Shaken and Stirred

Gun Silouhette

We are travelling through the history of gender identity: starting with Shakespeare and then progressing to the 1900s, we’ve proved that gender is not a concrete thing, it is what we make it. Now I want to make a modern example of how far gender performance has advanced…or hasn’t.
I’ll give you a hint…when I say (hot) British spy, lots of cool gadgets and technology and most importantly, drop-dead gorgeous women, who do you think of? If you guessed James Bond, you get the gold star for this post. Bond is infamous for his women-his relationships with them, and his inability to resist them even when they want to kill him. Regardless of whether they want to do him or dispose of him, the various representations of female characters in the James Bond films have drastically changed since the first film premiered in 1962.

Sean Connery was the first ever James Bond in 1962

Sean Connery was the first ever James Bond in 1962

That first movie Dr. No, with Sean Connery as James Bond, set the precedent for how Bond girls were to be perceived in the coming decades. Until Pierce Brosonan took over as Bond in 1999, Bond girls were pretty much damsels in distress that needed to be rescued, or girls with guns that didn’t know how to use them. Of course, Bond would always swoop in and save them at the last minute, but still, what kind of portrayal of women was that? These films were (and are) immensely popular. Social Cognitive Theory argues that individuals will observe, imitate and learn from others, even fictional others, in order to monitor their own behaviours and values (Neuendorf et. al., 748). We already know that gender is social constructed, so if this is the picture of women being given to society to follow, women in society would think it would be a good idea to all look like and act like Bond girls.

Tanya Roberts and Roger Moore in "A View to A Kill"

Tanya Roberts and Roger Moore in “A View to A Kill”

One of the standout Bond movies for the atrocious depiction of women is the 1985 A View to A Kill. Roger Moore is Bond and Tanya Roberts is Stacey Sutton, the film’s love interest. Throughout the entire movie, she does absolutely nothing to help Bond, only stands and watches or does something silly to try to help. I was pretty horrified at this view of women, especially in a Bond flick from the 80s.

In most of the Bond movies pre-21st century there have been moments were women are degraded at the hands of the infamous spy. These are a product of society at the time, and it is no surprise that in the later 90s the perception of women in the movies began to change; there was an increased interest in gender-based literature at this time (Brown 152). Since all of the Bond movies are based on novels or short stories by Ian Fleming, there was a concerted effort to change the way women were viewed.
Once the 21st Century hit, the Bond girls became increasingly useful in the movies. While they were still objectified as sex objects, they sometimes also had a hand in the action…and were sometimes even cast as villains. The culmination of this advancement for me was in the 2002 flick Die Another Day, where Halle Berry played Jinx, a CIA agent that became the object of Bond’s affections. While he still slept with her, she had a mission other than a personal vendetta against the villain, and knew how to carry it out. This progression of women is furthered in the 2008 film Quantum of Solace, where Bond doesn’t even sleep with the object of his affections, and she carries a gun with just as much skill as he does.

The identities of women in the Bond films has progressed along a parallel with society’s views of women-as the years progressed they became a less concrete identity and became more fluid, to the point that now they are almost transferrable with a masculine identity. No Bond film will ever see a woman who doesn’t need Bond for something (largely because that defines half his character), but they have admittedly changed to embody multiple “I-slots” at a time as women of society do.

My favourite James Bond

My favourite James Bond

I am a huge Bond fan-despite his atrocious treatment of women in some of the past movies, there’s just something about him I find appealing. That said, maybe I’m just conforming to the ideas society wants me to have about how he treats our fairer species. Then again, if I was complicit I probably wouldn’t be writing this post…
Our journey through the ages of gender identity has been enlightening for me and I hope for you as well. I know in my research I learned a lot about the perception of gender, specifically women, and how that is changing and growing in our society as we move forward. I think gender is something that will always be socially constructed, but as long as we realize that life is a stage, and we as gendered individuals play on it, it might be easier to find our own gender identities.

