Category: Gender Studies


Reading Response to ‘Our Barbies, Ourselves’ by Emily Prager

This article takes a critical look at one of the most recognizable cultural icons in American history – the Barbie doll.  While admitting to the popularity and appeal of the Barbie doll across generations, Emily Prager finds certain faults with what it symbolizes.  The fact that the doll was first conceived and designed by a man is the first of Prager’s objections.  She contends that Barbie’s fulsome breasts and thin waistline accentuate her sex-appeal, thereby reducing femininity to the contours of body shape and skin color. Prager asserts that this physical perfection on part of the most popular doll undermines the feminist movement and other feminine ideals.  Prager acknowledges that Barbie does serve as a role model in terms of her liberated sense of style and living.  The showcasing of Barbie’s bohemian lifestyle, spanning condos, fashion plazas, swimming pools and beauty salons is appealing for young girls.  Yet, her combination of verve and freedom does not . . . Read More

Continue Reading

Gender Bias: ‘Cat in the Rain’ by Ernest Hemingway and ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Hurston

Both short stories contain abundant instances of gender bias. To be more accurate, the gender bias witnessed in these stories is so pronounced and persistent that it is fair to call them misogyny. In Cat in the Rain, the victim is an American girl who is married to a man indifferent to her wishes and needs. In the case of Sweat, Sykes is the abusive husband of Delia who pushes her to dire desperation. Though these two short stories carry the themes of gender bias and misogyny, they are conveyed through different literary devices. This essay will explain how gender bias is expressed in these two stories and will briefly analyze their socio-historical implications.

Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway is a compact story that packs a punch. Known for his concise prose, each word of this 500-word story is weighted with significance. The story is about an outwardly casual conversation between an American and his wife vacationing in Italy. The girl is discontent about something in . . . Read More

Continue Reading

Marriage as an institution: Its political, social and psychological impact on men and women.

The story chosen for this essay is Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour. It a compact yet dramatically powerful short story, located in the milieu of 19th century American South. The protagonist of the story is Louise Mallard, a woman somewhat trapped in an unfulfilling marriage to Mr. Brently Mallard. Louise is diagnosed with a heart condition, making her vulnerable to sudden tragic news and events. It is in this context that the news of the demise of her husband in a railroad accident is gently revealed to her by her brother in law. (Chopin, par.2) The immediate emotions experienced by Louise were natural. She feels sorrow, loss and feels shattered. Her sobbing reflects her emotions. This much is expected behavior from a bereaved wife. But Chopin’s statement on the nature of the institution of marriage unravels in the second half of the short story.

As Louise lay sunken in the large arm chair facing her window, her mood undergoes a change. Form one of remorse and . . . Read More

Continue Reading

Jubilee by Margaret Walker: The Symbolic Importance of the Lady in Black and of the Two Lovers

An important theme in Jubilee by Margaret Walker (Walker 1-490) is freedom.  The three important characters in the story, Vyry, Randall Ware and Innis Brown, are constantly engaged in the quest for freedom.  This entails not just their political liberties, but also the freedom to choose one’s marriage partner and the freedom to configure interpersonal relations in ways they see fit.  Walker wrote Jubilee a century after the end of the Civil War and at the outbreak of the Civil Rights movement. To this extent, the range and scope of freedoms that Vyry and the two men in her life are seeking is representative of the aspirations of blacks in America. What Walker also suggests is that the feminist strivings are not exclusive of a broader political search of equality.  Indeed, the two causes are intricately connected and partly explain why Vyry and her two lovers are showcased in the same scenes in the novel (Graham 96). Apart from this symbolic display of . . . Read More

Continue Reading

The psychosocial changes incurred during adolescence

Adolescence is a key developmental stage in an individual’s life. It encompasses substantial changes physiologically, cognitively and socio-emotionally.  Adolescence begins with the onset of puberty between 11-13 years and continues till the end of teenage years. Recent scientific evidence suggests that while physical growth stops in late teens, the cognitive development goes up to and beyond the age of 24.

