Written Task 2: Gender Theory Essay

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The essay portion, written with the support of my notes, or CRA's. For an IB English class.

Submitted: November 05, 2017

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Submitted: November 05, 2017



Dan Zuniga

When Men Can: A Gender Analysis of Expression and Patriarchal Ideology

Just as women have often felt marginalized through the manner in which they express themselves, define their roles in society, and overall contribute to the narrative of what it means to, ‘be a woman,’ it is therefore reasonable to assert that men have felt that same stigma, existing as one of two primary ‘categories’ in the status quo that influences this mandated concept. Thus, this rooted system of values can extend to any and all aspects of self-definition, including content that may be meant to disrupt, wherein more reinforcement takes place. Such is the case with one image, sourced from Pinterest, titled, “People who say men can't wear a dress,” a text that, while unsettling in its attempt to challenge traditional concepts of gender expression through clothing, reinforces the values of patriarchy through the portrayal of the model as a figure of dominance while simultaneously vilifying the aforementioned, ‘people,’ who are characterized as critics and essentially othered in their attempt to reinforce their own system of values.

The model seen in the text, Soren Falby, uses a dress as a symbol in order to disrupt the traditional correlative values between clothing and gender expression. Falby is, as implied by the title of the posting, a masculine, male-oriented individual who wore a dress claimed to be owned by his girlfriend, and to have taken a picture of himself to be put online, commonly referred to as a, ‘selfie.’ Falby’s act of wearing a dress breaks the belief that males should not engage in such endeavors, as it is not considered culturally acceptable for a man to do so. Furthermore, the general belief that it is more acceptable for women to embrace unfeminine qualities than it is for men to embrace a feminine nature is argued, as the text offers evidence to the latter that it is equally likely. Moreover, Falby’s portrayal of himself as a masculine individual who dresses in female apparel allows for the text to appeal to a larger audience, and particularly those who wish to conduct or express themselves in a similar manner, but would feel unsafe of doing so, helps to rectify this discrepancy.

However, despite the efforts of Falby to portray himself in a more feminine attitude, the author is still displayed as a product of a deeply-rooted patriarchal system that ‘others’ critics, who themselves are mere devices of the same system, and appears himself as domineering and authoritative in the image. In the photo, Falby’s physical attributes are highlighted through the amount of the frame for which he takes up, implying that he is the focus of the image, not the dress itself, and that it is only through his wearing the dress does it hold that significance. This reinforces patriarchal ideology because it makes the male appear stronger, as if trying to negate the act of having worn the dress is in contrast with the masculine body of Falby. Additionally, the photo was taken by Falby himself, and is shot from the knees up, at eye level, and not distorted by any angle. The choice to portray himself in this manner is reminiscent of a narcissistic tendency, as while he has already been established as the main subject, to the audience Falby can be seen as being domineering, arrogant, and overbearing despite his toned down masculine  appearance. Furthermore, in the title, the ‘people,’ who are implied to be the critics for which Falby addresses in his likeness, are othered. This is done to conceive an opposition of which Falby is in the ‘right,’ whereas the othered are in the ‘wrong.’ It is also interesting to note the color scheme of the photo, of which the dress is black and white, while the interior of which the photo is taken is also white, while the background is cast in shadow. Symbolically, this is meant to represent the complexity of the subject of gender, and, while not intentional, provides a link between what is thought of as normalcy, and what is as of yet undefined in the spectrum of self-definition.

Essentially, Falby’s use of a dress to disrupt a preexisting notion regarding males who wear female attire, and his intent to display himself as a masculine male who has a feminine orientation in terms of gender expression, is overshadowed by the innate patriarchal ideology that he has been subjected to, and is clear in the manner with which he presents himself, his attributions, and his othering of critics who themselves have been ingrained with the same ideology of patriarchal gender expression. Therefore, according to Gender Theory, the overall style and tone of the text still supports the concepts of patriarchy, the status quo, sexism, and gender binaries; regardless, the text does alleviate some of the stigma surrounding males and gender expression, or lack thereof, and appeals to a larger audience through the use of the dress as a symbol. Thus, the final takeaway from Falby’s text is to educate ourselves, the audience, in an effort to understand and recognize the human experience, and especially to appreciate how others identify themselves: not to shun them by suggesting they are critics or something other than that which we believe, but accepting all on the spectrum of gender, and beyond.

Word Count: 893






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