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La Cage aux Folles, One-Upped

Here is a great example of a work that reflects the struggle with gender identity we all face. My classmate does a great job in pointing out how gender can resist social norms and expectations.

Who Wears The Pants?

51WFQ930PQLCaryl Churchill’s 1976 play, Cloud 9, shows her “continuing obsession with questions of identity of identity – a theme that unifies much of her work…” (Klein).  The published front cover of Cloud 9 alludes to the ambiguity of identity through its artwork.  The characters within the play are constantly challenging gender stereotypical roles.  Churchill alludes to this notion with the picture of a colonial’s head, a woman’s naked body, and someone’s sneakered feet where the gender is left uncertain.  Before a reader opens the play they must first look at the front cover.  Similarly, if audience members go to watch the play performed live, they will encounter a poster or image on the front of a cast pamphlet.  With these images, they are made aware that this is an unusual production.  The bizarre aspect of cross casting is something that Churchill intentionally chose for her play.  Take a look…

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A Different Kind of Beauty

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I found the inspiration for this post from one of my peer, Jessica’s blog, who posted about a similar topic. I read on the internet a few weeks ago that there was a store in Sweden that had put mannequins on display that were sizes 6 and 10. People around the world supported it to a certain degree, but there were still complaints that the mannequins were not “traditional” enough. Why are we so determined to perpetuate gender conformity? The ideals of what is “sexy” in society directy affect the construction of identity for gendered individuals-no matter what gender(s) you identify with.
How many of us look at people around us to see how we compare to their appearance? I know I do. When we perpetuate the ideals of gender conformity-that everyone must be a certain size and look a certain way- it compeletly destroys the ability of gendered individuals to form an identity within society. How can we feel comfortable in our own skin when we cannot find someone to relate to in society?woman silouhette
This societal confusion is portrayed in literature too-people are described in print culture in the way that society expects them to be-slim, attractive and with a womanly figure. For example, in “Penelope”, Molly Bloom describes how even she has to conform to society’s ideals of fashion, “I felt rotten simply with the old rubbishy dress that I lost the leads out of the tails with no cut in it but theyre coming into fashion again I bought it simply to please him” (Joyce 10). Even though we have already established that Molly does not conform to gender roles in their entirety, she definitely must conform to society’s expectations of how a woman should look. I think that’s sad. In Bloom’s time, it was unheard of for a woman to wear short skirts or have her petticoats (undergarments) showing. You couldn’t go outside unless you were dressed properly, and that ideal has been carried forward into today’s society, enforcing our stereotypical gender roles by dictating to people how they should dress…which then affects how they think of themselves. Molly doesn’t like her dress, but she must buy it to please the male shopkeeper, that gets to dictate what is appropriate for her to wear as a woman in society at that time. This prevents her from expressing her identity through her clothing, because she is being forced to conform to some absurd societal norm. And since what we read in literature and see in the media has a huge impact on society, these gender-specific clothing norms have carried on from Molly’s society into our modern era.
Have you ever asked someone, “Does this make me look fat?” That question should be banned from society. We should be perpetuating everyone’s beauty in all its diverse forms, not demeaning people based on their size. There is a slow movement within our media toward showing different kinds of beauty, and focusing more on the beauty on the inside of people than on the outside. Inner beauty is absolutetly important, but as long as our society values outer appearance, gender conformity through appearance will continue. It needs to stop, because everyone truly is beautiful in their own way, and on the stage of life, everyone should be free to choose their own costume, regardless of how they identify as a gendered individual. Below you will find some pictures of beauty in some of its various forms. This is not an exclusive list. And yes, I have included a picture of myself here. This is not to be vain,  but hey, I’m not a size 0, and I like to think that I should be able to think of myself as beautiful(even if slightly sunburned here) too. It’s a universal right that should not be dictated by society…so take that, Victoria’s Secret.

cross dressing manold-womansupermodelFull Meplus size beauty

This is a very unique idea! I think everyone should try this at one point.

