Sample Essay on Gender Roles and Feminist Theory

Gender Roles and Feminist Theory

Feminist theory and feminist stereotype

Feminist theory is a theory developed to support equality for both men and women by expanding human choices; eliminating gender stratification and eliminating sexual violence, while at the same time promoting sexual freedom and reproduction (Hess, Adams & Kleck, 2004). From the feminist theory, there is an understanding that our actions should push towards ensuring gender equality because just like men, women have equal abilities to ensure social, economic, and political progress (Hess, Senécal, Kirouac, Herrera, Philippot & Kleck, 2000). This means that women should be allowed to develop their interests and talents even if such interests conflict their social roles or sexual orientation. In other words, there is need to oppose laws and cultural practices that limit women search for economic, educational and job opportunities (Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss & Erchull, 2007). In other words, the theory is built around the premise that women, just like men, should be free from oppression and have control over their sexual orientation.

From the film “Martian”, we see women perform multiple integral roles and this reflect their position or capabilities in areas of decision-making and team progress (Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss & Erchull, 2007). For example, it is through the active leadership role of Commander Lewis that makes the crew to achieve its mission to the Mars and come back to earth safely. As a commander of the crew, Lewis is seen to wield her authority with firm in addition to having a strong sense of right and wrong (Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss & Erchull, 2007). Similarly, she struggles to keep her crew safe and through her wisdom, she makes the toughest decision to leave Mark behind on the Mars when the other members of the crew think that Mark is dead. The movie introduces us to the second female character, Beth Johannsen, who is a programmer. Through her skills and efforts, the crew is able to make a final decision on the path to take during their mission (Roy, Weibust & Miller, 2007). Even though Beth is thought to be romantically involved with one of the astronauts, she ends up handling the issue with more tact than everyone would have thought. Even the book version of the movie does not give much attention to the decision of Beth as far as this intimate relationship is concerned. Similar to the two female characters is Mindy Park, the crew’s satellite planner, who is able to discover that Mark is still alive. As the satellite planner, Mindy is charged with the responsibility of keeping tabs of Mark’s movements in addition to keeping control and giving full update of re-orbiting mars satellites (Hess, Adams & Kleck, 2005). Through this responsibility, Mindy gets the opportunity to reduce the delays in photos sent through satellites in order to track any missing member of the crew. Even though she portrays the characters of an introvert, Mindy’s female characterization is a spotlight to the operations of the crew both at the Mars and outside Mars and remains uniform throughout the movie.

The movie also introduces another important female character, Annie Montrose, who is the NASA spokesperson. As the crew’s spokesperson, Annie is charged with the responsibility of disseminating the huge amounts of international PR the crew is facing (Hess, Senécal, Kirouac, Herrera, Philippot & Kleck, 2000). From the film “The Martian”, we are introduced to significant attempts of the international cooperation to save the only human race on the mars. It is this inspiration that makes Annie and Zhu Tao to convince the head of the CNSA to help the US in tracing and retrieving the only human race in Mars. Therefore, the strong-female-character-syndrome in the film “The Martian” is demonstrated by the desires to rescue Mark Watney (Hess, Adams & Kleck, 2005).

 

Why the film “The Martian” does not meet Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test, also known as the Mo-Movie-Measure is a film test that was developed by Liz Wallace and provides criteria for analyzing character in a film based on the behaviors they display and roles they play (Hess, Senécal, Kirouac, Herrera, Philippot & Kleck, 2000). For a film to meet the Bechdel Test criteria, there must be at least two women characters playing strong female roles; the female characters must be able to talk to each other and; portray the characters’ conversation about something apart from man (Roy, Weibust & Miller, 2007). By passing the Bechdel Test, the film or movie under investigation reflects female agency and independence and, therefore, can be considered a construct towards explaining the strong-female-character-syndrome (Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss & Erchull, 2007). While meeting the Bechdel Test is an indication of the presence of strong-female-character-syndrome, failing to meet this test is an indication of the problem of a token-women-character and lack of female character in the film.

