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Present essay deals with analysis of gender ideologies’ functioning in certain local contexts. The latter is discussed through the prism of interactionist approach, which seems to be the most effective in terms of describing micro-level at which gender ideologies function. It provides with possibilities for studying how performative, discourse and social strategies of actors realized in local contexts are embedded in general gender ideology framework. For the present analysis a bar was chosen as the local context, where field study was conducted and gender ideologies’ reflection in interactions between men and women were analyzed.
The central research question of this paper, hence, may be formulated as follows: how do gender ideologies shape interactions between men and women in bar or night club? Gender ideologies in local contexts: interactionist approach. Gender ideologies represent certain social and cultural constructs, which structure the perception of female and masculine identities, societal roles, family status and production relations etc (Philips, 2). Gender ideologies should be understood as a product of social structure, which fosters different roles of men and women in society.
For instance, it may be said that currently dominant perception of women in society was formed within predominantly patriarchal discourse. Paradoxically, patriarchal perception of women affects their own gender ideology and identity, which often corresponds with socially constructed identity. Hence, women’s interactions with men are affected by the absence of their organic self-identity – they are forced to interact within the discourse created by men. However, the latter is realized through women’s own discursive system, which may be described as the micro-level of gender ideology.
As Lakoff suggests, women and men learn their distinct languages from the childhood, which being the part of universal language, in fact reflect different identities in gender interactions (Lakoff, 222). Interactions, according to interactionist approach are based on endowing of certain subjective actions of the Other with meaning and symbols (Blumer, 45). In gender interactions, such meaning is ascribed to actions, based on gender ideologies. For instance, as Lakoff suggests of women’s discourse, ‘If she refuses to talk like a lady, she is ridiculed and subjected to criticism as unfeminine’ (Lakoff, 222).
The latter example shows that gender ideologies are genuinely embedded in gender interactions, because they form the frame of understanding, actions’ meaning and behavior. Moreover, as Lakoff suggests, there exist considerable differences between women’s and men’s use of vocabulary, especially as far as the use of strong words, adjectives and particles are concerned (Lakoff, 223-224). The latter may be evident in any local context, including gender interactions in bar or nightclub, as it would be shown. Any local context activates specific aspects of gender ideology.
According to Philips, notwithstanding culture, ‘There are at least four aspects of human experience that regularly enter into gender ideologies. These include work, appearance, sexuality and reproduction’ (Philips, 8). There is no denying the importance of the fact, that in the interactionist context, analyzed in this paper, such aspects as sexuality and appearance come into play in the first place. Based on these general theoretic considerations concerning gender ideologies let us analyze their reflection in concrete location’s context of bar, based on the empirical data collected in the field study.
Gender Ideologies in gender interactions in bar Field research for this study was conducted in Dirtbags Bar and Grille in Tucson, AZ on June 1, 2009 during 10:30-Midnight. The data collection orientation focused on observing how gender ideologies affect gender interactions in this situational context. The first observation includes objective behavioral patterns of men and women during their visit to bar. It was established as a fact, that men may arrive to bar both in 3-4 individuals groups and alone.
Women, as the field study found never arrive alone, but only with their boyfriend of female friend. The latter situation may be interpreted through the prism of Butler’s approach to gender identity construction. According to Buttler, identity is constructed based on repetition of certain behavioral patterns, gestures, discourses etc (Butler, 519). The latter implies that social structures, existing in society already provide women with stable behavioral orientations, taught to them by their families, older friends.
One of such behavioral codes, which are immediately linked to gender ideology may be described as the cultural taboo for visiting entertainment public places alone. Such taboo is connected first of all with institutionalized male perception of women, being alone in the bar or night club, as the invitation for sexual relations. Based on this perception, visiting bar alone for women automatically means moral fault, since she is immediately associated with prostitute etc. Unlike women’s case, in men’s gender ideology the problem of man’s visiting bar alone does not exist, since it is not problematized as gender issue at all.
Therefore, it is evident that men have more behavioral options and may choose between them to one’s own like. Buttler suggests that gender identities and ideologies are constructed through theatrical and performative interactions (Buttler, 520). The latter is particular evident in women’s focus on their dress, while visiting the bar. Women are more prone to put the emphasis on their own clothes and comment on the apparels of their female friends. They often made complements concerning good dress of each other.
As the same time, men regularly have no tendency to comment on the clothes of their male friends. Instead, they often make complements to women concerning their dress. The latter observations show that gender ideology functions through performative and theatrical behavior reflected in the culture of dressing. Men are relatively indifferent to what their friends wear, however, pay much attention to what women wear. The performative and theatrical role of gender ideologies is also evident in women and men behavior, when they enter the bar.
Women express much more willingness to be noticed by public, including both men and women, as they immediately look for people they know. Unlike, women, men seem to be less tied by any social obligations as they often go straight to the bar and order drinks and only after this greet people they know. Moreover, a bar serves for men a spot to sit down, while women prefer staying near the bar and being attentive to what is going on around them. Gender ideological conventions concerning sexuality are also evident in the types of drinks ordered by men and women.