M.E. Kinkade

Gender is a pretty fundamental part of a character description. Even the name you pick generally gives you a hint of who this person you’re reading about is going to be. Failing that, you can fall back on the physical description; dresses tend to indicate women (sorry Scotland!), while a manly man might wear weathered boots and heft an axe. And if even that is pretty vague, at least you’ve got pronouns to rely on when the author gets tired of calling the character by name.

But in interactive fiction and gamebooks, you, as the author can’t utilize those standbys. After all, your reader could be male, female, old, young, or, heck, even an alien. And since they are taking on your story from the driver’s seat, so to speak, the author can’t be telling them too much about who they are. After all, you can’t address the reader…

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Molly’s Masquerade: A Mirror Up to Nature?

While Joyce constructs Molly to be recognized within society, the entire chapter is one consistent stream of thoughts. Aside from being completely revolutionary at the time and (let’s face it) a little odd, Joyce may have had an ulterior motive. The idea that gender is socially constructed is something that has been argued, and something that has been under debate ever since. Riley argues that we as people do not actually have a gender, that we are constantly performing in a way that society expects (35). This is also known as the (specifically female) masquerade. Thus, by writing Molly only in thoughts, Joyce allows her to escape that masquerade and mimic what she sees in society around her instead (Devlin 70). The idea of escaping this masquerade is really important to achieve Joyce’s purpose, because by doing so he allows Molly to

Molly participates in "the female masquerade"

Molly participates in “the female masquerade”

escape the internalization of society’s ideals. Devlin argues that instead of participating in the masquerade, Molly mimics that which she sees around her, thus allowing her to manipulate the traits society expects of women to suit her own personality, without completely losing her own identity (71). I wish we could all be like Molly! To me, this is such a refreshing idea in the field of gender studies-to not completely abandon what society wants from us (because honestly to win them all over is impossible) but to have a unique identity while doing so! We’re progressing slowly: people are starting to abandon their traditional ideals of what gender should be. But, as I mentioned in Sufficient Sexualities, there is still a lot of expectation for everyone to fit into those nice little boxes that society loves to stuff people into so much.
Despite her revolutions and inconstancies, Molly has sometimes been described as a stereotype, because at the end she succumbs to the will of her husband: “and yes I said yes I will Yes” (Joyce 29). However, I think there is an important distinction to be made between that of a stereotype and that of an archetype-a distinction I admit I didn’t know existed. A stereotype is defined as “a standardized mental picture held in common by members of a group” (Devlin 73). So, arguably, the stereotype could be women and the group that holds it could be men…or society in general. An archetype, however, is defined as “a conjugal model, form or pattern from

An archetype is an idea inherited through the experiences of a certain "race"

An archetype is an idea inherited through the experiences of a certain “race”

which something is made”. The definition that I feel applies to Molly Bloom, however, is that of Carl Jung’s archetype: “an inherited idea or mode of though derived from the experiences of the “race” and present in the individual” (Devlin 73). Apart from defining women as a “race”, I think Jung hit it right on the head. Molly is not an exact reproduction of the woman society wants her to be; she inherits those ideas through her experiences and makes them her own. This is proven because to some degree, she attempts to conform herself to the exfirst kiss 01pected cultural images of femininity. Really, though, she is almost critiquing them at the same time she is impersonating them, thus making her unique from other women in society. For example, at one point she talks about having sex, “…for all with all the talk of the world about it people make its only the first time after that its just the ordinary do it and think no more about it why cant you kiss a man without going and marrying him…”(Joyce 3). She conforms to a woman’s duty to consummate with her husband, yet rejects traditional gender expectations by asking why she can’t kiss a man before marrying him (a gender expectation at the time Ulysses was written).
Molly is an archetype of the gender expectations of society, and represents Joyce’s efforts to change the way women are viewed within that society. Like Sylvia Beach, Molly Bloom has several identities-she doesn’t fit into one “I-slot” at a time. I hope you’re starting to get by now that none of us do…we’re all just players, and life is our stage. We can be whoever we want to be on it; contrary to popular belief we are not bound by the rules of society and their unrealistic expectations. If you’re still not quite convinced, here’s an interesting tidbit: “Penelope” in Latin means “countenance of webs” or “mask” (Devlin 72).

