“Men make the rules as I go,
“Men are supposed to work and women are supposed to stay at home and tend the children”. We’ve all heard this phrase more than once throughout our lives. Not only in our household but in music, plays, tv shows, movies, and even books.
When did this start? Who started it? Why is it still happening? These questions always dwell in my mind when I hear that genders are supposed to be conformed to specific roles. Societies stories about gender have played a huge role in shaping our identities, agency, and fulfillment. Music plays crucial roles because it’s a way of sending messages, even if it’s under the table or obvious. Many artists have applied or spoke upon gender roles in their music. The following artist has earned more than 22 chart-toppers, was apart of one of the world’s best selling girl groups in history, sold around 100 million records as a solo artist, and is the most nominated women in awards history! You’ve guessed it, Beyonce, also known as Queen Bey.
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We all live for her songs such as: If I Were a Boy, Halo, Run the World, and Sorry but the song, If I Were a Boy has a deeper meaning if you look under the surface and look closely at her lyrics, “And chase after girls I’d kick it with who I wanted, And I’d never get confronted for it, Cause they’d stick up for me.” She applies that if she were a boy, she could do whatever she wanted and no one would tell her or in this case”him” because “they” would stick up for him. By “they” she meant society has allowed men to behave and treat women like this.
In her song, she also sings, “I would turn off my phone, Tell everyone it’s broken, So they’d think that I was sleepin’ alone” He turns off his phone so no one can bother him and in society, men are allowed to have their own space without coming off as angry. Then she says “I’d put myself first, And make the rules as I go, Cause I’d know that she’d be faithful, Waitin’ for me to come home”. This shows how men are allowed to be selfish, they are their own bosses but women can’t have that same agency. Then she says that he knows that his lady would be waiting for him home because she’s faithful. This relates to the previous quote because although he can be sleeping with other women with his phone “broken” when in reality he just has it off, he still expects the women to be faithful. Analyzing this is heartbreaking because a woman sings a song wishing to be a man because of all the freedom and privileges he has, Society has given men a superiority that women should have. This isn’t the only song Beyonce has with messages.Beyonce came out with the album Lemonade after her husband, Jay- Z allegedly cheated on her.
One of her most controversial songs is Hold Up, looking at her video she is seen wearing a bright mustard colored dress, this shows us that whatever she’s been through it didn’t make her less than she is if anything she grew from that experience. Apart from Beyonce, cheering her on when she’s hitting cars windshields and demolishing things, to represent that anger and betrayal is violent, and to symbolize what healing or how you take out your anger feels. Throughout the whole video, the vast majority of the people is people of color, you can say that she is trying to reach towards black females.
Also looking at her lyrics she says, “Something don’t feel right because it ain’t right, Especially comin’ up after midnight, I smell your secrets, and I’m not too perfect, To ever feel this worthless” When she smells the perfume, it’s common to believe that a love affair is going on. To be the lover that is being cheated on makes someone feel less than, someone even like Beyonce, who makes songs about being flawless, and to now feel that she isn’t perfect, or good enough for Jay-Z. As you see and hear the song you should be able to realize that she wants black females to realize the oppression and make a decision. This shows us how Beyonce has agency and empowerment because she chose to stay with Jay-Z, and she wants women to know that they can too have agency within them to decide what’s good for them and what’s not.In the book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, we can see how the main character is held up to the gender roles society has set up. She’s defined by her relationships and in the object of all of them. Nanny is Janie’s grandmother who practically raised Janie and she once told her, “So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up.
He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule ud de world so fur as Ah can see.” (2.
44) We are introduced to a hierarchy white man will always be on the top for the simple fact that he is white and then comes the black man and at the very bottom is a black female, and since they are at the bottom they carry the heaviest weight out of all of the races because they are women. In her first relationship, she was kind of forced to marry a white man by the name of Logan Killicks, because her nanny believes that if Janie married him she would be in a sense fulfilled because he is rich and Janie wouldn’t be needing anything. After their marriage, a few months have gone by and we are in the scene where Logan is outside and says, “Six months back he Logan had told her, “If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside. Mah fust wife never bothered me ’bout choppin’ no wood nohow. She’d grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt rotten.” Logan believes that women job is to be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning meanwhile the man is outside doing the handy work which is what society made. She later on leaves Logan for a black man, Joe Starks, also known as Jody.
