The Joy Luck Club, for the most part, embodies gender roles for men and women. The men in The Joy Luck Club are represented in very masculine ways, noticeably possessing success, wealth, or power; some even have all three of those masculine traits. The women in The Joy Luck Club also follow many female gender roles, such as being nurturing and physically slim and beautiful. Although some of the younger women are shown to have a successful working background, they are nowhere near the success level of the men in the film. While The Joy Luck club may not have all of its female characters as traditional housewives, the women, as well as the men, still embody many of society’s gender norms.
Success is embodied by just about every male character in The Joy Luck Club. Both the husbands of Lena and Rose, Harold and Ted, respectively, are successful and wealthy men. Lena’s husband, Harold seems to be a powerful man in his firm with a large salary, which shows in his luxurious home. Rose’s husband, Ted is an even more powerful man, coming from a powerful family and owning a business that elevates him to have to work long hours but earn a millionaire life style and a mansion of a house. Power is also seen is some of the men in the movie, notably the two husbands of the older generation of women in China, Lin Xiao, married to Ying Ying St. Clair and Wu Tsing, married to An-Mei. Both of these men are ridiculously wealthy and head their homes with an iron fist. Lin Xiao is an abusive womanizer, sleeping with many different women while married to Ying Ying, and Wu Tsing is a powerful and wealthy old man who has multiple wives and concubines.
Many of the women in The Joy Luck Club play the traditional role of housewife for their husbands. The older generation women were all predominantly housewives with no day job, Lindo Jong was married off to another family to be the wife of the family’s oldest son and to serve as a housewife and caretaker, An-Mei’s mother is merely a concubine for a powerful man in china and Ying Ying was in the worst situation, married to an abusive adulterous man who she acted as a housekeeper for. In addition to all the older generation women being dominantly housewives, both Lena and Rose find themselves working minor side jobs and being housewives to their husbands. June and Waverly on the other hand, are the exceptions. Both of these women seem to be business women, June a freelance writer, and Waverly a powerful figure in her firm. Despite these facts however, Waverly never manages to achieve the level of success that the men in the film achieve. June still lives with her father, and is still expected to do most of the housework in addition to her freelance writing.
Although The Joy Luck club does not have its female characters in traditional housewife roles, it still embodies gender roles and norms for both its male characters and its female characters. The men exemplify masculine stereotypes such as success, wealth and power, while the women are dominantly house wives. Even though Waverly and June are independent business women, their success does not match up to the success of the men in the film. The Joy luck club tries to not place too much emphasis on traditional gender roles, but in the end, the characters still embody the gender norms of society.
Joan Morgan: Sex, Lies, and Videos
The explicitness of modern Hip Hop and Rap music videos on television during daytime hours is a controversial topic and Joan Morgan takes the this topic a step further. The general issue about Hip Hop and Rap music videos is that they objectify women and are overly sexually explicit. Morgan’s thesis however, includes the negative psychological effects of these videos on young African American women. Morgan believes that in addition to objectifying women and overly explicit content, these videos distorts the image of women and their role in society to young women, specifically young African American women. I agree with Morgan, that these music videos can in fact distort an African American woman’s view on her own self worth and role in society.
Morgan argues that not only is the material shown on Hip Hop and rap music videos too explicit for the daytime, it also alienates and frustrates young women who watch the videos. The women objectified in these videos “are always skinny, White, Asian, or Latino – anything but Black. Or if a dancer is Black, then she’s extremely light-skinned” (Morgan). Morgan is speaking particularly about African women, and I agree with the crowd of college-age women that said “‘If this is who is considered beautiful by our men, where does that leave me?'” (Morgan). This indeed does leave young women, especially African American women in a confusing situation about what their role to men really is. Not only do African American women have to worry about being slim and attractive, but they also have to worry about making themselves lighter skin. According to Morgan, this becomes an even greater issue when these music videos are aired primarily for a “Black BET audience” because the BET community has not complained about these music videos. The primarily white audience of MTV on the other hand, has complained about the explicit material of these music videos and censored their videos accordingly. The end result of this is that African American women, the most vulnerable target of explicit Hip Hop and Rap videos get the full force of the videos because they will not have the option of being aired on MTV, and are “dumped” onto BET.
Morgan concludes by encouraging Black America to rise up and complain about BET using these videos that degrade the self-worth of women and I agree completely with her. There is enough pressure on women as it is with the need to feel beautiful and slim, there is no reason to also give African American women the notion that they need to also make themselves light skinned. There are already women who have eating disorders because of the pressure to feel skinny. If black women are pressured to think that they need to be light skinned as well, there may end up being a crisis of skin disorders. To prevent this, I ultimately agree with Morgan that not only should the Black community complain about BET’s explicit videos, but the videos themselves should become more open with feminine beauty so that “our girls can enjoy the music they love, without risking their self-esteem and souls in the process” (Morgan).