spiders-web

“Sweet” Molly…

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A rhododendron, which Molly Bloom references at the end of her soliloquy

We have now established that women are capable of embodying more than one “I-slot” at a time, and have the potential to have influence on their own identity constructs. I want to focus now on another revolutionary woman, though this time a fictional one.
While Sylvia Beach made waves in the printing industry, James Joyce made waves in the literary world with his first novel Ulysses. Sylvia clearly saw some merit in it to think it worth her time to publish, but people just plain didn’t like it. It slowly sold in Europe on the continent, but England and the West regarded it as an absolute abhorrence. Boatloads of it were dumped into Lake Erie to prevent smuggled copies from reaching the mainland. You may think, why all this fuss, for a book? A large reason was because of its final chapter, written entirely from a female perspective about the main character of the novel’s wife, Molly Bloom. It is this female character I want to talk about, and see how she danced through the stage of life as a very interestingly gendered individual.

Judith Butler Quote
“Penelope” is a description of a woman’s thought process throughout the day-and yes, as a woman reading it, it was somewhat disturbing, though surprisingly accurate at times.
Joyce uses phrases that construct Molly Bloom as a woman, and invites his readers to occupy a defined female space while reading it (Brown 153). According to Judith Butler, this identification of a female space allows Bloom to be recognized within society, something we all crave as gendered persons (121). However, once readers occupy that space, it also provides opportunity for a concrete gender construction, which is not something that we want to happen…because then those pesky men place sexual agency (among other things) on we women, and we go back to being good little Angels in the House. That is not what I feel like Joyce was trying to accomplish by writing “Penelope”. The video clip here demonstrates that while Molly is aware of her own sexuality, she is not going to let Ulysses dictate what she should do with it. She is completely in control of her sexuality, and is able to use it to get what she wants.
Instead of depicting women in a traditional way, I feel like Joyce was trying do provide a view that I have already touched on: that gender does not always come in nice neat little boxes like we want it to. Joyce has gender roles present in his chapter, sure, but they are not always invoked. For example, when Molly is with the soldier, Mulvey, she “makes him blush”. This is a huge deal, because as a soldier he is the symbol of masculinity, yet blushing is associated with femininity (Brown 154-55). There are several instances in the chapter like this one, where Molly does not think “like a woman” and therefore disproves that ancient belief people seem to have that gender is some sort of inherent thing we all have inside us. To me, that belief just seems silly. Molly is proof that we do not all walk around as women thinking, “Oh, if I do that, is it girly enough?”. Too much trouble, if you ask me. Her absence of “clear” feminine thinking has presented her as a contradictory character, and so she has been misconstrued as illogical. However, I think that her contradictions are what allow her to inhabit more than one “I-slot” at a time and make sure that she does not get pigeonholed as a certain kind of woman. For, as Butler argues, it is only through the “constitutive power of the performative…which provides the occasion…for consequential disobedience” (122). In not so many big words, it is only through rebellion that change happens, and Joyce is clearly trying to change how women are viewed through writing Molly.

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a classical image of Molly Bloon

Wearing the Pants in Print Culture: Sylvia Beach

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Sylvia Beach outside her shop, Shakespeare and Company

For a long time, it’s been a man’s world, and women have often been secondary, subjugated and sometimes non-existent. The field of print culture is no exception, but for some of the small bookshops on the Left Bank of Paris in the early 1900s. One of them was run by Sylvia Beach, who would be responsible for publishing the influential work Ulysses. Despite being a woman at a time when women were supposed to be housewives, Beach showed the world that a woman could wear the pants in a relationship and be successful in the man’s world of print culture.