First of all, male gender ideology is obvious in the wide-spread practice of ordering drinks by men for women, especially as the part of acquaintance or showing sexual interest. Such behavior is often welcomed by women, who are embedded in gender ideologies of men, because women are prone to interpret such attention as the marker of sympathy and often use it in their own interest. As far as the type of beverages, drunk by men and women are concerned, men usually do not differentiate between different drinks, while women often order low calorie beverages such as ‘diet coke and Bacardi’ or sugar free redbull.
The latter shows that the majority of women are embedded in the discourse relating to their appearance and sexuality, which is according to Philips is one of the central aspects of gender ideology (Philips, 9). Women, embedded in gender ideology, try to follow its main conventions in any local context, including bar. Gender interactions in bar are also characterized by both and men and women behavior directed at emphasizing correspondingly their femininity and masculinity. Men in the conversation with women always try to lower the pitch of their voices, while women often raise it.
As Tannen suggests, such strategies are inherently gender, because they are affected by existing ideological representations of femininity and masculinity (Tannen, 169). In these ideological representations masculinity is characterized by the low pitch of voice, which is associated with men authority and women’s high pitch, associated with her secondary role in society. Gender socialization patterns in bar are also very informative, as far as the reflection of gender ideologies is concerned. Women feel more comfortable always being in company either of their female or male friends.
In contrast, men may be either alone or in company without any differentiation. For women being in company guarantees the stability of her identity, because she may fully realize her performative and theatrical patterns of behavior. In contrast, being alone often causes negative gender connotations. Gender interactions in a bar are predominantly initiated by men, when a member of a male group offers a drink to a woman or a group of women. Often women refuse such invitations, however, in a majority of cases they agree even if they feel compelled and uncomfortable in communicating with the large group of men.
A man being alone, however, is less prone to initiate conversations with women, than if he finds himself in company. There is no denying the importance of the fact, that the discussed pattern of gender interactions in bar reflects certain features of dominant gender ideologies. As Butler suggests, gender interactions are regulated by social sanctions and taboos (Butler, 520). One of such taboos may be formulated as follows: women are generally not eligible to initiate gender interactions with men; such priority solely belongs to the latter due to their primary role in gender relations.
The realization of this taboo is particularly evident in bar context, where women generally behave in such a manner in order to stimulate men’s interest, however, their own interests is hidden from public. A woman may be interested in communicating with a given man, however, due to certain gender limitations she is more likely to refuse from her ambitions. Moreover, men usually feel uncomfortable when gender interactions are initiated by women, because it is usually mocked up in his male company.
Hence, it may be postulated that taboos and limitations relating to gender interactions exist both in male and female gender ideologies. If a woman and a man know each other they usually greet by hugs, kisses and even if they are not engaged in romantic relations, they often show some kind of flirting. In personal interactions between men and women gender ideologies are also evident in men’s primary role in initiating tactile closeness with women, especially after alcohol drinks, including closeness, flirt, kisses, hugs, joking etc.
Women, interested in such gender interactions, would not hesitate to communicate and flirt. However, a woman, who feels uncomfortable in this situation, according to the field study conducted, tries to use any possibility to escape from such kind of interactions. Gender ideologies are also embedded in the purpose of men and women’ visiting bars. Men usually visit bars to chase after women and find the object of their sexual desires etc. Women may also visit bars in this purpose, however, their clear intentions are not seen so obviously as that of men, hence, we may speak of dubious nature of their purpose.
Such distribution of gender roles clearly resonates with dominant gender ideology, according to which men have the priority in initiating close gender relations. As far as dancing practices in bars are concerned, men are less prone to dance alone; however, women have no qualms about it. Men prefer dancing if they want to initiate interactions with women – in such a case they dance close to her. Apart from this, gender interactions in bar are often characterized by age limitations. Older women rarely visit such kind of places; however, older men may be seen there more frequently.
Conclusion Gender ideologies represent language reflection of certain social and behavioral patterns of men and women and society. They usually refer to different social roles, types of discourse, sanctions and taboos and behavior of men and women. The analysis of gender ideologies in local context of bar showed that they are reflected in concrete interactions. Men and women usually act according to well-established gender conventions of behavior, which are reflected in initiating interactions, purpose of bar visit, behavior in groups, intersexual behavior etc.
Women seem to be considerably affected by their representation in men gender ideologies, which means that they have no behavioral choices. In contrast, men’s behavior is characterized by the possibility of choice between a wide range of options. Men may be either alone or with friends, initiate gender interactions or not etc. Women have virtually no choices: they have refuse from initiating interactions, positively respond to any men’s attempt to initiate communication, always be in a company etc.
Moreover, gender interactions in bar reflect crucial social perceptions of women sexuality and appearance, which are the first aspect of gender coming into play in bar context. Women put emphasis on their appearance and clothes and often try to present their identity in performative and theatrical way, which according to Buttler, immediately links such kind of behavior to gender strategies. In contrast men, pay less attention to such things and behave in a more casual and free way. Finally, men’s behavior in a bar is regulated by the lesser number of social sanctions and taboos.
References Blumer, Herbert (1969). Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press. Butler, Judith. (1988). ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory’. Theatre Journal. Vol. 40 # 4, (519-531). Lakoff, Robin. Extract from Language and Woman’s Place. Philips, Susan U. (1999). Gender Ideology, Cross Cultural Aspects. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. Tannen, Deborah. “She is the Boss”: Women and Authority.