (Radner) (the literary heroin has gone from having to protect her virginity to appearing as a attractive, heterosexual individual, that focuses on her looks through makeup, clothes and training).

This subject-position (offered by prevalent discourses) means that women today present themselves in an objectifying way, since they see themselves as sexual subjects rather than objects (interpellation):

Nowhere is this clearer than in advertising which has responded to feminist critiques by constructing a new figure to sell to young women: the sexually autonomous heterosexual young woman who plays with her sexual power and is forever ‘up for it’

(Gill 2016: 258)


 

Sources

Gill, Rosalind (2016): Gender and the Media, Polity Press. ISBN-10: 0-7456-1273-3

Harvey, Laura & Gill, Rosalind (2013): “Spicing It Up: Sexual Entrepreneurs and The Sex Inspectors” in New Femininities. Postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity. Scharff, Christina & Gill, Rosalind. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 978-1-137-33986-7

Newsom, Jennifer Siebel and Acquaro, Kimberlee (2011): Miss Representation, Girls’ Club Entertainment

Kimmel, Masculinity, Masculinity & Femininity, Why Feminism

Masculinity

Since gender is constructed, equality is about transforming culture in a way that does not limit nor dictate either boys or girls to do their gender in a certain way. We therefore find, that it is crucial to involve men and masculinity in the fight for gender equality. Not just as advocates, as many have been, but also on a theoretical level. Because, if hyperfemininity is unhealthy for girls, how healthy is hypermasculinity for boys (and women)?

The Masculine Identity

Kimmel thinks, it is crucial to involve masculinity in the feminist approach to gender. This, because masculinity should be redefined in a way, that dis-associates it from violence, power, and entitlement, so that we as a society can protect both men and women. Political researcher and teacher Dr. Caroline Heldman supports this in the documentary The Mask You Live In (2015) (Looks at how our limited definition of masculinity hurts boys, men, and society at large)

We raise boys to become men whose very identity is based on rejecting the feminine and then we are surprised when they don’t see women as being fully human (…) we set boys up to grow into men who disrespect women at a fundamental level

(Heldman i Newsom 2015: 27:35)

Kimmel points to the fact, that the debate about masculinity already exists, the problem is, that it is invisible. He emphasises this by asking:

(…) what gender comes to mind when I invoke the following current American problems: “teen violence,” “gang violence,” “suburban violence,” “drug violence,” “violence in schools”? And what gender comes to mind when I say the words “suicide bomber” or “terrorist hijacker”?

(Kimmel 2017: 9)

The answer is simple: men. Young men. From lower social classes. Trouble is, according to Kimmel, that the debate surrounding this fail to mention that the idea of masculinity is an important factor (ibid.). Especially the hegemonic definition of masculinity is a problem for men’s self-image:

(…) young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, a recent record in sports … Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself – during moments at least – as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior

(Kimmel 2017: 10)

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Masculinity and the Media

Kimmel argues that the media reflects gender identities that already exists in society today by having ‘his’ and ‘her’ media (Kimmel 2017: 352). In relation to this, he points out that women can read and watch ‘his media’, but men perceive ‘her media’ as degrading and as a thread to his masculinity (ibid.). Language too, is a factor that creates inequality between genders, since role models such as parents or coaches use phrases like ‘You play like a girl’, ‘Don’t be a girl about it’, ‘Man up’, og ‘Soft crap’? (Newsom 2015: 43:25). Serano supports this, since she thinks true equality can only be achieved, when boys learn to embrace ‘girl’s stuff’: “Because male pride is not really about pride. It’s about fear – the fear of being seen as feminine. And that’s why “girl stuff” is so dangerous” (Serano 2016: 316).


 

Sources

Newsom, Jennifer Siebel (2015): The Mask You Live In, The Representation Project.

Kimmel, Michael (2017): The Gendered Society. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN: 9780190260323

Serano, Julia (2016): Whipping Girl – a Transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Berkeley CA, Seal Press. ISBN-13: 978-1-58005-622-9

Why Feminism

Why Feminism?

It is not enough to inquire into how women might become more fully represented in language and politics. Feminist critique ought also to understand how the category of “woman”, the subject of feminism, is produced and restrained by the very structures of power through which emancipation is sought

(Butler 2008: 4)

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Queer theoretician, philosopher, and professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at University of California, Judith Butler was, among others, inspired by the French philosopher, existentialist and feminist, Simone De Beauvoir. In 1949 De Beauvoir asked the question: what is a woman? in her book The Second Gender and in relation to that question underlined the fact that, one is not born a woman – one becomes a woman:

No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine (…) an Other

(De Beauvoir 1997: 295)

With this in mind, we want to present a shortened historic overview of what the term ‘feminism’ really is. Adding to that, we want to understand how feminism has affected the media, women’s sense of self, and the rights of women. Our point of origin for writing this, is, besides Butler’s admonition, inspired by Associate Professor in Culture, Media and Creative industries, Dr. Christina Scharff, who points out that the new, public, feminist debate lacks the input of academic knowledge. This results in an oversimplified debate and historically inaccurate information, which ultimately creates a negative image of second wave feminists, especially. Additionally, the trouble of the new ‘mainstream’ feminist approach leaves little room for queer theory, leaving them incapable of changing the heteronormative way in which we view the world. Scharff therefore calls for intersectional analysis, whereby we can acknowledge certain categories of identity such as ‘white’, ‘heterosexual’, and ‘upper class’ as oppressive factors in the life of minorities (Scharff 2013: 274).

More books like “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”, please!

What makes up the category of ‘woman’? How has she been defined in respect to the image of man? What happened when she actively started to take part and the fight for her own self definition? And what does the idea of women’s liberation actually mean?

We might be explaining the history of feminism in the United States, but we are of the understanding that feminism in the United States is connected to the general fight for equality in the Global North (Chakravarty & Mortensen 2016: 9).

Lecturer in history, Leigh Ann Wheeler, explains why it is important to look at women’s history. The understanding of gender roles and gender differences has changed drastically throughout history, which is why it is important to understand that our notion of history is constructed: it should never be seen as ‘natural’ or definitive. According to Wheeler, an understanding of women’s history can challenge and change the existing idea of gender roles dominating society today:

(…) it [women’s history] shows us that we (…) are products of history but we are also agents of history whether we are first ladies, movement leaders, homemakers, waitresses, factory workers, teachers or students. We are all making history, everyday

(Wheeler 2012: 14:40)

This is especially important, since history books today rarely mention women. Maria Perstedt, chief of ‘Kvindehistorisk Museum’ (Museum of the History of Women) in Umeå, Sweden, points to a survey in Sweden that indicates only 13% of the people mentioned in history books are women. In the 1800s (a period in which many history books were written) it was actively decided not to include experiences, actions, and knowledge that belonged to women. This is a problem to this day, since it reinforces the idea that men have always been in power, making it ‘natural’ and unquestionable (Perstedt 2015).

Since there is no agreement as to whether we can discuss waves of feminism or not, and if so, then how many, we use professor of history and chairwoman of Center for Gender Equity, Martha Ramptons’ notion. She talks about feminism as divided into four waves (Rampton 2015).

If you want to know more about the waves, check out these links: 
First-Wave Feminism
Second-Wave Feminism
Third-Wave Feminism
Fourth-Wave Feminism (?)