From the film “The Martian”, all the three conditions to meeting the Bechdel Test are not fulfilled (Hess, Senécal, Kirouac, Herrera, Philippot & Kleck, 2000). For example, there are more than two women in the film who not only talk to each other, but also express conversation on actions directed on one male character, rescuing Watney Mark.  Also note is the fact that the female characters and their actions in the film depict male-settling roles or what female characters can rarely do under normal circumstances. It is true that only two women in the spaceship are able to convers, but only one woman expresses the ability to control other members of the crew throughout the film (Hess, Adams & Kleck, 2004). The movie retails around a rescue mission of a man, Watney, stuck on Mars and all the discussions between the two female characters are directed towards the rescue mission. However, the fact that the two women are discussing a man throughout the film makes it difficult to meet the Bechdel test (Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss & Erchull, 2007).

The commander of the crew, Lewis, is presented as a cool female character and her discussions with the female colleague make the film pass (Hess, Senécal, Kirouac, Herrera, Philippot & Kleck, 2000). However, it becomes hard to generate more ideas on the best ways to rescue the male colleague simply because there are few instances of woman-to-woman conversation during the rescue mission (Roy, Weibust & Miller, 2007). It is also noted that the Commander Lewis is highly desirable in her roles, but the fact that she is the only person charged with the roles of decision-making limits the ability of the crew to generate new ideas and come up with highly harmonized solutions (Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss & Erchull, 2007). From the film, it becomes impressive that Lewis is able to question the role of authority and seize leadership. This happens after building consensus with other member of the crew and checking for recognition despite Lew’s military information or background.

For the film to meet the Bechdel Test, the computer-communication specialists should not have shown love relationship with male counterpart, particularly getting involved with a male colleague (Roy, Weibust & Miller, 2007). As much as the film is two-dimensional, the female characterization is at one point discouraging, especially when Wiig’s is treated with much condescension and disrespect (Ramsey, Haines, Hurt, Nelson, Turner, Liss & Erchull, 2007). The fact that one of the female characters is disrespected in the film also limits the chances of the film meeting the Bechdel Test.

In general the film “The Martian” fulfils some of the cultural desires to incorporate female characters in the mainstream of films (Hess, Adams & Kleck, 2005). The notion of strong female character as depicted in the film shows that females, just like their male counterparts, can represent characters with personal identity, agenda, and line of purpose. This is one of the areas that define the pervaded conversation about the film “The Martian” as right based on the way women have been perceived and portrayed in history. The film posits that women have strong roles to play not only in science fictions, but also in real life practices (Hess, Adams & Kleck, 2004). With the feminist theory, the roles of women in our societies have become more important than before. Women have equal roles to play in areas of employment, contribute through their incomes to facilitate and improve family welfare, and also engage in decisions that improve the overall community welfare.

References

Hess, U., Adams Jr, R. B., & Kleck, R. E. (2004). Facial appearance, gender, and emotion expression. Emotion, 4(4), 378.

Hess, U., Adams Jr, R., & Kleck, R. (2005). Who may frown and who should smile? Dominance, affiliation, and the display of happiness and anger. Cognition & Emotion, 19(4), 515-536.

Hess, U., Senécal, S., Kirouac, G., Herrera, P., Philippot, P., & Kleck, R. E. (2000). Emotional expressivity in men and women: Stereotypes and self-perceptions. Cognition & Emotion, 14(5), 609-642.

Ramsey, L. R., Haines, M. E., Hurt, M. M., Nelson, J. A., Turner, D. L., Liss, M., & Erchull, M. J. (2007). Thinking of others: Feminist identification and the perception of others’ beliefs. Sex Roles, 56(9-10), 611-616.

Roy, R. E., Weibust, K. S., & Miller, C. T. (2007). Effects of Stereotypes about Feminists on Feminist Self‐Identification. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(2), 146-156.