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Sociology Field Assignment

Summarizing Erving Goffmans Ideas


Sex versus Gender:
Sex is a determined at birth based on physical characteristics, mostly by
pertaining to the genitalia. Gender is a learned identity that culture decides which gender
an individual should align with. There is nothing biological about gender, it is created
through gender display and code, or how an individual should behave because of their
gender.

Male versus Female (Masculine versus Feminine):


Feminine traits are portrayed as: weak, soft, passive, delicate, submissive, and
vulnerable. Females are meant to be inferior to their male counterparts, defenseless and in
need of protection, dependent on companionship, gentle, and mild-mannered.
Masculinity is defined by what it is not, which is the opposite of feminine. It
includes being strong, hard, active, rugged, dominant, and powerful. Males are the
protectors, alert and aware at all times, intimidating, independent, and in control at all
times.

Gender as a Social Construct versus Natural Sexuality:


Natural heterosexuality is our innate desires to be drawn to the opposite sex.
Heterosexual males look for a younger, more slender female that seems capable of
carrying his offspring. Heterosexual females look for a male with a bigger build for
security, while also taking much interest in his occupational ability to possibly support
her financially.
While the social construct remains true in some parts for both males and females,
there is a big difference. For example, as stated by Sut Jhally in the movie Codes of
Gender, the strategic use of pose is not an abstract historical process, but one that is
guided by a particular imagination or set of interests. It is the imagination or interests of
a selective few individuals that shapes gender preferences through repeated exposure of
these poses in media images.

Impact of Media Images on Social Behavior:


The use of media images tries to give off a sense of commercial realism: trying to
portray the world in ways that could be real. This is ironic because it paints an idealistic
symbol to some, more than a realistic image to most. Through the use of poses, media has
implanted ideals of what it is like to be male and female.

Feminine Poses Masculine Poses


1. Female hands are not assertive, not 1. Male hands are firm, commanding,
in control of environment, delicate, utilitarian, powerful, and
loosely holding items if at all commanding
2. The prone/recumbent position and 2. Standing tall, alert and focused at
head up position, symbolizing all time, ready to fight if need be
defenselessness and submission 3. Little emotion to no emotion at all
3. Poses such as a bent knee, head shown in most media images

tilted to one side suggest off- 4. Showing a passing of right with


balance posture their father or authority figure to
4. Over exaggeration of emotions to show that they have left childhood
the fullest extent behind
5. Never seeming to have left 5. Only time shown vulnerable is
childhood, still wanting to be a girl when pictures of brokers are
at heart dealing with hard financial times
6. Hiding behind walls, clothing,
arms, man for protection

These poses reinforce the cultural biases for masculine and feminine traits that I
stated above, as originally proposed by Erving Goffman. These images silently enforce
both males and females to behave in the way these images portray them, and shape our
genders into the mould that a few select individuals believe our genders should behave.

Complied Data and Analysis of Observations in Genders/Sexuality


The first source I got my compiled data from is a very non-traditional source, but
still a relevant one, my old Yu-Gi-Oh cards! Its a card game from Japan that I used to
play growing up but the even the card arts still carry gender roles to them. For example, I
will be comparing Performance of Sword (Left, Female) to Honest (Right, Male).
Judging by just the art alone, you would think the character on the right would be
stronger than the one on the left in the game. In fact the opposite is true, the female card
is the stronger card and boasts quite considerable more attack power. The gender poses of
the knee bends, her mental focus is elsewhere, and her off-balance posture, suggest she is
less superior. The angel has an incredible physique, looks ready to fight, and is radiating
pure energy. Performance of Sword fits the stereotypical feminine mould as an erotic,
submissive dancer, and Honest is god-like in stature and is what masculinity should
aspire to be like.

This next example includes of my favorite symphonic metal bands, Epica. This
was one of the pictures on their website for their Quantum Enigma tour in 2015.
Simone Simons, the lead singer and most notable person in the band, is seen at the
forefront, which is symbolic of her position in the band. She is roughly the same height as
everyone in the band, but because she is closer to the camera and is the same height as
everyone in the picture, it makes the men seem bigger. Simones hair is also covering one
eye (hiding pose), and she has her hands on her right hip and left side of her chin,
suggesting a soft, passive nature, even though there are fireballs in the background. The
rest of the male band members are standing firm, focused, and intimidating as if they are
protecting their lead singer. This picture clearly confirms that gender roles stand firm,
even in the realm of metal.