He convinces her by saying, “”You behind a plow! You ain’t got no mo’ business wid uh plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday! You ain’t got no business cuttin’ up no seed p’taters neither. A pretty doll-baby lak you is made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo’self and eat p’taters dat other folks plant just special for you.” (4.26)” Jody beliefs are different from Logan by saying that women are like decorations, she should be looking pretty and just fanning themselves, meanwhile Logan believed that women are supposed to be used to do things.
, but what they do see in common is that women are objects. Jody moves to a town and become mayor and in the ceremony, someone asks Janie to say speech but Jody interferes with saying, “Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat.
She’s uh woman and her place is in de home.(5.107-109)” Again the role of women is yet again said here, Jody doesn’t let Janie have her freedom of speech as if he believes that she doesn’t have the capacity to speak for her own or make a speech. This objectifies Janie because one needs their voice to be powerful, that’s how we demand justice, stand up for ourselves if we don’t do it for us who will? Since the moment with the pear tree, Janie’s idea of fulfillment was equal love and pleasure but then she realized that marriage was not like that, “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman. (25)” This basically is saying that in order to become a women you have to have your dreams ruined, this shows the amount of oppression we get from society because in order to become a women you have to suffer and go through hardships.
Another example of gender roles in society is that the man is dominant and the woman is submissive, “That night he ordered Janie to tie up her hair around the store. That was all. She was there in the store for him to look at, not those others. (6.31)” Jody does not want Janie to be shared, just like a dog with his favorite toy, they rather keep it all to themselves, and will do anything to keep others from touching it. And so when Jody saw a man touching Janie’s hair he got jealous and demanded her to wear a hair wrap, which shows us his possessiveness towards Janie.
Overall this book demonstrated how much women, especially black females go through being objectified in a marriage where a man has toxic masculinity. Another important quote was “Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now” ( 191). After Janie tells Pheoby her story she realizes that she is fulfilled, because earlier in the book it stated, “Janie full of that oldest human longing—self revelation (7). To realize that now she has it. That’s when it led to Pheoby states, ” ‘Lawd!’ Pheoby breathed out heavily, ‘Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus’ listenin’ tuh you, Janie. Ah ain’t satisfied wid mahself no mo’.
Ah means tuh make Sam take me fishin’ wid him after this’ ” (192). this shows us how after hearing Janie’s story and her experience it makes her realize that she wants to live up to her life. This connects to Beyonce song of Hold Up because after she sang she had self- revelation which made her grew more as a person just like Phoeby felt by listening to Janie’s story, they were empowered.
Female sexuality has been strictly limited and has been portrayed in different ways. In the play Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare that takes place in the city of Vienna around the time of 1604, it shows us that the character with the most agency in their life was the leader, the Duke. But anyone who interacted with Friar Lodowick had no type of agency because since the friar was the Duke he had way more knowledge than any other character so in other words, he was essentially controlling others ; The Duke had the ability to make his own choices and control his life as to other characters who had no say. Agency shifted and changed amongst the characters throughout the play because sometimes Isabella had the ability to control her life. Where the Duke proposes, that did show us that she had power over her life in some parts, if she was going to accept the Duke’s hand in marriage or not. Gender influences agency in this play because of the patriarchal society that happened over the time when the play was written, and sadly we still live in today. The women in the play quite didn’t have much power in their hands to do anything quite frankly even with their own life. In the play, it shows us how Mariana was forced to having sexual intercourse with Lord Angelo so it wouldn’t have to Isabella.
Isabella lacked agency in her life for instance, when Lord Angelo had told her that the only way her brother would be let free was if and only if she would have sex with him and that’s where she was in a double bind, the dilemma of her becoming a nun and sister would become a problem. She didn’t have much choice but she decided that her religion was more important so they made Mariana sleep with Lord Angelo to imitate her in the dark. As you can see the character that had the most agency overall in this play was the Duke, but even so, the men had more agency than the women even if it was just a dash of it. This connects to Their Eyes Were Watching God because it shows us how women were oppressed with so many circumstances that it feels like they are a bird trapped in a cage and can’t escape within the confinements of the cage because the types of oppression all add up.
As you can see, it is quite visible that gender roles do impact our agency, identity and sense of fulfillment. Many people I know were raised by very traditional Mexican parents who believe in machismo and therefore defining a woman’s job. It’ll be up to them to speak up for themselves just how many other feminists are.
There are many people out in the world trying to break through the patriarchal society and earn the equality that women deserve. