Gender Roles: Stereotypical Elements

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The following project features the complexity of various concepts explored in the Cultures to Cultures unit. Particularly, elements of essentialism and non-essentialism dynamically cooperate with the crafting of stereotyping in order to formulate the composition of the piece.

The social roles of men and women in the workplace and home space have been embedded within our society for decades. According to the United Nations of Human rights “A gender stereotype is a generalised view about attributes or characteristics ought to be possessed by women and men.” (UN, Human rights, officer of the higher commission.) This stereotyping derives from predefined notions leading to a gendered division of labour and domestic roles. Popular media representations and social assumptions depict women as lacking in power, these existing notions have evoked incongruent income earnings and position of employment between the man and woman. Children grow up watching television shows, observing the ways in which men are “strong” and women are “submissive,” they learn that boys like blue and girls like pink. Stereotypes vary all around us. As depicted in the creative piece, these stereotypes become evident in the nineteenth century expectations within the domestic sphere, women have mostly played the major caretaker role, required to stay home and abide to the criteria of cooking, cleaning and fulfilling their role as a mother. It develops a tendency to represent women as subservient and traditional. Men are stereotyped to suppress emotion and uphold masculinity thus are characterised as tougher and implies that due to gender, behaviour is impacted. Furthermore, This conflicting distribution of what men and women are like, arise gender stereotypical assumptions.

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The theory of essentialism and non essentialism is applicable to the issue presented in the project. Essentialism sees culture as a concrete social phenomenon which represents the essential character of a particular nation (Holliday, 1999). This is the belief that all members (all women or all men) share qualities that make them who they are and gender can be strongly essentialised. An essentialist viewpoint may categorise a persons gender as part of their identity. Essentialism presumes a universal homogeneity in a culture, evidently, that all women are expected to adhere to to the universal phenomenon of staying home, to cook, to clean, to get married and have children. As depicted through the poster, historically, women were viewed collectively as inferior, as mothers confined by societal pressures. In line with this, many arguments often draw on gender essentialist assumptions that women and men are distinctly naturally different, and due to this, propose arguments that one gender is genetically more superior than the other causing conflict in the workplace. Alternatively, more contemporary versions of this argument tend to acknowledge that men and women bring complementary skills to bring to the workplace and brings about non essentialist motives. As society moves away from these essentialised notions, the rise in a non essentialist viewpoint emerges the freedom for men and women to break these traditional roles rather than gender being apart of ones identity. Non essentialism rejects the idea that cultures have set boundaries, it imposes that we can use, distort and negotiate the collective rules, cultural practices and relationships. The project mimics elements of this through the contemporary version of a woman’s ideals whereby she breaks traditional gender roles in her aspirations to build a career, make money and look after herself before the pressure of children is embedded onto her. Gayatry Spivak coined the term ‘strategic essentialism’ refers to the way in which marginalised groups may put aside differences and use essentialism in a strategic way, that is in solidarity. The empowered modern woman represents non-essentialist perspectives, she aspires to be an educated, worldly, working woman in the same way as a man would and forms strategic essentialism in a feminist movement. This non essentialist view expresses that cultural attributes can circulate through society.

In essence, the piece explores stereotypical elements regarding the thematic concept of gender roles in society, particularly historical perspectives of representation of women, along with the expectations imposed upon them. This is juxtaposed by the modern day outlook, which works to combat these essentialized notions by setting the framework for a more non essentialised way of thinking through the empowerment of women to gain a sense of freedom. 


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