I was watching the Chronicles of Riddick the other day, so I will be talking about
2 of the characters from that story, Riddick played by Vin Diesel and Kyra played by
Alexa Davalos. Riddick is a lone wolf, a criminal mercenary who is a highly wanted
fugitive across the universe. He is very independent, almost exclusively fights alone, and
is very successful in killing his enemies. Kyra after the first movie tries to emulate
Riddick by going solo across the galaxy, and even changes her name and persona to a
female version of Riddicks, but ultimately has to seek refuge with the Merks as a way to
survive. Kyra is often overrun by bigger stronger men in fights, relying mostly on blades
and kicks to evade her attackers. Despite her best efforts, Kyra is seen as defenseless in 5
times throughout the movie, and ultimately dies that way in Riddicks arms at the end of
the movie. Kyra tries to shake the gender roles bestowed upon her, but isnt as strong as
her male counterpart to remain independent. Riddick is portrayed as an all round badass
who is basically as immortal as a man could be.

One quick example here, the Edmonton Sun sunshine girl for Wednesday,
September 21s issue is the only mentioning of a female in the sports section that day.
She is seen sporting nothing but bra and panties, lightly tugging up her bosoms from the
top of the bra. The World Cup of Hockey athletes dominated the sports section, with the
pictures of Team Canadas athletes such as Matt Dechene, Carey Price, and Brent Burns
seen in action poses or hands up in the air celebrating a goal. The men are seen as
national heroes in sports, while the women in sports are obsolete and take a backseat to
the feminine character that has nothing to do with sports.

I went back to Japan for this next example, into the world of anime. Here is a
comparison between Teresa from Claymore (Left) and Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon
Crystal (Right). Teresa is part of an elite task force named after the swords they carry,
Claymores, to hunt down demons feasting on humans. She is the strongest warrior ever in
their ranks and is characterized by her faint smile. Even as an elite swordswoman, her
attention is elsewhere in this photo as she grasps her sword firmly while her hair is
blowing in the wind as to capture her femininity. Tuxedo Mask on the other hand is a
completely useless fighter, but as you can see in the picture, is needed for Sailor Moon to
be fulfilled. Even though she is clearly more powerful, she relies on him for protection as
is seen here, and is immediately subdued by his charm and dashing good looks. Teresa,
although carrying some superficial feminine traits, breaks the social code with her skills
with a sword, and no need for protection. Tuxedo Mask is a superhero that men should
aspire to be, and shows that the men have control over their female counterparts.

Here is a look at 2 different GQ magazine covers. Matt Damon on the left is


dressed very professionally, is sitting on top of a very expensive car, and just oozes
success. Kelly Rohrbach on the right is having beach photos done. She is tilted to the side
as supposed to Matts straightforward pose, and she is seen in very little clothing while
touching her hair and side. Her arm over her belly seems like she is bracing for
something, and seems seduced with whatever she is looking at. This suggests Matt
Damon is ready to take on any challenge thrown at him, and Kelly is underprepared and
unable to escape the situation she is in. Kelly fits the defenseless and subdued feminine
portrait for women, while Matt perfectly outlines the male model for success.

Here are 2 examples between recent movie posters. Star Wars has recently been
emphasizing women in larger roles within the franchise. Both Sabine and Hera from Star
Wars Rebels have seen major TV time, while Rey from The Force Awakens is the first
human female Jedi. In the movie poster, she is taller than every other character except
Kylo Ren, indicating her stature within the movie. She is armed, focused, and ready for
battle. Princess Leia then contradicts her stature in the movie hiding behind Han Solo in
the poster, even though she is a high ranking official within the rebellion, while Han is
just a pilot. In Snow White and the Huntsman, the main protagonist Snow White is seen
unaware and distracted by something else while the evil queen skulks behind her. The
Huntsman is ready to battle with 2 axes while his partner in battle is unarmed. It
reinforces her need for protection, and her passive nature. The evil queen is an
independent, unstoppable force. The queen and Rey defy the norms stated by Goffman,
while Snow White and Leia enforce it.