I think it is important to think about what Beach actually accomplished in the printing world as a woman. A huge example of this is that Beach, without even knowing it, embodied the Main Principles of L’Ecriture Feminine specified by Helene Cixous:

  1. Not invested in gender alone, so there are no specific rules to follow
  2. Share and try everything, but make an informed decision
  3. It is the journey that is important, not the end point, because the journey inspires passion

(Humphreys)

Despite sounding like something out of a self-help book, Cixous makes very valid points when it comes to gender in the world of literature. Beach, without making any specific reference to attempting to do so, embodied all of these traits through running her bookshop, Shakespeare and Company. She had many friends of all genders, and was not opposed to alternative lifestyles of her friends. It has been speculated that she and her friend Adrienne Monnier were lovers, despite there never being an open reference to such in her autobiography, Shakespeare and Company (Humphreys).

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The cover of Ulysses, the novel Beach published

Beach was also ran a very informal book-lending club, where people could sign out books and bring them back, similar to a library. She was willing to share her collection with anyone and everyone, and trusted the people she lent books to would return them. She also applied her open-mindedness to her publishing practices. Once word got out that she had facilitated the publishing of James Joyce’s Ulysseswhen no one else would, writers from all over Paris would ask her to publish their less well known works. While she never published anything again, Beach would always read their work and evaluate it fairly before deciding whether or not to publish it.

Finally, Beach had no plans or grand designs when she opened Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Throughout her career as the proprietor, she took what came her way and survived with what she had. Though at times the store almost went bankrupt or had to be closed down, the fact that Beach wandered through the difficulties of owning a bookshop seemingly without a care in the world.

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Beach and Joyce together at Shakespeare and Company

Not only does Sylvia Beach make advances for her gender in the world of female printing, she does so for female identity as well. A common misconception is that James Joyce approached her with his manuscript, then took advantage of the young American woman and coerced her into publishing it. According to her autobiography this is not the case; in fact, Beach almost reverses the gender roles of she and Joyce. She describes him as having, “Eyes a deep blue…were extremely beautiful…His hair was thick, sandy colored, wavy…he gave an impression of sensitiveness exceeding any I had ever known”(36). A sentence earlier, she describes herself as having a “tough little paw” (Beach 35). By almost reversing these gender descriptors, Beach places herself as the authority figure in the relationship and manipulates the Nominal Essence of the gender roles. Diana Fuss describes Nominal Essence as the ranking and labeling of things not according to the real essence in them but the complex ideas in us (Fuss 24). Clearly, Beach labels herself as more masculine according to the ideas she has of herself, and Joyce as someone who needs to be mothered and taken care of.

Through her embodiment of L’Ecriture Feminine and the manipulating of the Nominal Essence in the relationship with Joyce, Sylvia Beach was a pioneer in the world of literature. Shakespeare and Company closed after WWII, and she really is not well known for her achievements. I know I had never heard of her. As Beach proved though, it is not about what is between your legs that gets you success; it’s about how you play your role on the stage of life.

