CCS: Gender essay draft

Level 4/ Mini Block 3/ Contemporary design practice

In this essay I will be discussing the theme ‘Gender’ and from three chosen examples (Hello Kitty plush, Men’s Vogue and Jean Paul Gaultier Classique.), they will be used to highlight how gender is socially constructed, maintained and embody certain characteristics through their design.

The term ‘gender’ doesn’t necessarily come down to what sex you are, it’s important to first distinguish that “gender” is different than “sex.”  In short, sex refers to your biological differences, which is equal to male and female.[1] On a frequent basis, designs for toys, clothes, other objects, or media and marketing are influenced and/or try to encourage different set expectations for both female and male.

Since the moment we are born, we are automatically encouraged to follow a certain role. Girls wearing pink, while boys wear blue. We are gendered based on our appearance. From the initial swaddling in either a blue or pink blanket we are taught what is “normal.” [2] Many people may categorise specific products and match them up to a male or female based on this theory as an example, but there’s more to this.

Figure 1: Hello kitty plush toy 2009.

In context to this, this soft toy(fig 1) while it can have the automatic assumption of being marketed to children or designed to be brought and used for them. The fact that it’s been placed under the category of ‘a toy’ or  a ‘plush’, people will be quick to jump at the idea of the product being meant for a child, but in terms of whether this is a product aimed for a young male or female, due to the appearance of it being soft and cuddly, it would be for a young girl. Indeed this happens to be the case, however there are other design aspects that lead to this decision further, for example, the cloth skirt that this particular Hello Kitty’s wearing also has similarities to what a girl may wear, perhaps this is what persuades the parent or the child to buy this toy, but on the other hand, figure 1 has been constructed to have this innocent, soft and delicate appearance which has been emphasiesed with the use of how it’s been intentionally  proposed in toy form. This allows parents to use this toy as a good example for their child  and can use the toy as a role model for them, like Barbie has done for many. In the publics eyes, they see a young girl as an image of ‘cute’, ‘inocent’, ‘soft’ and ‘delicate’, and with that particular view point in mind, the plush is wearing quite a lot of softer tones of pink which puts prominence on this perspective, as pink is seen as a signifier for female.It’s come in to debate that gender identities have been given new identities, due to how society sees fit, and they give them set attributes. Identity gives us an idea of who we are and of how we relate to others and to the world in which we live. [3]While it’s highly likely that Hello Kitty is marketed at children(girls specificaly), in Japan many consumers (particularly women) have grown up with the brand and still identify with it in adulthood. [4]  Its been expressed that there are many Hello Kitty products that have been created with similar style traits, such as the use of patterns, pink shades and even having the signature look on the merchandise and that there are products that will fit in with the lifestyle that the child will have in future. There are toy household and beauty products, for example, but these are also available as full size, proper working domestic products, such as toasters, vacuum cleaners and microwaves.[5] Setting these particular objects out and selling them to children from such a young age will help to encourage them to transition in to a lifestyle which will then be seen as ‘normal’ once they become adults and ironically, the majority of these items are typically used by the ‘woman’ of the home or so to say. Arguably, in this context… where the equipment necessary for adult domesticity is reminiscent of the accoutrements of childhood.[6]

 

Figure 2: Jean Paul Gaultier classique eau de toilette perfume- 1993

Another example, Jean Paul Gaultier Classique (fig 2) while the metal case has curvature to it, if we specifically narrow down to the perfume bottle inside, it’s very fragile as it’s made out of glass. When looking at this characteristic and to refer back to what has been stated previously about how society label females as ‘fragile’ and this is stereotypically how women are normally seen, they’re seen as ‘something to be taken care of’, neatness, tactfulness, gentleness, and talkativeness, were long considered to be feminine traits (Brovermanet al, 1972).[7] Once again, there’s this continuation of being seen as a ‘soft’ and ‘delicate’ notion, in which this is further maintained by the shape of the bottle. The form resembles a woman, and due to the fact that upon opening the canister with the perfume inside it ; once its being pulled out, it starts to emphasise this seductive approach to the overall appearance,  to the design and while still on the subject of appearance, it continues to provide more evidence to which gender this object is marketed or designed for. Men act and women appear….Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only the most relations between men and women, but also the relation of women to themselves….Thus she turns herself in to an object— and most particularly an object of vision: a sight. [8] The perfumes design creates an image of what people see as a women or what a woman should be. A woman who has breasts, shape and hips, while also being seen as something desirable, fragile, sophisticated and refined. This particular stance is sustained through the aroma figure 2 lets out, as to quote ‘…luxurious fragrance for her opens with beautiful notes that are fresh, …and rose with the spicy oriental influences of provocative…An intoxicating, warm vanilla beautifully unites the entire composition.’ The advertising website descrbe it as this, they even excalimed ‘her’, as if they’re describing the perfume as a an actual person.

