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Gender Issues – Essay Sample

Gender Issues – Essay Sample

In her essay about the way the gender discourse is shaping nuclear and national security discourse, Carol Cohn notes that “as gender discourse assigns gender to human characteristics, we can think of the discourse as something we are positioned by…” (230). It is truly so in the modern times marked by the conventional representation of the world and all activities, events, subjects etc. from the dually opposed perspective of masculinity and femininity. There are certain stereotypical ideals which not all people necessarily fit, but which govern the human understanding of what a man and a woman should act and speak like. As Cohn marks, the humanity is applying the gender-based symbolic system that organizes the world in gender-associated opposites (229). It is the choice of men and women to conform to the stereotype or to break it, but all activities are still marked by a certain attitude to the system, deriving judgment about the propriety of words and behaviors from it.

A good example of how certain non-typical behaviors of men may be considered as a deviation from the norm: it is the case of a physicist who felt embarrassed because of understanding the scale of deaths and violence in a military conflict (Cohn 230-231). It is clear from the account of Cohn that the masculine behavior in these terms presupposes dry attitude to calculations and leaving out emotions and personal considerations from the military account. Being emotional and mixing the personal attitudes and opinions with professional activity is traditionally considered the choice of women, hence the behavior of a physicist in these terms seems feminine, though the individual has not marked any predisposition to resembling a female in any other way.

However, as Cohn (230) also notes, there is a possibility of human beings not only to be positioned by the gender discourse, but also to take some specific positions within it. As one may understand, the discourse is also heterogeneous and varied, so the human beings are able to reject some norms of their gender and move to the marginal expression of themselves or even choose the opposite sex’s traditional set of attitudes and behaviors. An example of such shift is clearly illustrated by the ability of women ‘to speak like a man’ (Cohn 230). It is possible to achieve in case a woman realizes what makes her argumentation feminine, to understand the masculine patterns of behavior, and to adopt them in her appeal and expression.

Deriving some conclusions on the gender shifts at the representational level (not necessarily in reality) is the way Bordo discusses the possibility of women’s harassment of men. The argumentation Bordo applies refers directly to the power relationships that have been traditionally emphasized as the privilege of men. However, harassment is the notion of pure power than nowadays can be exercised by both men and women, depending on their hierarchical position. Therefore, it is fully possible for a man to experience harassment, which will not look feminine but will only contain the women’s power drives and acts of humiliation and innerving commonly associated with harassment (Bordo 142).

Bordo speaks much about the reflection of harassment as a gender-biased concept in mass media sources. However, the author further continues to define representation versus reality, dealing with the evolution of masculinity in mass media allowing to deviate from the conventional norms of power relationships and roles of men as aggressive and powerful agents, and women as the objects of spectacle and passive agents in power relationships. The author states that the modern representation of men is highly feminine, thus differing from the previously adopted code of gender specificity. Some examples she gives are from the advertisements that appeared only a couple of decades ago and made men the objects of spectacle equally with women. The hypothesis of the traditional illustration of men in mass media as doers, not regarding the way they look, was ruined by the modern narcissi and feminine representation of men who worry how they look (Bordo 154). It is denoted as the gender reversal in the representation of men’s bodies, putting women on the place of spectators and making men spectacles (Bordo 151).

 

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