Sunday, July 17, 2011

Research Paper on Gender Roles

Gender Roles Research Paper

The ideology of something is a lived experience and isn't categorized as true or false for it is always true since it is lived. Ideologies are used to obscure the structures of domination. As quoted by Terry Eagleton in "Marxism and Literary Criticism": "superstructure" are certain forms of law and politics, a certain kind of state, whose essential function is to legitimate the power of the social class which owns the means of economic production, it also consists of certain "definite forms of social consciousness" which is what Marxism designates as ideology.
(Eagleton 5)

By not accepting certain ideologies one can create an inter movement between the super structure and the base. If one is more passive to the certain ideology the structure that is already set up will not be disturbed. Gender role attitudes are generally conceived as opinions and beliefs about the ways that family and work roles do and should differ based on sex. The gender role ideology leads to the social structure that masks what the men are able to do and or get a way with. It is a form of the domination that is set for men over women. There are many ways to reveal the masks over people's eyes. In "White Tigers" and "No Name Women" by Maxine Hong Kingston among other things, she uses her story telling as a way to reveal the truths behind these social structures that relate to men and shows the lived experience of them with regard to women.


Through the progression of "No Name Woman," Kingston details a story of her aunt who commits adultery. Throughout the memoir she uses different examples to show the dominance of men. As the men of China immigrate to America looking for work to send money home to their families, the women are expected to uphold the home front. "They expected her alone to keep the traditional ways, which her brothers, now among the barbarians, could fumble without detection".The work of preservation demands that the feelings playing about in one's guts not be turned into action." (Kingston 8) This shows the difference between the male and females. Her brother's could "fumble without detection," they could mess with the "traditional ways," but the expectation for the aunt was different, she was not allowed to make a mistake. Although the aunt is stuck in an unsuitable predicament, to understand why she is there is part of understanding how the village is blind by the ideology of gender roles, "it [ideology] signifies the way men live out their roles in class-society, the values, ideas and images which tie them to their social functions and so prevent them from a true knowledge of society as a whole" (Eagleton 16-7). The fact that her aunt is stuck with how she now has to live out her role that society has already placed on her, also blinds her from "a true knowledge of society." Before the villagers went to ransack the aunt's home Kingston writes, "The frightened villagers, who depended on one another to maintain the real, went to my aunt to show her a personal physical representation of the break she had made in the "roundness" (Kingston 12-3). The thinking of the villagers and how they felt about the crime committed is portrayed here, which lays blame on the aunt. The aunt commits adultery and now because the blame is set upon her shoulders she has been made the one to make a break in the "roundness." The basis of ideology is serving its purpose by the making of the village people being blind towards the fact that the man who also has contributed to making the baby is now free to do what he pleases. The lived experience of the aunt is blame which leads her to silent her "inseminators" name and commits suicide to escape the harsh experience of blame and humiliation to the village people and herself. The humiliation and blame is what is weighed on her shoulders which is the common way to hide what the superstructure is trying to conceal; so she sees this blame and humiliation as normal. With this she abides the expected action created by blame and humiliation.

Kingston also wrote "White Tigers," which she uses her storytelling as a way to live out her possibilities within her storytelling. She is able to use her storytelling to do things that the gender ideologies constrict her from doing. After her heroic story of the great swordswoman, Fa Mu Lan, she leads into a story of her own life and an incident she had with her boss. He wants her to write invitations that are racists and she refuses. In turn he terminates her employment, "you will be paid up to here," he said. "We'll mail you the check." If I took the sword, which my hate must surely have forged out of the air, and gutted him, I would put color and wrinkles into his shirt(Kingston 49). By using her story telling to illustrate what she would like to do to the boss she uses her story as a way to act on the possibilities that Fa Mu Lan had, but because she is living in a male dominated world has no chance. She is not allowed to speak up for herself when confronted with an unwanted predicament because of the roles that woman must play in society. At the end of "White Tigers" Kingston writes of the way that the imagined swordswoman and her similar:

