Representation: Gender and Race

Representation of Gender

Stuart Hall (1990): suggests that identity is not necessarily ‘fixed’, but a fluid phenomena; ‘Perhaps instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished historical fact… we should think, instead, of identity as a “production”, which is never complete, always in process…
Cited in Fatimah Awan, 2008

We discussed they way children’s toys are ‘sexist’ and reinforce the stereotypical gender roles set out by society. According to the Let Toys Be Toys campaign group toy adverts focused on vehicles, construction sets and action figures etc featured boys and they were portrayed as active with language that emphasises power and control.
On the other hand toy adverts aimed towards girls feature dolls and toys focused around glamour, performance and nurturing. The girls in these adverts act more passive and considerably less active other than dancing. Furthermore, it’s incredibly common for girl’s toys to be pink while boy’s toys are blue.
When doing further research I came across Let Toys Be Toys website which had more information on the subject we discussed in the lecture.

Over time the media has begun to move further away from the stereotypical and restricting gender roles and now includes more gender neutral advertisements that challenge this norm.

We then discussed our definition of ‘gender fluid’. To me gender fluidity is not feeling like you’re completely a man or a women. Gender is more of a spectrum that people can freely move along to find an identity that fits them the more accurately.

Many artists use their work to criticise or question gender and our society. Alongside the rise of feminism in the 1960’s and 1970’s artist began to challenge the traditional roles assigned to women. These works looked into women’s role in both domestic and public areas of society as well as the ‘conventional standards of beauty’.
In addition to this artist’s have also been addressing masculinity and how the societal pressures shape our expectations of men. Like the need to be seen as ‘manly’.

The work of Nan Goldin: This artist is well know for her photographic documentation of her life and those in it. The photographs feature fluid sexuality, beauty, intoxication, death and pain amongst other themes that typically reject the “conventional limits of the medium of photography.” Photographs of drag queens and her friends making love in messy apartments were seen as groundbreaking for their time.

Representation of Race

“… media representations of ‘race’ and ethnicity are constructed in accordance with dominant ideological positionings which serve to shape and control how individuals understand others’, and their own identities.”
Fatimah Awan, 2008

These are Dolce & Gabbana black figurine earrings and dress and we discussed whether or not we thought this was cultural appropriation, which is defined as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”
In my opinion this attire is completely inappropriate as their culture isn’t something to be used to adorn a dress or earrings, it holds significance to people and shouldn’t be disrespected in this way. Furthermore the below quote from EverydayFeminism website suggests that something can be defined as cultural appropriation when the people who are using a group’s culture were also responsible for ‘systematically oppressing’ that group. Their quote also defines the difference between cultural appropriation and exchange.

Unlike cultural exchange, in which there is a mutual interchange, appropriation refers to a “particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”


“Vaguely pinning down a collection’s inspiration as ‘Africa’ with words such as ‘tribal’, ‘primitive’, ‘wild’ or ‘ethnic’… completely reduces an entire continent into a few archaic and racist stereotypes.”
I feel that doing this also disregards the significance of these symbols or designs to those who own them.



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