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Posts Tagged ‘gender roles’

The mythic idea of the road is everywhere in America, even today. Reading Eyerman & Lofgren’s Romancing the Road, one realizes just how prevalent this idea is in his or her own life. Even favorite songs, evoke the road without notice. Tracy’ Chapman’s Fast Car is one of these favorite songs.

Fast Car is a celebration of the road as an escape. The road becomes a chance for a new life. It also is a journey between two people and possible romance. It evokes traditional views of the road, but it also speaks to mainstream America, known more often than not as the opposite of the road – opposite of freedom.

From the beginning of the song, Fast Car takes on what Romancing the Road describes as, “car travel itself becam[ing] an adventure saga of magical quality”. (59) The car for Chapman is an escape, a magical thing that is “fast enough so we can fly away.” Fly away like Peter Pan flying away from adulthood. The article states, “Road’s liberating potential…. [is] possible to push the accelerator to the floor and leave all that was petty and bourgeois behind” (58). Like films in the road trip genre, Chapman’s car is an escape. Instead of escape from “claustrophobia of petit-bourgeois life” (62), Chapman’s escape is from, “injustice and from an intolerant ‘normality’” (62). This injustice and intolerable normality is her father’s drinking problem, her mother leaving and the responsibility she must take on by quitting school to take care of her father. Chapman’s responsibility of taking care of her father represents the traditional role of women as caregivers. Here she is escaping the confines of mainstream culture. The escape is so urgent Chapman sings, “Leave tonight or die this way.” The road takes on “a therapeutic role” (64).

I want a ticket to anywhere

Any place is better

See my old man’s got a problem

He live with the bottle that’s the way it is

He says his body’s too old for working

His body’s too young to look like hi

My mamma went off and left him

She wanted more from life than he could give

I said somebody’s got to take care of him

So I quiet school and that what I did

 

Is it fast enough so we can fly away?

We gotta make a decision

Leave tonight or live and die this way

By the end of the song, the car becomes yet another way to escape Chapman’s disappointment in the new life. She has yet again become the caregiver. Her partner does not have a job and drinks, neglecting his family. Chapman sings:

I’d always hoped for better.

Thought maybe together you and me find it.

I got no plans. I ain’t going nowhere.

So take your fast car and keep on driving.

This part of the song also takes on the risk of the road. In stating:

So take your fast car and keep on driving.

You got a fast car. Is it fast enough so you can fly away?

You gotta make a decision.

Leave tonight or live and die this way,

Chapman alludes to her desire for the car to become another escape; only this time the car will take the problem away. She will not be taken away from the problem. “Leave tonight or live and die this way” can be seen as a challenge for the presumably male partner step up, mature and be a man.

You got a fast car

I got a job that pays all our bills

You stay out drinking late at the bar

See more of your friends than you do of your kids

I’d always hoped for better

Thought maybe together you and me find it

You got a fast car.

Is it fast enough so you can fly away?

You gotta make a decision

Leave tonight or live and die this way

The American tradition of mobility, in the physical sense of the mythical road is a huge part of Chapman’s song. Romancing the Road describes this mobility: “movement itself became a symbol of hope. Going down the road, symbolized not only a way out, a going to and getting away from, it represented possibility, risk and romance” (57). Chapman’s desperate need to find a way out is expressed in the beginning of the song: “I want a ticket to anywhere…any place is better than here.” The lyrics “starting from zero got nothing to lose,” ushers in the road’s symbolism of possibility and opportunity. Chapman sings about the possibility of making something, getting jobs in the city and finally being able to live. Evoking the city as a place to experience life and acquire a job is a common American phenomenon. Throughput history the city has been the place of jobs. And as youth culture came into existence, the city turned into a place of adventure. It was and is a place to experience while you are young. “We go cruising, entertain ourselves,” represents this carefree attitude and continues to paint a picture of the car as an escape, as a way to have fun.

As the song goes on Chapman’s vision of life matures, representing the idea that the road fosters experiences for, “a new person…new sides to their personality, mellowing, maturing” (67). Chapman sings:

You’ll find work and I’ll get promoted.

