Gender Role Stereotypes in
“A Streetcar Named Desire” and
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
The purpose of this work is to analyse how gender role stereotypes are portrayed in the plays: “Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, both written by Tennessee Williams in 1947 and 1955 correspondently. First of all, I will define gender role stereotyping and identify some traditional gender role stereotypes. Then, I will share the author’s biography in connection to the topic. Last but not least, I will include some references in order to support research. Finally, a conclusion with my own thought will be provided. Introduction
No one is born knowing that crying is unmanly or that playing soccer is unladylike. Once a child is born, he or she becomes identified with cultural concepts of what a boy or girl should be like. Children are born male or female, but they have to learn to be masculine or feminine. However, every society assigns different roles to its members according to sex. These sex roles are sets of cultural expectations that define how men and women are supposed to act according to the norms of their society in any given time: “We all know her. She smiles at us from billboards or stares seductively out from magazines covers. She is beautiful and sexually available, but she never seems to be doing anything. Once married and settled down, however, she loses her allure. When faced with dirty floors and clogged drains, she is completely helpless until a male voice tells her what to do. She worries that she can’t make up a decent cup of coffee or get her husband’s shirts clean. She is lovable but just plain dumb”. “We all know him, too. He is fearless, adventurous, and competent in every field. Whether facing down a gunslinger in a saloon ordering champagne in a nightclub, he is always in control of the situation. He also plays cool with women. He might let a woman lean on him for a while, but he refuses to be domesticated. When he is not climbing a mountain or racing his sports car, he likes to relax by drinking beer and playing games with other men”.
Although we all know these people, few of us have ever met anyone like them. They are the feminine and masculine images that appear before us without even being aware. Magazines, TV programs, a variety of advertisements offer us examples of how gender is reproduced trough media and ideology. Born male or female does not mean being masculine or feminine. Gender has to do with the social, psychological and cultural characteristics associated with masculinity and femininity. We can define gender role stereotyping as a set of expected behavior, attitudes, beliefs and emotions of men and women. It’s also a cultural mechanism that might differ across cultures. However, what we perceive as being masculine or being feminine depends on how society dictates what is socially acceptable or not. “When carried to extremes, sex-role stereotyping leads to sexist attitudes and practices. For example, the physical abuse of women through wife beating and rape”. Unfortunately, traditional gender role stereotyping might affect social relationships, they bring upon conflict, social inequality as well as unfair treatment because of a person’s gender. In the fifties, particularly in the South of the United States, a commonly patriarchal idea was that men were hard and tough, while women were soft and vulnerable. In connection to women, common stereotypes such as “the mother, the submissive wife and the southern belle”, are portrayed as “an obedient and passive woman. According to research, submissive women are portrayed as “a nurturing wife, mother or muse”. Traditionally, the wife’s role was to stay at home and take care of the children while her husband worked and brought money to the house. Also, these particular women might have a tendency to put up with their men’s violent behavior and abuse. So, by...
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