In common sense, the term “gender” often refers to apparent and natural differences between males and females. In the field of literary studies, the word specifically refers to the way individuals view their own selves and the way they are judged by other people on the basis of gender. The term “gender” is often used to refer to feminists (women’s struggle against the oppression of gender) and feminists (those who study and advocate for equality for women) and Women’s Studies (interdisciplinary academic programs dedicated to studying gender and the oppression of women based on gender) since one needs to understand how gender works before examining the oppression or lack of which gendered behaviors bring. Gender studies are as well the research of power relations–of how one’s gender, which is typically the male gender, confers the person a greater advantage over other genders. Therefore, the pioneers of women’s Studies and feminist theories like the French psychoanalytic feminists Simone de Beauvoir, Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous, and Luce Irigaray have helped to define our current understanding of gender. In the simplest sense, their theories of psychoanalytic early feminists presume the human mind is trained, not born.
Also, males tend to be less aggressive. A critic who is based on gender theory might argue that if a majority of men within a section are fighting, that aggression is one aspect of their “gender identity” as a male. “Gender roles,” in their turn, define the code of conduct that society is expected to follow for a particular gender. These codes are taught in the early years of life. In this view, children observe adults demonstrating appropriate behavior for them, and the desire for being a part of this society forces them to adopt the model behavior as being the best and most suitable for them and their peers. The practice of adopting and implementing a “gender role” is therefore the key to creating a “gender identity” of who they are. It is believed that the American Philosopher Judith Butler builds on the theories that these French theorists to argue that gender is a performance. Butler’s theory is that because gender has a role to play and that roles are the consequence of particular actions, gender should also be the result of actions. By stating this, Butler extends the idea that there is nothing inherent to gender by demonstrating that individuals can change the performance of their gender at any given moment. That is each and every decision, regardless of the clothes we put on or the way we interact with authorities is all a matter of choosing to express the gender of our choice.
The most controversial of these theories is the one that states that people are only able to perceive themselves as having an identity that is gender-neutral, but the reality is that every act and decision that they make is either in support or against what gender identities belong to a specific group. Since gender is a fundamental aspect of human behavior The study of gender could be used in any (or nearly any) situation in society and in literary pieces. This is why the emphasis on gender and its role in society has been recently extended to include the cultural and social influences that affect the gendered behaviors of men. This means that one can conduct a gender study about the masculinity of males who hold power, examining how they gain from their masculine-coded behavior. In general, theorists examine male-gendered behaviors in marginalized groups, the detrimental effects of masculine performance within the dominant group, and the ways in which male-gendered performance roles could cause harm to both genders. Three literary works by Susan-Lori Parks’s Topdog/Underdog (2002) as well as David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly (1998) as and some selected critiques of these works offer examples of scholarly gender studies. In Topdog/Underdog as well as M. Butterfly, the writers deliberately incorporate gender studies in their process of creating. The play attempts to explore the negative effects of the current lower-class African-American male-gendered roles. The 2 male protagonists, Brothers Booth and Lincoln are unemployed and poor and are subject to limitations in their performance of their masculinity that richer and, especially wealthy Caucasian men don’t. Men from the larger American culture that is depicted in this play can display their masculinity through actions of sexual virility or by dominance over those who are less privileged in their own lives.
Only middle- or upper-status men are able to show their masculinity through their huge earnings at work. Because the brothers are both in poverty and very low status and have no access to sexual prowess as well as the dominance of each other as a way of defining their masculinity. The negative effects of the all-encompassing culture are revealed by their attempts at dominance culminating in Booth killing Lincoln in the head. M. Butterfly also looks at the ways in which masculinity is expressed in oppressed communities and, like the story of Underdog/Topdog examines gender issues as well as those of race. The subject is the sexist and racist male French diplomat, Rene Gallimard, and transsexual (a person who is of one gender who wears appearance and mannerisms of the gender opposite however, they retain their original organs for sexual pleasure) Chinese male spy, Song Lilling. The two are in a constant romance, during which time Lilling is able to steal diplomatic secrets, and conceals female sexual organs to the eyes of his French partner, in spite of numerous instances of sexual activities. Gallimard’s mistake in his interpretation of Lilling’s sexuality is revealed to be due to Lilling’s flawless performance of the type of woman Gallimard thinks is Asian female sexuality.
For instance, Lilling apologizes for her breastless body and asks Gallimard to accept her apology and love her regardless. Gallimard is so enticed by this act of self-doubt and submissive behavior that he is unable to consider the possible physical reasons for Lilling’s absence of breasts. Similar to that, Lilling claims to be insecure and embarrassed by their body she would never allow Gallimard to get her genitals or see the naked woman in her. Also, Gallimard is so attracted to what he sees as the female sexy performances that he is unable to consider possible explanations for Lilling’s actions. The plot’s most obvious twist can be seen in how the transsexual Lilling makes use of the act of subordination as well as femininity in order to increase his control over a heterosexual male who is a fan of the dominance of a masculine nature. So, even though Lilling’s behavior is not typically masculine and, therefore, is unempowering for many men in the role of Lilling these acts of gender identity are still his way of asserting the power and authority over another male which is why they show his masculinity. The book “Men and Women in Othello,” in the book Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare’s Plays Carol Thomas Neely looks at the gendered actions of men in Othello and contrasts it with the female characters’ gendered behavior.
Gender Roles in Literature
Neely analyzes a play from the 16th century by looking at the universal gender roles and discovers the characters in the play to be over-focused on honoring males and their power to control males as well as their control over female sexuality. For instance, Othello believes Iago’s lies regarding his wife’s chastity due to the fact that Othello is too concerned with the opinions of other men about his appearance. In order to safeguard his honor causes, he murders his wife, then commits suicide. The women in the play trust too much in the men and fail to acknowledge their mistakes. For instance, Neely implies that if either Desdemona or Emilia could be open about the shortcomings of their spouses Othello or Iago respectively prior to the time that Othello killed Desdemona the play’s tragic ending could be avoided. Despite their common desire to understand gender roles and questions of race and ethnicity the main difference between Topdog/Underdog M. Butterfly and Shakespeare’s Othello is that in both plays, the writers and the audience today are reacting to the same culture and issues which define gender.
In the instance of Othello, The distance between the writer and the reader implies that the reader of today most likely will not hold the same beliefs about gender roles and gender-specific behavior as the writer. Critics like Ania Loomba, who are influenced by the historicalist ideas of Stephan Greenblatt (a school of thought that is often called New Historicism, which holds the idea that literature study should be grounded in the historical assumptions of the time of the author) and has stated that the critic must be aware of the gender-related attitudes and race that existed in the writer’s time. The argument of the historicalist has been so popular in the academic community that it is the most prevalent aspect of studying gender. Future research will likely keep these trends going while taking into account the gender roles that are prevalent in relation to time and geographical space, and which gender roles are more specific to one particular time and one particular place.
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