We’ll move out of the shelter.

Buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs.

This idea represents social mobility as well as physical mobility. Chapman dreams of being promoted and making enough money to achieve the American Dream –moving to the suburbs. No longer does she fantasy of freedom on the road. In its place is the dream of settling down. The desire for maturity can also be seen as Chapman sings, “I’d always hoped for better. Thought maybe together you and me find it. You gotta make a decision. Leave tonight or live and die this way,” urging her partner to mature.

Throughout the song, the subtle hint of romance is witnessed:

And your arm felt nice wrapped ‘round my shoulder.

And I had a feeling that I belonged.

I have a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone.

These lyrics also describe the feeling that the beat generation was looking for on the road in the 1950s and 1960s – acceptance.

If we presume Chapman’s companion is a man, the fact that Chapman is a woman also plays on the traditional idea of the road as a man’s world. In the beginning of the song, she is the one asking to hitch a ride and get away. She has the plan, not the man. By the end though, tradition and mainstream gender roles seems to win out. Chapman wants to settle down in the suburbs with a family. The last two lines, “You gotta make a decision. Leave tonight or live and die this way,” suggest the man will get back into his car and drive away, continuing the idea of solace for outsiders.

(Even the video has roads in it!!!)

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Rosie the Riveter is a fictional character created by the U.S. government that emerged at the beginning of World War 2 as part of their propaganda campaign. She was used as a tool to encourage white middle class woman to temporarily enter the workforce in order to contribute to the war effort and allow more males to go into service.  Rosie is most commonly associated with J. Howard Millar’s, 1942 depiction of a very attractive and strong female worker. Posters of Rosie tended to ‘Glamorize’ the work place and breakdown the stigma of grimy and tough physical labour. The idea was to elevate factory work into a fashionable thing to do, something that wouldn’t take away from the femininity of a woman. These women were encouraged not to worry about their self image in the working world as they were presented with a strong, empowered and patriotic role model.  However, this message didn’t translate entirely smoothly and can be described as being quite a deceptive image. It was a contradiction of the role of woman that had been previously endorsed by the government during the Depression era. During this time woman were actually discouraged from entering into the workforce and taking jobs away from men.  Additionally, this was only meant to be a temporary solution to the problems of a swift armament agenda, it was not intended to be used as a feminist icon, merely an incentive for woman to go out and enter the workforce. Although promoting feminist ideals -such as woman being just as capable as doing the jobs men could do- Rosie was the product of a patriarchal hierarchy that was using woman for their own agenda when it suited them. For example, when woman initially entered into the workforce, they were not regarded as being as important an asset as their fellow male employees and were thus treated differently. In many cases, they were sent home once the war ended.

Woman in the workforce was not an entirely new concept, especially for the lower classes.  Rosie was really intended to appeal to the middle class, who would probably not have been the most enthusiastic about leaving their family in order to work. While Rosie was not as revolutionary as a modern interpretation would assume, she was effective in mobilizing woman to enter the workforce.  The amount of woman in the workforce at the beginning of the war stood at 12 million and by the end of the war, this number had jumped to 18 million. Therefore, Rosie can be regarded as a success in fulfilling her purpose. However, in many cases, woman still took on ‘white collar’ jobs, or jobs that were deemed appropriate for them. The promotion of ‘Rosie the Riveter’ during World War 2, is an example of the government challenging the traditional female role in American society and potentially paving the way for gender equality. However, even today her presence as an American Icon has been heavily glorified to transcend her initial purpose.

Lucinda Humphreys (QUB)

2dn RosieTheRiveter

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The famous image of ‘Rosie the Riveter’ was brought to life by Norman Rockwell and utilised by the government in a 1942 propaganda campaign. This call for women workers brought Rosie in to the public consciousness and ingrained her there right through to the twenty-first century. Her likeness has been imitated and exploited by strong female icons of modern times and by music artists in particular e.g. Pink, Christina Aguilera and Beyonce.  The irony remains that Rosie’s promotion was meant to be temporary and her conception originated from a time of crisis. She developed because of necessity but was bestowed a much greater depth of meaning. Rockwell not only created an image but a state of mind which would perpetually transcend time.  Her lasting presence is captivating as is her iconic status not just as an American symbol but as a feminist icon worldwide.

