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Sociology - Gender

In: Social Issues

Submitted By Logi23
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What is gender? There really is no concise or definitive definition for it, since it will differ from person to person depending on who you ask. The dictionary and medical definition states it as being male or female. The sociology textbook definition refers to it as the physical, behavioral, and personality traits that a group considers to be normal, natural, right and good for its male and female members. Regardless of what view you take gender as, it ultimately leads to relations in the male and female category. One major subject of gender is gender roles, which basically means how males and females should speak, think, dress and act within the context of society and can be linked to gender stereotyping (also a topic of discussion). It is apparent in most if not all cultures, but the “role” itself varies from one culture to another. A major gateway for this is through the media. In the United States, children’s cartoons are a prime example. Of the plethora of cartoons available for discussion, four highly popular ones, current and old, will take priority: Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants, Rugrats, and the Scooby Doo series. First to be discussed is the extremely popular, Dora the Explorer. The show can be considered a global phenomenon being dubbed in over twenty different languages, so it has a large fan base amongst the varying cultures around the world. Now, on to the topic of gender in regards to the show, the show itself is not necessarily targeted solely towards young females/girls. In fact, the show is highly popular amongst young males/boys as well. This is mainly due to the fact that Dora isn’t your typical “girl” in the sense of gender roles, which she is more or less considered a tomboy. Dora wears a t-shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes and carries a backpack; she also has short hair. Also, the context of the show helps lean interest and popularity to young males/boys, since the plot is about Dora going on various quests and explorations and the outdoors.
One episode in particular, Job Day, shows the break away from gender roles that the show insinuates, well for females anyways. At the start of the episode, Dora and Boots (a male monkey) are drawing pictures of what they want to be when they “grow up” i.e. their occupation/job. Dora chooses to be either a soccer player or astronomer, while Boots chooses to be either a baseball player or teacher. This was used as an example mainly because teachers are usually labeled as females in the sense of gender roles, but Boots, a male, chose it over Dora, a female. The episode also shows Dora’s mother, who is an archaeologist; her mother is wearing shorts, boots, a short sleeve button-up and a hat, which are all brown. The other males in the episode are the gender typical types. Diego and Boot’s father have the normal jobs associated with males, a rescuer and an architect/construction. For the most part, Dora the Explorer, tends to shy away from gender roles/stereotypes and accentuates the “strong, do anything” female. Now, the show Spongebob Squarepants, is fairly strange when doing gender comparisons since most of the characters are sea creatures with the male/female label slapped on. In fact, it is a very hard comparison since there are only a handful of female characters; of the which, only four are considered main characters, and do not represent their gender favorably: Sandy (a squirrel), Pearl (a whale), Misses Puff (a blowfish) and Karen (a computer). Sandy is the typical tomboy; Pearl is the girly girl; Misses Puff is similar to the unhappy old hag; Karen is well a computer. The show bridges more on stereotypes than gender roles, but even with the abnormalities to the show, there is one episode that epitomizes gender roles. In this episode, Patrick and Spongebob find a baby clam and decide to take care of it. They both assume different parental roles; Patrick being the father, and Spongebob being the mother. As the father, Patrick goes to work each day, comes home tired and just watches t.v.; ultimately doing nothing for the baby clam. Spongebob is the stereotypical mother who cooks, cleans, takes care of the baby day in and day out and has no “paying job”. Spongebob also wears dresses in this episode, while Patrick wears the typical suit and tie. Aside from this one particular episode, any evidence of gender roles are either non-existent or very scarce in Spongebob Squarepants. Let’s diverge from the sequence of the list in the introduction and continue with the Scooby Doo series instead of Rugrats for now. Scooby Doo is a great example of gender comparisons/typing/roles/stereotypes because it is an older cartoon. The show has the four basic male/female character traits: the masculine male, the inadequate male, the delicate female, and the modern female. In particular, Scooby Doo: Where Are You?, there is a higher ratio of males to females portrayed of 35 males to 12 females. In Scooby Doo, there are two recurring females: Daphne and Velma. Daphne is the embodiment of the delicate female; she has the figure of the quintessential female with a slim waist and legs with pale skin. She wears pink and purple clothing and high heels. Velma on the other hand is stockier with slightly thicker appendages. She wears an orange sweater and skirt, knee socks and large glasses. Daphne epitomizes the classic Barbie and the air headed damsel in distress or the “ideal“ woman; while, Velma is stereotyped to be the “nagging, intelligent” type where all of which are based on the looks of the character. For Fred and Shaggy, they like Velma and Daphne are portrayed as opposites of each other. Fred had the image of the “ideal” male with a tall stature and muscular build and popular. He also had a more preppy look for what constitutes to 70s clothing and was clean shaven. Shaggy, on the other hand, was scruffy and scrawny wearing large clothing.
As far as the characters roles and portrayals, the assumption can be made from the previous information. Fred, due to his aesthetic looks, is the leader of the group and makes a majority of the decisions, such as when they make plans to catch the villains. Shaggy is the inadequate male who’s role is to “accidentally” cause things to happen. Daphne, the quintessential female, really serves very little purpose except to be there and look good; she rarely if ever helps in solving anything. Velma on the other hand is the intelligent, useful female although less attractive, but is much more useful than Daphne. Scooby Doo being an older cartoon has much more stereotypical gender portrayals than the previously discussed cartoons. Last, but certainly not least and possibly the best of the aforementioned cartoons in regards to gender is Rugrats. Like Scooby Doo, it is a much older cartoon; yet, it is much more current or modern in the portrayal of gender roles and stereotyping. What the previous sentence insinuates is the characters in Rugrats are not portrayed as typically as the characters in Scooby Doo. In fact, there is very little gendering in Rugrats. The males and females in Rugrats have switched roles, and all are seen as nurturing fathers and mothers i.e. cleaning, housework, etc… For the roles, a few examples are: Angelica’s mother, Charlotte, is the ambitious, goal driven workaholic who is always talking on her cell phone taking care of company matters; while her father is more lax, but not unattached. Chuckie’s father, Chazz, is single and is responsible for fulfilling both “roles”; also, both of which are the less masculine type. Phil and Lil’s parents, Betty and Howard, are also completely switched. Betty is often portrayed playing the masculine roles, while Howard is more feminine. Tommy’s parents, Stu and Didi, are the more atypical gender roles out of the other parents with the exception that Didi works part time, while Stu works at home. Although, both of which nurture Tommy equally, so no ascertained “role” is prominent. Like previously stated, although being an older cartoon, it has a more current or modern approach towards gendering. In conclusion, four cartoons have been discussed on their relations to gender roles/stereotypes/etc…Two more current ones versus two older ones; although, the barrier is moving away from the traditional atypical roles the gender role/stereotype is still apparent today in children’s cartoons as it was a decade ago.

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