Sufficient Sexualities? Gender Roles in The Twelfth Night and She’s the Man

Are you confused yet? As the trailer demonstrated, the idea of cross dressing is one that is still pretty foreign in our society, but has been around since the Ancient Chinese dynasties (Liu 2.1). In more modern times (though still a while ago), Shakespeare addressed the issue in his play The Twelfth Night.
Why, in Shakespeare’s seemingly conservative time is cross-dressing being talked about? It largely has to do with the fact that gender roles and cross-dressing were thought of differently in Shakespeare’s time than it is today. It was almost more okay in Shakespeare’s time to cross-dress, because women were banned from being onstage until 1660, so any female roles were played by boys (Liu 2.1). Therefore, it made sense that boys would have to dress up in woman’s clothing to successfully portray any of Shakespeare’s female characters.
Despite the largely accepted social phenomenon, The Twelfth Night still remains one of the more sensationalized plays that Shakespeare produced, because it focuses on cross-dressing itself. It was accepted in Shakespearean society that boys would play women, but it was also a social taboo-it wasn’t something you talked about at the dinner table. In his play, the Bard has one of the main characters, Viola, dress up as a man to be a page to a prominent Duke. She A girl playing a boy (but not actually a boy, like in Shakespeare’s time)assumes the name Cesario, and is put in charge of wooing the Lady Olivia on the Duke’s behalf. Olivia falls in love with Cesario, and Viola (in disguise) falls in love with the Duke, and this leads to all sorts of confusion with who represents what gender.
The issue arises when Viola’s character is broken down even more. Dorwick argues, “The double reality, of the body on one hand and the costumes and makeup on the other, is enough to force a simultaneous reading of the boy actress as not just a male in drag but a Males played female roles during Shakespeare's timemale and female figure” (74). People in Shakespeare’s time were not entirely keen on a boy playing a girl playing a boy…who was in love with a man. This was because the boy actress was seen to have a fluid gender, and that meant that he could have one sex, but perform as both a male and female (Dorwick 76). As a result, he could inhabit more than one “I-slot”, something that Fuss argues is essential for the true understanding of what it means to be a woman or a man (34). However, it created ambiguity as to what gender the boy actually was, and how he should act…and people, even in Shakespeare’s time, like things to be black and white.
The idea that women (and men) should act a certai n way is certainly not new either, but less accepted today than it was in Shakespeare’s time. Viola dressing as a man in the play was seen as acceptable at the time, but when she was dressed as a woman she still had to be the socially produced person that Riley argues women have become (24).
The 2006 movie “She’s the Man” is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, and reframes the issues that he raises about cross-dressing in a different way. The same love triangles exist, but in the movie, the main character Viola dresses up as her brother and goes to boarding school to play soccer. This means that she is on an equal playing field (pun intended) with the other boys, so she must do what all of the other guys do to “be a man”. The filmmakers increase the tension between whether or not she is a man on a woman (though somewhat ineffectively). Viola in The Twelfth Night, however, is exempt from any of the things that both the Duke she serves and the Lady that loves her as Cesario would do, because she has accepted the station of a page (Dorwick 78). This allows her to return to her womanly station when she is alone, and therefore be true to her sex, as would have been the expected gender performance of the time. While in disguise, however, both Violas adopt the gender identity of those (the men) they are impersonating, so this gives them the legitimacy to act like a man (Liu 2.1) and helps to keep up their respective deceits until the end of the play and the movie.
While, at the end of the movie, the distinction between man and woman is clear-as Viola takes off her wig and becomes a woman once and for all. Since she has only been imtwelfth-night3jpg-3123f1385e6fe0fd_largeitating her brother, and definitely loves Duke (the leading male), there is an absence of a homosexual relationship (Dorwick 78). Shakespeare however, wasn’t so sure. At the end of his play, Viola does not remove her masculine clothes despite declaring her love for Orsino, and having his love declared back to her. Now, apart from the obvious thing-that if she removed her man clothes she would be naked-this also signifies a blurring of the lines between women and men…because despite changing her voice and dress, Viola the woman and Cesario the man are the same person. So, at the end of the play, now the audience is faced with the issue that the boy playing a girl is no longer playing a boy, but still looks like one; this implies that there is a bisexual relationship between Cesario/Viola and Orsino (Dorwick 79). Bisexuality was not high on the list of accepted traits in Shakespeare’s time, so the audience would have not been really impressed with the ambiguity at the end of the play, despite the comedic conclusion they had expected.
Dorwick argues that She’s the Man and The Twelfth Night “confirm heterosexuality, but recognize that it is not sufficient for the complex lives of very human characters” (79). This relates back to Riley’s argument about subject-positions. Do any of us ever embody only one I-slot at a time? I don’t think so…we inhabit multiple I-slots at a time, and thereby create fluidity in our gender performances. We don’t have to think like the opposite gender to act like them or understand them, and so why is our society so hung up on the fact that what’s between your legs dictates how we should act within society?