Clothing In Construction Of Gender Cultural Studies Essay

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With the development of society, politics, economy and science, people have been looking for a kind of unconcealed individual beauty. Especially in modern society, the cultivation of "highlight personality" is highly regarded by people. So sex in garment design has never been the whole factor within the consideration of modern fashion designers. Instead, neutral garment between two sexes has become a kind of unique scenery on the street.

In modern society that men's wear and women's wear are very much alike in pattern style and the choice of colours, even exactly the same. From the ancient times the standard of traditional clothing emphasized the roles of men and women played. Males need to show masculine beauty of steadiness, sobriety and strength; while females should be blessed with feminine beauty of being ladylike, kind and soft. From the end of the 1990s, neutral garment has become the most popular cosset. Especially with the rapid development of society and economy, as well as with the rapid promotion of women's rank in society, there is increasing no definite role confirmation for males and females in the society according to profession. At present, neutral garment can not only satisfy women's self-confidence in social competition with its simple pattern but also make males enjoy the joy of fashion. T-shirts, jeans and low-waist pants are considered as neutral garments; white, black and gray are neutral colours; dying hair,short hair are of neutral hairstyle…In a word, being neutral has become the popular trend in this century.

Viewing from the formation and development of neutral garment, the influence of

social institution, economic development, thinking culture and industry development on here, as well as the change of social status of relationship between men and women and the influence of pattern style produced by fashion designers on neutral garment, we can draw the conclusion that the existence of this neutral garment phenomenon is not occasional and single, but a result influenced by thinking culture, social thinking trend, individual consciousness, social and economic development. At the same time, this phenomenon also means the promotion of women's social status, the emergence of being neutral in positions, the inverted changes of design thinking of fashion designers in men's and women's wear, as well as a kind of development trend represented by individual performance and modern clothing psychological demands.

Man, Woman and culture

The birth of a man or a woman is not solely a biological fact in any society. Biological fact is assembled with social implications. The word Gender is currently diffusely used to relate to those ways in which a culture reforms what begins as a fact of nature. Convictions about what "men" and "women" are or should be are emerged in all cultures, though between cultures and over time the beliefs are different. For example, women are meant to be more interested in clothing and fashion and take care about their appearance, yet men should be less intent on these things. Women are also assumed to be more passive and men more aggressive. When we are elevated in a specifically culture we learn what we should be from our friends, parents and the media, we restructure our behavior to more closely meet with the expectancies. While we don't all rashly follow these socially constructed gender roles, for instance a lot of women don't care about fashion but many men do, many of these criterions become internalized by us as individuals, and become proportion of our identity.

The definition of being a man or woman is tightly connected to appearance. Men wear clothing as our definition of skirt usually seen in West Africa, Indonesia and in Scottish dress. A tube form of cloth fitted at the waist is worn by both men and women in West Africa. The Scottish skirt still worn at many social events to create a social and cultural identity stands for the point of masculinity (Kidwell and Steele). Skirt is hard to be seen on men in American culture, except within the film, theater or in the context of couture or avant-garde fashion. For instance, the grunge style of the early 1990s had fashions for men designed to be worn with skirts. Whatever, there was nothing specifically feminine in these styles, and were just a fashion statement.

Historically, dress and gender have not always been fixed and have enjoyed some latitude. Researching dress and gender from a historical viewpoint stimulates awareness of the shifts regarding appropriate dress for males and females. For example, the expectation of blue is for boy babies and pink for girl babies has not always been the case. Paoletti and Kregloh (1989) discussed how the colour "rule" in 1918 was pink for the boy and blue for the girl. Pink was interpreted then as a stronger and more assertive colour and blue as more dainty and delicate.

Social construction of gender

Social construction of gender is normally discussed in contrast to biological facts of differences between men and women. For example men are naturally more aggressive and women relatively more passive because of hormones like testosterone, and women are more interested in clothing on average because in the human species men are active in sexual partner selection where as women are passive, so women "display themselves" and wait. Social explanation for gender differences point to the variation in gender roles from culture to culture and across time, like men in France in the time of Louis XII wore high heels and makeup. So it can not be biology or it would be stable. Biological explanations point out that in all cultures and times women and men do differ, and the universality of this differentiation proves the biological underpinning of sex-role differences no matter how these are expressed in any given culture. Of course, most people think it is a bit of both, and also that people do get some choice - neither biology nor socialization is destiny.

