“How the Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes” (pages 380-383)Engaging the Text (page 383, questions 1-4)

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1. De Tocqueville’s assumption is that domestic and private roles are the most natural and appropriate for women, while public roles as well as rough manual labour are best suited to men. Although this bias still persists in American culture to some extent, it is an attitude the most part seems antiquated, as it is no longer generally accepted that a women is biologically and physically unsuited to public and physical roles. However, de Tocqueville’s assumption that a woman has equal mental and emotional capacities as a women seems more contemporary, and more progressive for his time.

2. De Tocqueville feels that European men assume a double-standard with regard to women, denying them equal mental and emotional capacities, and at the same time denying them respect. He feels that by acknowledging women’s mental and emotional equality, and treating them with respect, American attitudes towards women are superior.

3. When de Tocqueville chides European women for using the rights of women as an excuse for sinful or unbecoming behaviour, he seems to be suggesting that feminists such as Wollstonecraft are unfeminine in their insistence on equality with men, and his suggestion that they should instead pursue equality along the lines of American women is his response to their arguments.

4. De Tocqueville approves of mental and emotional equality between men and women, but he disapproves of equality in social roles and physical activities. This is because he believes women are naturally physically different to men, and that this means God has not intended them to fulfil the same physical and social activities.

Exploring Connections (page 384, question 5)
5.While de Tocqueville feels that gender is biologically defined and therefore ordained by god, Devor feels that gender is a sociological construct – that children are not born naturally one gender or another, but instead they are taught by society whether to act as a male or female.

“Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender” (pages 387-395)
Engaging the Text (pages 395-396 questions 1-5)
1. My experience confirms that most language does present gender as binary and permanent, because the basic tools of language such as pronouns assume either one gender or another, without leaving room for identities that include both. Alternatives are social understandings of gender not based on biology, where language includes categories for different gender roles regardless of biological indicators.

2. Devor thinks that children learn their gender from the values of those around them. The generalized other refers to the bulk of society from whom the child learns gender values; the significant other, in contrast, refers to those people whose values are particularly important to the child’s understanding of gender, such as a mother or a father.

3. The “I” refers to the person’s view of themselves as a unique individual, while the “me” refers to the individual’s understanding of themselves as a part of society. For example, I might see myself as unique for rejecting the values of capitalist culture as an “I”, but still recognise the necessity of having a job to survive in society as a “me”.

4. Activities such as using cosmetics to improve one’s appearance, or creating a comfortable home are considered characteristically feminine, while activities such as engaging in physical conflict or activity are considered characteristically masculine. Behaviours such as spending time with friends are considered acceptable cross-gender behaviours, because they do not involve a significant physical or biological component and can be either public or private. The rule might be, therefore, that gendered behaviours are determined by biology and whether they can be considered public or private.

5. All of the aspects of traditional gender roles describes by Devor seem to be constantly changing in modern society, as understanding of gender as a social construct grows, and more people are willing to experiment with gender through technology and behavioural changes.

Exploring Connections (page 396 questions 6 and 8)
6. De Tocqueville’s views of men and women support patriarchal gender schema in that he sees the restricted position of women in society as a natural, biological and God-ordained situation, thereby assuming masculine superiority and right to lead and control.

8. These transgender children challenge the view of gender as binary and permanent by demonstrating the process of gender identity construction, and showing how fluid it can be.

Visual Portfolio: Reading Images of Gender (pages 411-417)
Reading Images of Gender (pages 418-419, questions 1-8)

1. It is a hot summer day, and these boys are all friends in the same neighbourhood, cooling down and relaxing. They are shooting at another group of boys, friends of theirs – the boys have organized themselves into two groups to shoot at each other. A social scientist, however, might see the boys as working together to reinforce gender stereotypes, confirming each other’s concepts of masculinity as centring on conflict and demonstrations of physical ability.

2. These women are assessing the clothes they hold up for how they match their own self-images and desired identities of attractiveness and social status. The photograph is similar to the following photograph, in which the young girl is viewing herself in a wedding veil as a means of imagining her future identity as an expression of her gender. In the third photograph, the women are well dressed and appear to have more confidence than the young man, suggesting that their clothes signal their social status which is more important than their gender in this scenario. In all of the scenes, however, the women construct their female identities through their physical expressions of sex appeal through clothing.