Rosie the empoweress of women certified ‘We can do it!’ and her existence challenged gender roles, asserting that whatever a man can do a woman can too. Women did not only take on their husbands roles in the workforce but maintained domestic duties as well. Rosie’s verification of women’ s  ‘double shift’ capabilities not only placed the sexes on the same level  but suggested the superhuman eminence of the fairer sex.  Perhaps this threat to masculinity explains the popularity of ‘Superman’ during this period, women on the home-front were the superheroes and men naturally turned to the male counterpart. After all Superman/ Clark Kent took on his share of ‘double shift’ life too.

Rosie the Riveter, Rosie the Feminist or Rosie the Superwoman, whatever significance she assumes her iconic status is more than justified. Her birth perhaps sparked the gender debate and changed the attitudes of both sexes not just in 1940s America but twenty-first century global life. And as the gender debate rolls on so too does Rosie the Riveter. For every young girl who sees Rosie’s image for the first time, it captivates their minds and hearts and ignites the realisation that‘ [I] can do it!’

Shanice Atkins (QUB)

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This fictional character which first appeared to the wider public in 1943 on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, was drawn by Norman Rockwell, also famous for his iconic four freedoms. It quickly came to represent “womenpower” in the industry during World War II.

Indeed, during the rough Depression period, most women were assigned to the home and prevented from working as job opportunities were overly limited. However, as the USA entered the War against fascism after the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941, most American men were drafted and their jobs were left vacant. Advertising then used the image of Rosie the Riveter, supposed to be the ‘perfect’ woman worker, as propaganda in order to entice the female population (students, workers already, housewives…) to change work or begin to work for the war industry.

Thus, women took a vital role for the country as they became the workforce building the weapons necessary to men on the fields. Rosie therefore symbolized the need for women in an American society that did not acknowledge it enough before. They now understood that they could manage their work just as well as men did. After this icon was popularized, these working women became known as the “Rosies”.

ImageThe first image of Rosie, represented resting her feet on Mein Kampf in front of the American flag, with her work tool on her thighs, shows that even if women were not directly involved on the field in the war, they participated in crushing Nazism by being the working force of the USA. In this representation of Rosie, she almost appears as a superhero, very muscular, her riveter being her superweapon. And indeed most women at the time were living a double life just like superheroes as a lot of them, ‘saving’ the country during the day, also had to take care of their family when they were coming home after work.

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The second and most popular representation of Rosie, designed by J.Howard Miller, was hung on a plant at the time to motivate women to go to work.

Unfortunately, this hope for recognition of women as equally able to work as men was short-lived. After the men came back from war, they were forced out of their jobs and back into their position in the home or into typically women’s jobs.

Nowadays, the “We can do it” image has become known all around the world as a symbol of women power. It has indeed been used again since the late 1970s to promote feminism in many issues, and in different cultures. We can therefore see a Mexican Rosie or even an Indian version of this icon.

