Friday, May 14, 2010

Femininity and Masculinity in Glee

Everyday we are influenced by the media, whether it is from the radio, television, magazine, newspaper, or the radio, the media affects the way we think and act. We often are influenced without ever having realized it. The television show Glee often explores common problems among our society today, such as teen pregnancy, dealing with weight issues, sexuality, and feminism. In the "Power of Madonna Episode" male dominance in society is recognized and female empowerment is emphasized. This episode explores the fact that males are not always aware of gender inequality, and therefore can sometimes seem insensitive and even degrading towards women. 

Within the first ten minutes of the episode the girls describe that they feel belittle by the boys, and how the boys are not even aware of this. In one scene Tina's boyfriend, Artie, her to change her image because the "goth scene" was only popular two years ago. ("FOX"). Though only a minute of the episode, this scene is important for society to hear, that men are trying to change women to fit the image they want. From this implication, I concluded that if you are not as society tells you, then you should change your image to make others happy. This idea to strive to be beautiful, as described by the media, can be seen not only in this instance of Glee, but almost anywhere you look. 

Tina is an important character because even after hearing this, she does not feel the need to change herself to fit into society. Tina is proud of the way she looks and does not want to change for others. This is a character trait often not shown on television, and not the typical image of a woman that we see. According to Johnson, “to live in a patriarchy [dominance of males in society] is to breathe in misogynist images of women as objectified sexual property valued primarily for their usefulness to men” (96). Therefore in this instance, Glee defies what is expected of the role of women in our society, by not conforming into something other than you. 

Women empowerment is an important aspect of this episode, as is the recognition of the male dominance in our society. When the boys are told that they must sing a Madonna song, many of the boys complain and say they feel uncomfortable with this. I found this response to be implying the fact that males cannot sing songs about or by empowered women. However, the boys realize this is an assignment, and something they must complete. I felt it was important that by the end of the episode the boys are singing Madonna’s song, “What it feels like for a girl”.  Not only did the boys sing this song, but also they discovered something about gender differences. Puck, one of the main boy characters states, “I like being a dude”. This statement is followed by the response of Finn, another male character, who states “that’s cause it’s easy to be a dude” (“FOX”).  The boys singing a Madonna song and acknowledging the fact that there are gender differences in our society is an important statement for the viewer to see. These actions are trying to lessen the gender differences, by making people more aware of how unbalanced our society is. Thus originally the males’ attitudes implied to be a man, you should not sing female songs, but this idea is overcome and shows that there is an opportunity at some point, for all to be equal.

The idea that males should not sing female songs is the same concept that males must be strong and powerful, while females are weak and quiet. These ideas and thoughts that society has is what Newman considers as to “do gender… that means behaving in ways that are considered gender appropriate” (54). In Glee this concept was shown explicitly, yet often we all “do gender” without even realizing it. It is something that is part of our daily life, we see peoples actions and looks, and compare them with that of their gender, to make sure everything corresponds to what we know as normal.

Obviously, there are many definitions as to what is normal, and this often can depend on gender. People may have one expectation for males and another for females on the exact same issue, such as sex. This episode briefly touched on the subject and through this issue, portrayed a very important gender difference. Rachel, the main girl character, is about to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend, Jessie. Jessie tries explaining to Rachel that it is not a big deal, yet her response is “for a girl it is” (“FOX”). For a female, sex is a big deal and if it is something a female does often, she will be seen as a slut. However, more often for a male having a lot of sex is seen as something cool and often make the male more popular and liked by his peers. This again shows how gender inequalities exist in our society and can be used so frequently, that people begin to not even question or recognize the differences. 

The media plays a dominant role in our society, and Glee is just one aspect of our media. This episode truly portrayed the gender differences that are present in our society. Women are not often seen as strong, and conforming to the standards of our society. However this episode showed viewers that women can be independent and do not have to be exactly as society tells us, we should be who we want. Along with the females, the males are now aware of the gender differences and were even able to help overcome some of these gender stereotypes.

Works Cited

"FOX on Demand - Glee." FOX Broadcasting Company. Web. 14 May 2010. .

Johnson, Allan G. "Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them or an Us." The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Philadelphia, Pa: Temple UP, 2005.

Newman, David M. "Manufacturing Difference: The Social Construction of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality." Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006.   


  1. Alyssa-
    Interesting post on this episode of Glee (John also posted on the exact same episode and Madonna video).
    The thesis needs to be clearer in the intro. Are you arguing, "This episode explores the fact that males are not always aware of gender inequality, and therefore can sometimes seem insensitive and even degrading towards women."?
    For future posts, try to deepen your analysis by looking at (if this were a future assignment of yours) how the characters reactions to the performance of the other characters illustrate these dominant (or challenge the dominant) gender norms. Is is uncommon for men to be assumed to be insensitive?
    Try to clear up your argument in your thesis (last sentence of the intro) and then, your logically structured, more analytically-deep sub-points will flow in a quite surprisingly smooth manner! :o)

  2. I really like the fact that you chose to analyze the ways in which the show broke the rules that media normally has in regards to gender, showing how Glee challenges our perceptions. Also, I specifically liked the argument you made about Tina. It may have been a more subtle differentiation of gender yet it is very pervasive in our culture.

    I would be careful to hone in on the way you are going to analyze your topic earlier. I was not sure where you were going with your argument until half-way through your third paragraph. Also, although I really like your argument, sometimes it felt like it veered away from answering the initial question. If you wanted to tie in what you were saying more, you could have framed it by stating that the way that Glee chooses to define being female is through female empowerment. This was implied but could have been clearer.

    Great choice!

    PS-Sorry I didn't post this earlier. I talked to Jessie on Thursday because I had to post this tonight due to the power/ internet outages at school.