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Gender Stereotypes and Western Ideologies in Media

Imagine being stuck in a time loop where you are persistently vouching for the rejection of old traditions pertaining to gender stereotypes and Western ideologies. But, always in the end the men with institutional power rise above your words and have an inconceivable amount of influence over society. No matter how much you chant, talk or fight, you always lose. Gender stereotypes have been deeply ingrained into human beings consciously and unconsciously. And to be honest, how do the men with institutional power even have this much control over society? The answer is with media and capitalism. We as a society consume mass amounts of media and live in a capitalistic economy that fuels off of our consumption and purchase of products. Of course it is fused with unconscious subliminals and a dash of the yearn to control women. Consequently, gender stereotypes are further encouraged by media and capitalism.

There are various forms of media used to control the influence of gender stereotypes but film is a visual story-teller that encourages unconscious ideologies like no other. Naomi Wolf explains it best in her text “The Beauty Myth”. It states, “The resulting hallucination materializes, for women, as something all too real. No longer just an idea, it becomes three-dimensional, incorporating within itself how women live and how they do not live: It becomes the Iron Maiden. The original Iron Maiden was a medieval German instrument of torture, a body-shaped casket painted with the limbs and features of a lovely, smiling young woman” (Wolf 3). The women that do not meet the standards of what it means to be a woman are subject to punishment. They will not find love because no one wants them to bear their child and they will be shunned from society. It is exactly like being placed in the Iron Maiden forced to conform to what society wants you to be while you live unhappily. A perfect example of this is in the feminist horror film Jennifer’s Body which challenges the false ideologies set in place for what categorizes as femininity and addresses women’s rights in a frightening way. 

Jennifer defies the gender stereotypes set in stone for femininity or I would say, uses it to her advantage. As the monstrous feminine Jennifer lures in her male victims through oozing sex appeal, scares them and disembowels them. She feeds on their organs but is fueled by their fear. Jennifer is the complete opposite of what would be categorized as feminine traits, she is aggressive, dominant and independent and as a result she is rejected. This film takes the ideologies set in stone for female sexual identity and the generic stereotypes with the goal to encourage women to realize mens fears is women that can inflict the pain they do. 

Although Jennifer was visibly not conforming to the ideologies set in stone for women and was rejected, the women that strived to be the perfect housewives were also rejected and and even unseen. For example it states in the text “Women, Race and Class” written by Angel Davis, “(The woman) has been isolated in the home, forced to carry out work that is considered unskilled…Her role in the cycle of production remained invisible because only the product of her labor, the laborer, was visible” (Davis 233). It is clear that the women will always deal with the short end of the stick because nothing we do is ever perfect. Even being the perfect housewife that fends off the fear that she is letting life escape her while she is chained to her home is not enough. Being a full time parent is not enough. But women are still influenced by these stereotypes and forced to fulfill them.

In addition, gender stereotypes are further controlled by capitalism. For example in the text, “Women, Race and Class” by Angela Davis, states, “The “housewife” reflected a partial reality, for she was really a symbol of the economic prosperity enjoyed by the emerging working classes” (Davis 229). As a result of the house wife being the symbol of economic prosperity it added another layer of what it meant to be the perfect housewife and that was spending money excessively. Although women were forced to fit the mold of what it meant to be a housewife or else their motherhood was at stake, they were now seen as what Seccombe states “the housewife has tremendous ‘purchasing power’ and that her ‘changing tastes’ affect the market place dramatically, they portray housewives as superficial social parasites, consuming but never producing” (Seccombe 1).

I have come to the conclusion that it is not about us women being enough. We can conform to gender stereotypes and blindly abide to Western ideologies unconsciously or consciously. But men will still yearn to have control and I am willing to fight for a change. Overall, gender stereotypes are further controlled by media and capitalism.

References:

11. Angela Y. Davis. “Women, Race and Class”.2

32. Wally Seccombe. “The Housewife and Her Labour Under Capitalism”.4

52. Naomi Wolf. “The Beauty Myth”.6

Footnotes

One thought on “Gender Stereotypes and Western Ideologies in Media

  1. Estrella Paucar Paredes (She/her)

    Hey Aliyah,

    I enjoyed reading your piece. It is very relatable in many households back then and in the present time. Due to how our family members were raised, we take this on to future generations thinking it is the right way to educate the newer generations, which is wrong. Women and men deserve the same respect and none should feel rejected for their identity. I think this is something we should all take in and teach our younger generation that these types of ideologies are wrong.

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