Figure 3: Vogue men, November 2008. Daniel Craig.

While figure 3 displays Daniel Craig, he’s more known as the iconic bad boy James Bond. Bond attracts a lot of ladies attention, it may have been possible that while Men’s vogue is rumored to be published for men to read, but as it’s got iconic figures like this one on it, it also attracts womens attention. They either want to have a man like him, or would want to be with him. James Bond never leaves a woman unsatisfied [9]  and with the image of a man who acts, does and is treated in such a strong viewpoint, it helps fans create the opportunity to embody and perform an imagined masculinity. [10] Upon looking at this further, Craig’s calm, distant and relaxing gaze is steered towards the viewers attention. It’s dominantly looking towards you, the viewer. To reiterate ‘Men look at women.’[11], this is in away is what we call ‘the male gaze’, the surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female.[12]

Not only is the gaze one of the aspects that indicates that this may be categorising this photo to be aimed at females, but it also puts out an image of what we may see a man to look like. Another example, would be the suit he’s wearing, suits are quite often referred to as a mans thing. They’re bulky, due to the V-shaped proportions that follow a male physique. The suit presents an image which purposefully divests the wearer of the personal in order to issue a statement of competence and efficiency… as an object is its association with roles and in particular a male and masculine culture within which all genders may operate and, within that, the world of work. It reflects gender and deflects sexuality as well as constructing the masculine and deconstructing femininity. [13] They convey the representation of ‘status’ or ‘higher authority’ such as, a man with business, this alone gives him power, it gives him status and it gives him dominance as it is seen as a social norm. The text ‘Bond’ and ‘Ambition’ as it stands out on the cover in comparison to the other sets of subtitles, it helps to give the figure in the photo more priority than the rest of the magazine, which conveys it to be more dominant.

Conclusion

Through the use of appearance and society, they have helped to construct and maintain an image of what we emobody or describe to make up gender identities for male and female. Even from such a young age, parents especially, they encourage their child to see what is seen as ‘acceptable’ and then, they later reward them for following what can be seen as ‘normal’ for their set gender, as society defines what is male and what is female.[14]

Not only is the look of femine or masculine characteristics maintained by society, or your parents, but  media and marketing has served equally with embodying these set characteristics. The media—especially television—can contribute to children’s gender-role socialization by providing models for observation. [15] For example, Barbie and Action man have been particularly influentual role models for children as toys, as they are both adults. Barbie is portrayed as this pretty, blonde and gentle person and all she’s about is mainly appearance and Action Man is more about acting out physical activities, such as doing army duties. As these are actions that are later done in what would be seen as a ‘normal’ lifestyle, they are then nurtured and used by the two separate genders once they grow up. Relationships between objects and gender are formed and take place in ways that are so accepted as ‘normal’ as to become invisible.[16]

To conclude, the design of images/objects gender is socially constructed, maintained and embody certain characteristics through the influence of upbringing, society, media and marketing as they all are very significant, in terms of maintaining and constructing an image or view of what is female and what is male, which is then later embodied.

 

Bibliography

Books

Gunter Barrie, Television and gender representation (University of Luton Press (1 Jun. 1995))

Kirkham Pat, The Gendered object (Manchester University Press (15 Aug. 1996))

Palczewski Helen Catherine, Victoria pruin defrancisco, Gender in communication: a critical introduction (SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd Revised edition edition (29 Oct. 2013))

Pavitt Jane, Brand new (V&A Publishing; New edition edition (30 Sept. 2002))

Woodward Kathryn, Identity and difference (The Open University 1997

 

Images

URL: http://makeuphub.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Jean-Paul-Gaultier.png

URL: http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2008/10/22/287035/MV.Nov08Cover300dpi.jpg

