Feminism theory refers to the outgrowth in the general movement aimed at empowering women worldwide. It can take a definition of the recognition and the challenge of male supremacy that is combined with the efforts to change it. Feminism incorporates sociological and political theories and all other philosophies that involve gender difference together with all movements that champion the gender equality and also campaigns for the interests and the rights of women. The paper explores the evolution of various gender issues theories and also several aspects of gender and feminism theory by analyzing three movies by Alfred Hitchcocks film Virgito (1958), Rear Window (1954) and Rope (1948).
Overview of gender and feminism
The history of the feminist movements can be traced back in the 1830s in what is commonly referred to as Abolitionist movement. Seneca Falls is believed to be the birthplace of the American feminism. Liberal feminism focuses on the social change by constructing the laws and regulation of the employment practices. Marxist Feminism focuses on the division of labor and the gender roles and expectations. For instance, it maintains that females role is to give birth while the male role is supporting the children. Radical feminism speaks out against the structure since most of them are believed to be created by men. Social feminism maintains the view that women oppression stems from their work in the economy and the family. All these theories are replaced by the postmodern feminism that attempts to criticize all forms of dominant order (Eisenchlas 337).
The contemporary society is characterized with dramatic changes of gender roles, and the place of females is felt in almost all spheres of human lives. Unlike in the past, women today is so much empowered to compete in male gender in all aspects of life. It is not a surprise today to find women occupying big positions in the government or other offices and also being the breadwinners in the family. Empowerment of women is important in any society. For instance, empowered women will have can have access to improved health care and family planning. This plays a substantial role in reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies and spread of HIV among young girls.
Empowered women are also able to make the decision on the child spacing and also improves the chances of unemployment, and this reduces poverty considerably. Empowerment has also reduced the maternal deaths and has created smaller families that facilitate channeling of resources to health and education of a child. Empowering women have also served to reduce vices such as domestic violence and gender discrimination and has also increased political and economic stability. However, the empowerment has ended up destroying the family systems, and there are still fewer chances that women will take up jobs that are traditionally associated with men. Additionally, it creates an environment of competition which eventually leads to broken marriages and the rise of single parents in the society.
Analysis of Hitchcock's gender roles
In all the movies, the gender roles are either fulfilled or reserved at some characters. Such relationships are portrayed in the form of the relationships existing amongst the main characters. Feminist theory has largely emphasized roles. Some theories in gender and feminism maintain that although men and women appear similar in engaging in certain types of prosocial behaviors, they are different when it comes to emphasizing on the particular class of behaviors. For instance, women are supposed to be more relational and communal while men are supposed to be so agentic, collectively oriented, and show some strength in their characters (Eagly 76). However in all the movies, there are some characters that seem to cross the male barriers. For instance, in rear window Lisa is portrayed as a glamorous and stunning woman who is very successful and demanding. These characteristics are mostly associated with devious women. Lisa was also found snooping at Mr. Thorwald apartment a character that is mostly associated with males; she was not killed by this man who is a suspected to have killed his wife. In the movie, Lisa is also portrayed as a woman who is dependent and comes and leaves at will unlike Mrs. Thorwald and Jeff, who appears stationary. This is a character that is traditionally associated with men. Simply put, Lisa is independent throughout the movie although her relationship with Jeffries appears to be controlling her in some ways. Although Jeffrey characters are not exactly women, he is unable to save Mrs. Tworland when her husband killed her or save Lisa from going to prison. In fact, he is unable to protect himself from being assaulted by Mr. Thorwald in his apartment, and it is Lisa who comes to his rescue with the help of the police seeing the flashlights.
Jeff characters are somehow similar to those of Scottie in the Vertigo movie (1948) where his guilt and loss of Madeleine drives him to spend his time in the mental institute. From the beginning of the movie, the gender representation of Vertigo is not the typical male director. He is grasping into a gutter that is putting him in a vulnerable position. The injured state is evident throughout the movie. Physically the deviation from a typical male character is expressed when he has to wear the corset with a feminine item of clothing. Psychologically, the deviation is evident when he suffers from his past wrong doings. The vertigo is the major reason Scottie can no longer carry out his duties as the policeman, and this makes him feel emasculated.
To some extent, the rooftop incident that becomes the genesis of Scottie humiliation makes him feel feminine. Being a policeman who would be associated with heroic acts, he represents a complex male who is viewed in the movie as the reluctant hero, confused lover and a man with menaced innocence. Just like Jeff, Scottie failed to rescue Madeleine, and this looks like a sharp deviation from the typical role of a male and instead he is viewed as a complex hero.