Clothing and Gender

The qualities and characteristics we perceive as specific to gender are inherent by nature. Physical strength is stereotyped to be masculine, while emotional behaviour is stereotyped as feminine in America. Any straying from these expectations is sufficient grounds for alienation. However, historian Howard Zinn has documented that "gender roles are a part of a system constructed by the ruling class during the formation of our nation." The gender role structure in the US was created in order to maintain a centralized, wealthy ruling class. In order to keep wealthy, white men in control of the economy, women have been constructed as inferior to men -- physically, mentally and emotionally. Lorber explains that the definition of being a man or woman is comprised of more than apparent genetic information. "Gender" is a socially constructed status, which has the intention of "choosing people for the different tasks of society"(Lorber). Thus, ideas about how one should behave in order to fit into a gender category are learned, not intrinsic. As a society assigns people as "men" or "women", this categorization denotes the accepted and preferred "personality characteristics, feelings, motivations, and ambitions" that create different classes and preferences for people (Lorber). That is, the genderization system produces men and women who tend to have a "natural inclination" toward ideas, behaviours, and careers that help them assimilate to anticipated gender stereotypes. Parents, constantly in fear that people will not be able to distinguish the sex of their new baby, instinctually encourage dress, styles, and behaviour that perpetuate the masculine and feminine labels from birth. The word "woman" itself was created by the masculine conception of what femininity should be. These criteria set up the dominant/subordinate relationship standard because women lacked the power to challenge the male point of view. Lorber suggests that "as a process, gender creates social differences that define 'woman' and 'man'" through interactions and expectations of peers and family. As a stratification, gender ranks men's work superior to women's, regardless of skill or difficulty. As a social structure, gender organizes work habits both domestically and economically (Lorber). For the average girl in American society, adapting to gender roles is taught in every single facet of life. The media, entertainment, and school cooperatively exhibit and promote gender assimilation. Barbieä dolls are the first toys I can recall playing with as a young girl. Her long blond hair, short skirts, disproportionately long legs, and spike heels set the precedent for how I would view true "femininity" throughout adolescence. By age six, my life became infiltrated by gender specific, "girly" activities. I practiced ballet and avoided sports, painted fingernails, nearly always wore dresses with nylons, experimented with my mother's make-up (rather unsuccessfully), joined Girl Scouts, grew out my hair to mid-back, and wished for everything to be pink or lavender.

Fashion trends and clothing styles, in particular, significantly aid the social construction of gender. The mere presence of a standard for the judgment of beauty automatically designates some group to be in control of the other. That is, individuals are constantly judging one another to make certain that they fit into the correct gender classification. Trendy, hip clothing are made for a very specific, minority group of women- narrow-hipped, small-breasted, tall, and skinny. The pressure to fit into these styles of clothes is unrelenting and produces insecurities and a poor body-image. These adolescent anxieties are not uncommon and can produce eating disorders, depression, and suicide.

Joanne Finkelstein, in After a Fashion, explains that fashion can be seen as a device for confining women to an inferior social order. Throughout history women have been isolated from men by their fashion dues to society - women would risk spinal disorders from corsets, chronic foot pain and arch trauma from high-heels, and submit to a constant preoccupation of worry over men's approval of clothing appropriateness. Fashions play such an integral role in how we judge one another - how much money we have, what music we listen to, how much education we have received - that any gender-bending fashions exhibited by women are at best taboo, and at worst, unattractive to men (the alleged Ultimate Woman's Worry).

In many societies, gender is not considered a part of nature, but rather learned, acquired, or earned as a rite of passage. In some tribal communities, acquiring gender status represents maturity and responsibility. There is an unspoken agreement between American men and women that women will fashion their clothing and styles as part of a system that favours' men. In part this system favours' men simply by distinguishing a class apart from men, requiring someone to exist on the outside of an established social norm. John Lorber puts it best: "Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at" (Lorber). In a society where many women still do not recognize the inequalities of genderization, the pervasiveness of gender roles in America remains perpetuated and profound.

Conclusion

Clearly, gender as a social and cultural construction needs demands; the appropriate sustains to successfully convince the audience that one's gender presentation is authentic. The dress we wear is layered with many meanings, such as culturally appropriate gender behaviour, gender socialization via dress, codes of dress and gender, historical perspectives of dress and gender, dressing parts of the self, social resistance, and gender markers.

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