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An Apple Pie America

Photo Retrieved from http://0.tqn.com/d/americanfood/1/0/v/7/-/-/ap.jpg

I never grew up eating apple pie. In fact, the only time I would even see an apple pie would be during holidays, but I somehow always associated apple pie with America. To me, apple pie meant those small town American values. Apple pie was what you would bring to a new neighbor just moving in next door. Apple pie stood for the housewife who spent hours making a hearty meal while wearing her apron, but never complained because she enjoyed her duties. Apple pie represented the family of four who ate dinner every night together and talked about what happened in their day. This one food found a way to embrace all of the values of the classic small town American life. For many, apple pie is America.
Apple pie has become an American contradiction through time. As American society changed, the apple pie stayed exactly the same in appearance, in taste, and in what it represents. Society through time has come to change. We no longer expect that a young girl will grow up to be a housewife making a home cooked meal every night. Many of us no longer sit down and eat dinner together every night as a family. We don’t want desert every single day following dinner. Our society has turned away from those small-town family values and towards convenience. We think have changed what it means to be American, but did we really change that much? Apple pie, and the ideas it stands for, has found a way to survive as an American symbol. Although we may now buy our apple pie from the grocery store, rather than baking it from scratch, apple pie still finds a way to encompass all of the values it had in the past. We still find the words “homemade” printed on the apple pie box we buy from the store. We still desire those values associated with the apple pie. It is almost as if by eating a slice of apple pie, we are connected to a time when those American values were abundant. Some people even buy apple pie scented candles to make their homes smell like the delicious food, as if the smell alone will give the illusion that the values associated with apple pie are a part of that home. “Apple pie values” have managed to survive our societal changes leading us to wonder if these changes considerable as they seem.

Christina Farrell

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The Land of Women

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The name of my alternative Disneyland is The Land of Women. The goal of my park is to promote ideas and feelings of female empowerment and equality. The park is divided into three sections; Women’s History, Modern Day, and Future Times. In the Women’s History section, important events and important women from 1776 to the 20th century are highlighted. In the Modern Day area, visitors can sing songs and watch movies that pertain to female empowerment. Visitors can also learn about women of the 21st century. Lastly, the Future Times section discusses problems still facing women today and the hopes for full equality.

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Hondo

In the film Hondo, I found the theme of animalistic independence to be common in multiple figures in the film.  The character which provoked this thought the most was Hondo’s dog, Sam.  The independence of the dog was most pronounced when Hondo was asked about giving the dog food.  He replied that he wanted to dog to feed himself, which was for the purpose of survival and to maintain its instincts.  These instincts are what I view to be known as animalistic tendencies.  The independence was explained outright, just as it was obvious that Hondo was independent.  In the opening scene, the viewer only sees a man and his dog walking alone.  He walked onto a property by himself, accompanied by his dog, which was raised to be independent as well.  He worked on his own, doing chores around the ranch and not wanting assistance from Angie Lowe or her son Johnny.  This was almost like a silent cooperation.  The dog understood who his master was, as he was obedient to each one of Hondo’s orders, but he still maintained enough distance to survive on his own, as nature intended.

The dog was also territorial and stubborn, often functioning on his own and standing his ground when approached by humans.  Whenever Johnny approached the dog, the dog bared his teeth, growled, and snapped at the boy.  The dog did this to everybody but Hondo, an indication of Hondo’s male dominance over the dog.  There was another point in the film where the dog stood in the path of a cavalryman.  The man tried to make the dog move, but the dog responded with a bark and threatening growl.  The man eventually walked around the dog after it refused to yield its ground.  While the dog was certainly not a human, it still possessed qualities of being independent.  I think the fact that this was an animal and not a human further promotes the fact that this theme is holistic in that this independence is present in every living thing.  The setting, the West, establishes this independence as being a central quality of the Western style of life.

A turning point in this theme of animalistic independence was after the Indian, Silva, killed the dog.  After this point, Hondo’s independence ended.  He began cooperating with his fellow white men and eventually worked to overcome multiple Apache ambushes.  Man must work together for survival in the West, even the men most capable of surviving on their own.  Without the assistance of others, Hondo dies at the hands of the Indians.  Instead, cooperation leads to survival and repelling of attacks by the savages.

It is hard to tell if independence is frowned upon or encouraged in the film.  The most independent figures, such as Hondo and his dog, either die or need saving from others, signaling a reliance on human interaction.  The families that also tried to live independently in Apache territory also came under attack and had to be evacuated by U.S. cavalry.  I almost view the film an indictment against the need for independence in the West.  Each white man and woman had to have another present for eventual survival against the Indians.  The Indians, who always worked together, found themselves to be significantly more successful in their efforts to attack the white men.  This tug-of-war, while painting the Indians to be savages through their attacks, also points out how simple and effective life could be while working together.  It wasn’t until the white men cooperated did they find success in survival.

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