Labeling Men and Women


This post is in response to my cousin’s post on Gender Roles (click HERE to read a bit of it).

I mentioned before that I am taking a class called Anthropology of Gender, which I am loving. I have also analyzed gender roles in several of my other classes to the point where I might consider myself to be well versed in the topic.

Recently I wrote a paper analyzing gender roles and what it “essentially” means to be a man or a woman in society. This hits on several of the issues brought up in the post Raeana wrote.

The essence of humanity is language and communication based on shared meanings and concepts. Concepts and labels play a huge role in the Sex and the City movie. Male, female, masculine, feminine, single, married, bride and groom are all labels that effect how a person is perceived. Yet, despite the biases or stereotypes that arise from placing labels on people, these labels are essential to our society. Categorizing people, ideas, and creating standards that we as humans are supposed to meet, not for ourselves but for acceptance by society as a whole. A major label that affects humans from birth is the label of boy, girl and what that essentially means for the course of our lives. In the Sex and the City movie, these gender roles and labeled molds are put out into the open, questioned, scrutinized and reformatted giving way to the most ambiguous label of them all: love.

That was just the intro! If you’re interested expand this post to continue reading or click HERE.

The power of words are important. Words are loaded with default assumptions that affect our actions toward that object or person. Humans are wired to name and categorize things. Even going back to the beginning of the bible it states, “In the beginning was the word.” One of Adam’s first tasks was to name everything he saw before him. However, when these default assumptions become incorrect, or do not match reality it creates problems.

This excerpt from the feminine mystique questions what these labels mean and the roles they create that people are forced to follow:

How could we ever really know or love each other as long as we kept playing those roles that kept us from knowing or being ourselves? Weren’t men as well as women still locked in lonely isolation, alienation, no matter how many sexual acrobatics they put their bodies through? Weren’t men dying too young, suppressing fears and tears and their own tenderness? It seemed to me that men weren’t really the enemy-they were fellow victims, suffering from on outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill. -Betty Friedon The Feminine Mystique (1973)’ (Kimmel 261)

“Gender culture is a generic term for the variety of ways in which persons are shaped by socialized sex-role expectations and ways in which sex differences are manifested” (Dubeck and Dunn 16). Communication is based on symbols. Symbolic interactionists have a theory that adheres to this ideology: “Symbolic interactionists are interested in the process of assigning meaning to actions and in the responses that follow” (O’Brien 64). Symbolic Interactionism is based upon three premises “First, human beings act toward the physical objects and other beings in their environment on the basis of the meanings that these things have for them. Second, these meanings derive from the social interaction between and among individuals. Third, these meanings are established and modified through an interpretive process” (41). This theory both supports and explains the idea of the meaning of the titles we place onto people and how they are directly connected to our actions toward in whether it is a person, thing, or emotion as illustrated throughout the movie. For example, “The signs ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ signify more than the location of toilets. They reflect deeply etched mental lines representing gender, one of the most basic boundaries of difference in our culture” (427).

The paper then goes into examples from the movie and then I have this kicker conclusion where I say that despite everything the label of love triumphed all.

The issue of gender roles are so deep. Especially since within the English Language itself the words we uses create bias. Man is the default to include both males and females while Woman is specific, and specialized for only females. Women cannot be the standard, or the norm, women are the “other” and thus must be specifically referenced.

Woman’s universal secondary status can be explored by a variety of examples. I will address that in part II of this post. You can view more posts about this issue at my other site

Soon, I will be transferring my entire daily blog over to my site at I will still keep Society and Style alive through posting interviews once a month, but I will no longer be updating it daily after November 1st. SO IF YOU HAVE THIS BLOG ON YOUR LINK LIST OR IN YOUR FAVORITES BE SURE TO ADD WWW.HERAGENDA.COM TO CONTINUE TO FOLLOW MY JOURNEY IN ADDITION TO THE BLOGS OF OTHER EMPOWERED FEMALES.



  • JLa ; SiEMPRE DiVA

    I personally did not enjoy the paper.. or the excerpt of this paper. seemed a lil disorganized quite a few topics discussed briefly and a lil inadequately i believe and quite bias to the feministic persuasion. You say that the label "Woman" sets us apart as the "other" gender.. assigning negative connotation or rather negative motive for that. I personally believe it is a positive motive, that the Female is assigned because of the mystique & the superior ability in terms of reproduction and motherly attributes of the term. Man can apply to both because we are human, but ONLY woman can conceive, only woman can be mother. And quite interestingly enough earth nature is woman.

    October 8, 2008

    thanks for the commentary. You may be right about the disorganization and briefness being that I did not post the entire paper which further embellished on my points with examples from the movie that I felt would have been entirely too much for a blog post.

    You bring up an interesting perspective also about the other side of the spectrum, turning the negatives into positives. I will def bring it up in class. None of our readings mention those.

    One piece however does say that woman’s universal secondary status is attributed to them being seen as being closer to nature. And so essentially female is to male as nature is to culture. Culture attempts to conquer and control nature. Females are the natural reproducers and closer to nature because of their involvement in the process of reproducing human nature. However, men, unequipped to do this must be creative artificially through technology, and culture. And so if females are parallel to nature its one reason for our supposed secondary status to men– the culture bearers.

    October 9, 2008

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