Family dynamics undergo changes when children turn adolescents. Parents feel that their children are becoming rebellious and argumentative. While this is true, it is a natural developmental stage through which adolescents individuate from their parents.  While some amount of alienation from parents is requisite for healthy psychological development, adolescents still care what their parents think, and they still seek their love and guidance, albeit in an altered interpersonal setting.  Psychologist Laurence Steinberg observes that dealing with adolescents is akin to . . . Read More

Continue Reading

How are radical transformations in perception and practice of homosexuality impacting Middle East society?

Introduction:

Each of the four articles in question discusses an aspect of homosexuality in the Middle East.  Despite the region being largely Islamic, with its attendant conservative sexual codes, queer sexuality is being expressed in unprecedented ways. Israel, Iran, Morocco and Lebanon are the focus of the four articles.  Each of these countries has had key political developments in recent years.  As a result, studying homosexuality in these regions also leads to the understanding of their political and socio-religious milieu. Moreover, while the articles focus on distinct issues while also being based on broad commonality. Apart from the obvious focus on homosexuality, a major common ground among the articles is how they all attempt research on their respective subjects in a logical and systematic fashion.  The methodology and deductive reasoning that they employ are quite sound.  What follows is a comparative and critical analysis of the four . . . Read More

Continue Reading

Social Commentary in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre has now attained an iconic status as a literary work.  There are several reasons behind this achievement.  The first is the inherent beauty and complexity of the novel.  The twists, turns and fluctuations of fortune that comprise the plot are both original and engaging. The second most notable aspect of the novel is its authorship by a woman.  Although originally published under a male pseudonym, it is evident to the scrupulous reader that the work is by a woman, as it contains numerous insights into female psychology.  Finally, the novel is at once incisive and critical of the then existing social norms and customs, which were largely unfair to women and the underprivileged. Hence, Jane Eyre is a rich source of information on English society of early 19th century. It was an era when the industrial revolution was taking shape and having far-reaching impact on economic, social and cultural life.  Bronte’s classic novel captures well a . . . Read More

Continue Reading

Conflict between Romantic and Victorian values in Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights is a key text in the English literary canon.  The first and last novel of the short-lived life and career of Emily Bronte, the novel lends itself to analysis through various disciplines such as psychoanalysis, race, gender and cultural studies.  For example, it could be read under the feminist framework as much as one can make Marxist interpretations of it.  In this vein, it displays characteristics of both the Romantic Movement in literature even as its characters and settings project Victorian values and virtues.  This essay will pursue this angle in detail, laying out how the Romantic aspects of the novel counter pose the Victorian socio-cultural values in creating a work of high originality and enduring relevance.

The Victorian period is loosely associated with the reign of Queen Victoria during the latter half of the 19th century.  Some of the praiseworthy developments of this period is the concept . . . Read More

Continue Reading

The appeal of Marilyn Monroe

Introduction 

Marilyn Monroe is one of the biggest celebrities of 20th century America.  From baseball stars to movie actors, men of all ages and professions were awed by her beauty and sex appeal. Even the Heads of State were not immune to her charm, as it is an open secret that John F. Kennedy had a secret liaison with her during his presidency. It was the juxtaposition of her childlike innocence and a diva-like physical appearance that were key ingredients of her popularity.  For example, Marilyn Monroe “was recognized around the world as the embodiment of beauty and glamour. Quite simply, her name and her image have timeless appeal.” (Lockwood, 2011)  But behind the wealth, glamour and celebrity status was a lonely woman who was earlier an insecure child.  It is now fairly conclusive that she died of over-consumption of sleeping pills – a sad and tragic end to an icon of American popular culture.  She died so young – she . . . Read More

Continue Reading

Under what conditions, if any, is abortion morally acceptable?

The debate surrounding abortion has been a part of public policy discourse for more than half a century now.  Despite widespread exposure to the issue and passionate presentation of views there is no generally accepted consensus.  Apart from universally recognized pros and cons for legally permitting abortion, there are also localized cultural sensibilities to contend with.  For example, regions of the country with a large religious demographic tend to oppose abortion even when it is practically unreasonable.  On the other extreme, in the more liberal states region, there is the danger of abuse of the right to abortion by reckless, indulgent teenagers.  This essay will argue that abortion must be exercised only under exceptional circumstances. Four key readings related to the topic are perused for constructing arguments.

Dan Marquis’ essay “Why Abortion is Immoral” clearly suggests that the author looks cannot see any genuine moral grounds for permitting . . . Read More

Continue Reading