The deviation from the typical male role is also evident in the Rope film where Philip become upset and starts drinking too much when asked of the murder, unlike Brandon, who appear calm and controlled. The characters of these individuals are in contrast that what is expected for gender roles. There is a stereotypic belief that men should be should be strong and agetic, and this also represents the societal prescription for them
The other aspect of gender difference arises from the way both men and women view their lives and that of others. According to gender and feminism theory, the role of caregiving rests more on women than men. For instance, in rear window Jeff is spending the whole day sited due to his broken leg with Lisa and Stella their maid helping him on everything both inside the house and outside. Again men are portrayed as people who are more interested in other peoples happiness more than theirs. This is evident in window rear when Jeff keeps looking out the window to spy on the people. On the contrary, Lisa is closing the window blind to make him concentrate on her. Similarly in vertigo, instead of Scottie concentrating on his work as a policeman he spends the whole day following Madeleine despite Midge treating him with a lot of care. Perhaps this stems from women role in guiding, helping, sharing and defending as a communal task unlike in men whereby this role is viewed to have an agentic focus.
All the films also present men as people who are comfortable with status quo while the women are very pressing for change. For instance, Lisa wants to think about the future while Jeff is comfortable with what is happening around them at the moment. Similar case to Lisa, Midge wants to settle down with Scottie, but he feels that she is too motherly for him and continues to pursue Madeleine. In the same film of vertigo, although Judy is the same person with Madeleine, she allows herself to undergo through a lot of abuses that makes her change a lot in her personality to please Scottie. Although such incidences are not evident in Rope film, it is clear that women are more future oriented than men.
Marriage in all the movies is viewed from a negative perspective by the male characters. For instance, it is evident in all the movies that women are presented as nagging their husbands throughout the movies. Men think that women want money, status, and success while in reality all that they want is love. For instance, Lisa is viewed as nagging his husband to concentrate more on her instead of the happenings outside their house to the extent that she is closing the window blind. This is the same case for Scottie and Midge in Vertigo. When Midge wants to settle down with Scottie, he is busy trying to recreate the dead Madeleine in few women. Similarly in the rope the marriage contexts revolve around Philip and Brandon, who are viewed as homosexuals. However, today the gender and feminist theories have placed equal roles given marriage to the extent that the husband can assume the role of looking after the children. It is worth noting that full equality in marriage is difficult to achieve due to the inherent differences between men and women (Hawke 4).
Man playing the overanalyzing role is evident in both rear window and vertigo while such role is not evident in the Rope film. For instance, the over-analyzer role in the rear window is played by Jeff, who is a photographer. He is trying to apply some logic to their relationship with Lisa, who is a rich designer. In this, Jeff is opting to break the relation off with Lisa because he thinks that he is superior. Stella appears here as a caregiver who advises Jeff to use common sense in the relationship other than intellect. In this movie, the message Hitchcock is applying to men is that application of logic and overanalyzing does not work for the relationship. Similarly, in Vertigo, after the death of Madeleine, Scottie wants to recreate her through Judy Barton. Scottie was obsessed with the blonde hair of Madeleine and her hair style. It is these attributes that Scottie wants Judy to acquire to win his affection. In both cases, men are trying to exercise their powers over women. However, the contemporary advocates for the independence of both gender and relationships rarely are dictated by some specifically attributes that an individual possesses.
Another similarity in both vertigo and rear window is that the superficial beauty in women is highly reinforced although it is less evident in the Rope film. For instance, Lisa maintains that a woman will not go anywhere without makeups except to the hospital. The reinforcement of physical appearance is also taking a center stage in the Vertigo, which is evident when Scottie insists that Judy should change her physical appearance to fits the physical appearance of Madeleine, which he considered important. This means that both genders highly appreciate the physical attributes of a woman.
To this end, the paper provided an overview of gender and feminist theories that are important to understanding the evolution of contemporary society which appears different from the traditional society. The analysis of the three films analyzes the various roles that are played by the gender and how they have affected the various characters in the movies. With this analysis it is fair to conclude that there is dramatic change in the gender roles in the present and the traditional society.
Duflo, Esther. Women's empowerment and economic development. No. w17702. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011.
Eagly, Alice H. "The his and hers of prosocial behavior: an examination of the social psychology of gender." American Psychologist 64.8 (2009): 644.
Eisenchlas, Susana A. "Gendered discursive pra...
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