"May my people understand the resemblance soon so that I can return to them. What we have in common are the words at our backs. The idioms for revenge are "report a crime" and not the beheading, not the gutting, but the words. And I have so many words-"chink" words and "gook" words too-that they do not fit on my skin." (Kingston53)

She talks of the "words at our back" meaning that she has this whole superstructure against her and that her only revenge is to make these stories up that help to reveal what she wants to do to her boss and how the ideology of gender roles holds her back from making this a reality. She speaks the truth through her paper to hold the representation of how she is oppressed through this ideology. As Eagleton writes on the production of ideas that deals with how ideology is set up for the base and superstructure, "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness" (Eagleton 4). Meaning that through life we develop the understanding of how it should be with consideration to how the society is. Kingston lives everyday with the dominance of man at her back. Although she uses her story to reveal what the ideology of gender roles mask, she knows that her writing is a tool which brings success to her, "When I visit my family now, I wrap my American success around me like a private shawl; I am worthy of eating the food" (Kingston 52). She knows her goal is to use her memoir as a way to show what is really going on and through this she knows she has succeeded. Her writing has allowed for her, in her own eyes, to go against everything that she was raised to believe through her family and through society.

In the duration of these two stories there are different aspects of the ideologies that our shown. Kingston shows the different ideologies such as blame, humiliation and oppression. These ideas are woven into how the ideologies of gender roles are thought of and how they lead to further mask superstructure. The ideology of blame is shown through the aunt in the act of committing adultery which is only put on the shoulders of the woman, while the man is not shown accountable for his actions. Humiliation is also a key ideology in "No Name Woman." Kingston's mother tells the story of her aunt to forewarn Kingston of humiliating the family and herself. She tells her this story as she is starting her period as a way to show the importance of learning from it. Yet, what Kingston reveals is how this story plays into the hands of ideology and continues the circle of disguising the way that society is structured so that males continue to dominate.

Kingston writes a memoir consisting of many pages of story telling. A memoir is something such as a journal, something to look back on in the future and remember the times. Kingston's use of story telling in a memoir is peculiar, but her intentions are for it to be this way. Throughout her writing she had undoubtedly written of the ideology of gender roles. By showing how dominant men are compared to women. By doing this it shows how few possibilities a woman has in the world. Yet she reveals her lived experience as a way for the reader to understand the superstructure that is set up which favors the men's role in society and helps to oppress women. Her use of this in a memoir is not only for her to see how the structure has changed, but also to use it as a tool to create an inter-movement between the base and the superstructure. She challenges the ideology of gender roles through her writing. Terry Eagleton writes of the reflection of the experience, "art does more than just passively reflect that experience. It is held within ideology, but also manages to distance itself from it, to the point where it permits us to "feel" and "perceive" the ideology from which it springs" (Eagleton 18). Meaning that Kingston's literature is not a reflection of the ideology, but she uses it to distance the literature from ideology so that the reader can perceive it even as it is representing it. Her representation brings about stakes which is that of going against the superstructure to make a change in it. With her two pieces representing these possibilities leads to the collaboration of a book of memoirs. This book being made in hope that the memoirs are something she can look back on and see that she has helped unmask something that has oppressed her for so long and has finally created a change for others. Kingston has thus helped to identify the ideology of gender roles and allowed the readers to understand the experience. As Eagleton uses in closing: Illusion - the ordinary ideological experience of men - is the material on which the writer goes to work; but in working on it he transforms it into something different, lends it a shape and structure. It is by giving ideology a determinate form, facing it within certain fictional limits, that art is able to distance itself from it, thus revealing to us the limits of that ideology. In doing this, Macherey claims, art contributes to our deliverance from the ideological illusion. (Eagleton 19)

This is just what Kingston does; she delivers the ideological illusion of gender roles. She demonstrates throughout the two memoirs, "No Name Woman" and "White Tigers" the difference of elements that help to construct the overall gender ideology. So, through writing and story telling Kingston was able to uphold her goal of the revelation of the gender ideologies that give the upper hand to men and continually keep the woman less dominant.

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