Week twelve-Just like a girl

This week I have finished off making notes from the books I borrowed from the library: ‘Just like a girl’:How girls learn to be women’ Sue Sharpe published 1994 by Penguin Group and Gender R.W Connell published 2002.

Sue Sharpe’s book provided me with reasons as to why attitudes and social norms have developed in society, mainly through large scale events like the world wars. Whereas Connell’s book gave more of a sociological approach to the topic of gender and had some interesting theories e.g. body canvas, though it seemed less relevant to my project. Attitudes we hold as a society no doubt effects what is depicted in the media.  I will add this information to my essay.

The first world war 1914

Women enter munitions factories and other industries as men went off to fight for Britain. The government launched a scheme of national registration inviting women willing to work to enter themselves on a Register of Women for War Service. 87,000 applied. Women moved into more skilled work. Women had developed a new independence. Now generations growing up in the 20’s and 30’s had little of the feminist consciousness that had been so high before the war. Towards the end of the 20’s a wave of cultural and anti-feminism began. New images of femininity were projected in the media on a mass scale. However, reports of the positon of women in Nazi Germany influenced what was happening in Britain. It was implicit in the middle class ideology that is was preferrable for a wife not to work and that any aspiring husband she be able to earn enough to provide sufficiently and keep his wife at home.

World war two

Women volunteers. Many enter male jobs and proved to be just as good. However, many managements loathed the idea of training women. Womens real place at home was endorsed also at governmental level, and concern with welfare of family life, caused Beveridge to produce the basis of the welfare state in 1942. Women inequality in the workplace still continued after. Returning home after the war left many women discontent having experienced a new independence. In 1960 higher education was being offered to girls reinforcing the idea women could have a meaningful contribution to a workforce. As the sixties wore on youth divisions became less strict, with male and females wearing unisex clothes. In 1970, women’s rights were a big topic due to activities by the Womens Liberation Movement who campaigned for equal pay, accessible nursery provisions and encourage women to become active in trade union activities. 1975 saw the implementation of the sex discrimination act and equal pay (1970). Still continue though due to sex segregation in work and de-skilling of what women can do and what men can do. Even after the equal pay act, womens wages were still two thirds lower than mens.

Attitudes and ideas of girls are not only formed from tradition, but teaching and their own interaction with and interpretation of the world, but can be understood by examining the social relationship of their lives under the prevailing economic system.

The wedge between males and females was driven deeper by stereotypes- character dichotomy It can represent a prescription in which concepts of ‘normal’ behaviour are contained and where in the past feminine has been set as the opposite of masculine. Mass media has reflected this through time. The barrage of images individuals are subjected to, carve out conscious impressions about the nature of the world. The delicate women has now been replaced by a more sexual image. Women see there parents and people around them in sex defined jobs which they begin to believe is normal. Studies (Bronwyn Davies) have found children learn about masculine and feminine through language which provides means of social structure. e.g speech patterns. Davies said children recognize they are different but Kohlbergs theory of cognitive suggests children do not distinguish between male and female but actively seek out what they see as appropriate behaviour. They are contrasts. Power imbalance will remain as long as men and women are referred to separately . Females however are more likely to be denied opportunities and have a lower value in society.

Upbringing influences our attitudes. Boys are brought up to have an impact on the environment, while girls are protected from the environment. Boy are encouraged to direct and control situations while girls more dependent. This may mean girls always want approval of others to boost their self esteem.

Recent cultural studies of the body often focus on language on discourse, under the influence of Michel Foucault. Foucault showed in his studies ‘discipline and punish’ (1977) modern systems of knowledge sort people into categories, and how these categories are interwoven with techniques of social discipline that police their bodies. He failed to theorize gender but feminists like Fraser1989 turned it into a gender theory.


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