Jstor

O’Brien  Glenn, Bond Girls, BOMB, No.67 (Spring, 1999), URL: <https://www.jstor.org/stable/40426107?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents&gt; [Accessed 12 April 2016]

Reijnders Stijn , On the trail of 007: media pilgrimages into the world of James Bond, Area, Vol. 42, No. 3 (SEPTEMBER 2010), pp. 369-377,URL: < http://www.jstor.org/stable/40890889>%5BAccessed 12 April 2016]

 

Websites

‘Jean Paul Gaultier Classique Eau de Toilette 100ml’,URL: < http://www.elysian.co.uk/jean-paul-gaultier-classique-eau-de-toilette-100ml/?gclid=CNXZ4ICBicwCFQuNGwoddmYN7w> [Accessed 5th April 2016]

‘Pink Wasn’t Always Considered a Feminine Color and Blue Wasn’t Always Masculine’, The Forgotten History Blog, Thursday, January 1st, 2009, < http://forgottenhistoryblog.com/pink-wasnt-always-considered-a-feminine-color-and-blue-wasnt-always-masculine/&gt;

‘Gender Series – Female gender roles and toys’, National Conference for Community and Justice,Wednesday, 10th October 2014 , URL:< https://nccj.org/blog/gender-series-female-gender-roles-and-toys>

‘Gender Series – Men and Beauty, National Conference for Community and Justice,Monday, 1th October 2014 , URL:< https://www.nccj.org/blog/gender-series-men-and-beauty&gt;

M’Liss DeWald Youth Program Specialist,’Gender Series – Gender roles affect everyone new blog views’, National Conference for Community and Justice,Monday, 8th August 2014 , URL:< https://nccj.org/blog/gender-roles-affect-everyone-new-blog-seriess>

 

 

 

[1] M’Liss DeWald Youth Program Specialist,’Gender Series – Gender roles affect everyone new blog views’, National Conference for Community and Justice,Monday, 8th August 2014 , URL:< https://nccj.org/blog/gender-roles-affect-everyone-new-blog-seriess>

[2] ‘Gender Series – Female gender roles and toys’, National Conference for Community and Justice,Wednesday, 10th October 2014 , URL:< https://nccj.org/blog/gender-series-female-gender-roles-and-toys>

 

 

[3] Woodward Kathryn, Identity and difference (The Open University 1997), page 1

[4] Pavitt Jane, Brand new (V&A Publishing; New edition edition (30 Sept. 2002)), pages 180-81

[5] Pavitt Jane, Brand new (V&A Publishing; New edition edition (30 Sept. 2002)), pages 180-81

[6]Pavitt Jane, Brand new (V&A Publishing; New edition edition (30 Sept. 2002)), pages 180-81

 

[7] Gunter Barrie, Television and gender representation (University of Luton Press (1 Jun. 1995)), page 1

[8] Palczewski Helen Catherine, Victoria pruin defrancisco, Gender in communication: a critical introduction (SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd Revised edition edition (29 Oct. 2013))

[9] O’Brien  Glenn, Bond Girls, BOMB, No.67 (Spring, 1999), URL: <https://www.jstor.org/stable/40426107?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents&gt; [Accessed 12 April 2016]

 

[10] Reijnders Stijn , On the trail of 007: media pilgrimages into the world of James Bond, Area, Vol. 42, No. 3 (SEPTEMBER 2010), pp. 369-377,URL: < http://www.jstor.org/stable/40890889>%5BAccessed 12 April 2016]

[11] Palczewski Helen Catherine, Victoria pruin defrancisco, Gender in communication: a critical introduction (SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd Revised edition edition (29 Oct. 2013)), page 170

[12] Palczewski Helen Catherine, Victoria pruin defrancisco, Gender in communication: a critical introduction (SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd Revised edition edition (29 Oct. 2013)), page 170

[13] Kirkham Pat, The Gendered object (Manchester University Press (15 Aug. 1996)), Page 153

 

[14] Gunter Barrie, Television and gender representation (University of Luton Press (1 Jun. 1995)), page 1

[15] Gunter Barrie, Television and gender representation (University of Luton Press (1 Jun. 1995)), page 4

[16] Kirkham Pat, The Gendered object (Manchester University Press (15 Aug. 1996)), page 1

 

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