3. The young woman stands awkwardly, and her gaze is slipping away from her reflecting, suggesting she is shy and feels out of place. Her clothes do not fit well with the veil, almost as if she is playing dressing up. It suggests that she is imagining her future as a bride, but does not feel comfortable with that role as regards her current self-identity.

4. Adopting the character of the young boy in the foreground, these well-dressed and confident young women are intimidating, both because of their gender – it is not acceptable to defend yourself against “girls”, and because their clothing suggests a higher social status. I am feeling embarrassed, and angry, and on the defensive, as well as unsure about myself.

5. The baby is anywhere between 6 months and 1 year old. Although the baby may be vaguely aware of what a computer is supposed to do, this is mostly just random play – imitating actions that he/she has seen grown-ups doing. I don’t think young children should be encouraged in computer use, as it is seductive in the consumer sense and discourages more active and imaginative forms of play – children will have no choice in the modern age about interacting with computers when they go to school and work later in life, so in childhood, other forms of exploration should be encouraged.

6. The photographer has captured a feeling of affection and discovery. The lighting, setting, stance and expression all invite the viewer to feel as though they are looking in on a private and intimidate experience; the child’s stance is trusting, and the father’s suggests he is almost studying his child as well as adoring her and holding her close.

7. I think “masculinity” would be an appropriate title for this piece. The man is physically very masculine, with a muscular build and square jaw. However, his holding the bay so affectionately challenges the usual public/domestic divide in gender, suggesting that the photograph is challenging traditional assumptions about masculinity. However, by avoiding these issues in his title, the photographer allows the image to speak for itself, without imposing preconceived ideas about gender onto it.

8. This photograph suggests spontaneity and joy – genuine expressions of love. At the same time, the juxtaposition of this expression of unconventional sexuality alongside such loaded symbols of American identity suggest that tolerance, diversity and love are essentially American characteristics, making this a very strong and patriotic image.

“From Fly-Girls to Bitches and Hos” (pages 455-460)
Engaging the Text (page 460 questions 1-5)

1. The writer admires rap for being candid and honest expression of pain and identity. However, she is afraid that it encourages male and female fans to accept their low self-assessments, instead of using hip-hop as a means of addressing the issues of the black community. I would agree that Hip Hop expresses misogyny, anger and despair, and that it also suggests a negative side to racial pride.

2. Morgan’s evidence is based on statistics about the lives of black people, from the life expectancy of men, to the number of all-black marriages, to the number of homicides of black men by black men. Her evidence is convincing, but probably does not show the whole, unbiased picture.

3. Morgan wants Hip Hop to be the starting point not for further disagreement within the black community, but for genuine communication and resolution of problems. One means of creating that space might be for more female and feminist artists to also become more involved in Hip Hop.

4. Morgan is addressing an audience of people who both love and hate rap for the same reasons she does – she uses academic and scientific knowledge as well as slang language to show that engaging in feminism does not have to mean betraying your racial roots.

5. I agree with Morgan’s attitude, because she identifies the fact that most unacceptable behaviour stems from an underlying problem, and our society already recognises in other areas that cure is better than punishment.

“’Bros Before Hos’: The Guy Code” (pages 461-470)
Engaging the Text (pages 470-471 questions. 1-5)

1. For Kimmel, his experience has shown him that most men feel that a lack of emotion and empathy, together with success, are important aspects of the “guy code”. In my experience, even men who don’t admit to these values often ascribe to them secretly. I would also agree that these values are very restricting to men, as they do not fit with what women have come to expect and admire, meaning men are admitted to feel one way and act another for both men and women in their lives.

2. Boys become men by studying the behaviour of other men, and because they want to be evaluated in positive ways by other men. This affects their emotional development and relationships, because they make very little reference to the judgements and opinions of the women they need to form relationships with.

3. The most obvious example of gender policing is in school, where other boys are always comparing themselves and each other with regard to how masculine they are behaving. If a guy acts in a non-masculine way, other boys will make fun of him or criticise him, and shown no understanding or pity, and will assume he is a failure. This can have a long-lasting affect, it can change a boy’s self-identity and self-esteem and put him under a lot of pressure to conform.

4. Because men define themselves in relation to being “not female”, homophobia is a big part of masculine identity, as sexuality and biology are crucial to a man’s social identity.

5. Kimmel’s explanation of masculine identity explains why social problems such as those identified by Morgan and Kilbourne are inseparable from gender conflicts – because men need to feel that they are socially successful and powerful, they struggle against alternative social views as well as struggling amongst themselves for status.

  • Colombo, Gary, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.