I was able to find men in struggling poses or positions of weakness through the
AHS Addiction Awareness Series pamphlets (A Drug Problem, A Gambling Problem,
and A Drinking Problem). I found all of these pamphlets inside the Students Association
office at NorQuest College. They all featured just a headshot of the men, while either
deep in thought with hands on their chins or a hand covering their face in shame. The
problem I have with these images is that they almost exclusively target men to have an
addiction problem. While men are the majority offenders in these categories, women
certainly have their own addiction problems.

Individual Reflections
Growing up playing Yu-Gi-Oh, I never considered gender role biases in the
artwork of the game I played. I just used the best cards available to me through their
strength and abilities. Not once did I ever consider a passive and subdued artwork of
Performance of Sword to seem like a detriment, her power is the reason I played her. The
only reason I ever swapped her out of my playing deck was because of newer, stronger
cards, a good portion of which also had traditional feminine artwork.
Listening to Epica for me is like being at an orchestra and a metal concert at the
same time. Simones soft, high-pitched operatic voice balances out the fast-paced, hard,
melodic chords being strummed by the guitarists and also eases the harshness of the
drums. To me, its a balance of yin and yang, light and dark, masculine and feminine. I
knew this going into this research project, but I think thats why I am so drawn to
symphonic metal to begin with. It brings 2 extremes together to create something
absolutely wonderful. Simone does look like what culture norms expect a female to
sound and look like, while the other strong and rugged band members display what male
members of a metal band should also sound and look like. The cultural music mould is
broken, but their gender roles remain intact.
Watching the Chronicles of Riddick was painfully unrealistic to me. How Riddick
kept escaping impossible situations single-handedly just seems like shenanigans, no
matter how ripped he is. Kyras roles is definitely more realistic, she can certainly hold
her own against a few attackers but eventually the numbers overwhelm her, which
doesnt seem to be a problem for Riddick. I had to laugh when Riddick killed a prison

guard with just his teacup. It was just too ridiculous. Riddick also survived 700+-Celsius
weather on the planet he was on while one of the background characters immediately
incinerated. Overall, I just couldnt take his role seriously. Riddick was way too
powerful, independent, in control, and just too overly masculine.
I have been personally disgusted with the lack of coverage placed on womens
sports for a while so seeing it excluded from the Suns sports section didnt surprise me
in the least. After all, viewership brings in the money. And sporting culture tells us that
leagues such as the NFL, NHL, MLB, CFL, NBA, etc are more important to watch, while
female variants of these sports are second to these, so channel coverage goes to these
leagues while women are mostly in the dark. In Canada, this is ironic due to evidence of
the past Rio Olympics where the women took home all but 4 medals for Canada.
Individual events will never get the sponsorship or viewership of team sports, but in
Canada the better athletic talent in terms of gender lies on the female side. Good luck
telling any NHL fan in Canada to switch permanently over to female hockey while the
Oilers miss the playoffs for another 10 years in a row. Rant over.
Anime, like movies, is starting to get better at putting female characters into
stronger protagonist roles. Sailor Moon does apply the gender codes hard, as the Sailor
scouts are often seen defenseless or overwhelmed very easily at times until Tuxedo Mask
comes in to help out. Its comical how the most useless person on the team is somehow
the most important behind Sailor Moon. It never crossed my mind watching the show
when I was 7 years old, but looking back now it just makes no sense. Newer action
animes like Claymore, Soul Eater, Bleach, Kill La Kill, Little Witch Academia are
chipping away at the gender moulds presented through Goffmans ideas. Female
protagonists can now defeat demons, Gods, dragons, and even clothing, and in some
shows are often the most powerful characters. Its refreshing to know that the fate of our
animated universe doesnt solely lie in the hands of men anymore. One of the reasons I
love Claymore so much is that the women are half human and half demon. They can pull
off traditional femininity when they want too, and transform into unthinkable creatures of
death and destruction when needed. I think its pretty cool.
Ive always hated magazines and GQ didnt change my opinion. Fashion
magazines paint completely unrealistic standards of living, dress, body image, etc. Its
completely unattainable for >99% of the population, and the fact that I dont have the
time to eat right and work out as much as Matt Damon does no good to my self-image
while Im in school. I can only imagine the image expectations it puts on women as well.
I will admit I have never paid any attention to the poses of these photo shoots. Looking
through this magazine was depressing for me, and I felt more and more disgusted with
my life the more I looked through it.
I would never recommend watching Snow White and the Huntsman so trust me
when I say Snow White is as passive, quiet, shy, soft, and defenseless as they can get in a
movie. As extremely feminine as Kristen Stewart was, Charlize Theron as the evil queen
was the complete opposite. She is independent, foreboding, and powerful, all while
maintaining her beauty. And even though the Huntsman was overmatched by the queen,
he still emulated all the qualities the evil queen portrayed in the film. I found the ending
to be unbelievable, how could such a defenseless person like Snow White defeat such a
stoic enemy? It went against all the gender role portrayals displayed throughout the entire
movie, and it left me confused.

Like I said earlier, Star Wars has done a lot to boost to validity of their female
characters recently. Rey is a perfect example. Its unfair really because she has no
weaknesses in the movie other than being captured once. She is a force-wielder, pilot,
engineer, mechanic, lock-picker, and apparently Jedi. She is unfeminine in the fact that
her clothing is very dirty and rugged from Jaku, its a hot planet so she is sweaty, she is
poor and lives alone, is an excellent problem solver; she basically goes against almost
every feminine stereotype. I like the direction that Star Wars is going in with their female
characters; they challenge the traditional female norms and have a level of development
that wasnt seen prior to The Phantom Menace. The main protagonist males have always
played their parts well in Star Wars, and I dont expect that to change soon, but Im glad
there is a beginning of an equalization between the males and females in terms of fighting
capability.
I wont say much on the AHS pamphlets because I know men are the main
offenders. Masculine traits do include breadwinning, so a gambling problem is probable.
And when times are tough, resorting to drugs and alcohol as a means to escape are the
socially acceptable ways of doing so, as supposed to verbalizing their emotions. I just
wish maybe there was 2 people on the pamphlet, 1 male and 1 female in the same pose
instead of singling out the males. I feel as though it paints a bad picture over masculinity.
As someone who does hold in his feelings, it worries me seeing these images that maybe
one day Ill develop an addiction problem as well.

Conclusion
Im not sure if mainstream media culture will ever truly eradicate the
stereotypically feminine and masculine traits in society. Our silent agreement and
obedience with how media images in magazines, billboards, movies, music, arts, even
health pamphlets distinctly establishes 2 main gender specific roles. Men should be
presented as powerful, strong, independent, dominant, alert and focused. Females should
be presented as soft, delicate, shy, passive, defenseless, vulnerable, and subdued. These
are the masculine and feminine ideals that have forcefully become realities, shaped for us
in our modern culture. Nobody told us these were the traits our genders had to portray,
we have just been subjected to it repeatedly until it just becomes programmed into our
heads that these are the traits we should identity with according to our gender. Anything
in between is seen as queer, strange, obscene. One example is the Brony community.
Male adults who are for the most part completely heterosexual who just happen to watch
My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic are called out on their sexual orientation because it
is an abnormal hobby for male adults to partake in. There is nothing inherently wrong
with this, but because male culture says men must be tough and detached from anything
feminine, this comes off as an insult to masculinity.
Goffmans research is still applicable today on gender related media images. It
will continue to stay true for as long as media images keep being implanted subliminally
into our subconscious. If all these media images got wiped out today, we would still need
to wait for countless generations for these gender specific roles and behaviors to go away.
Parents would pass on their gender specific beliefs to their children, and their children
would pass it on to their children, and so on. This learned behavior is now so deeply
rooted into our daily practice, it couldnt function without differentiation between
genders. I honestly believe its too late for gender-neutral behaviors to change now.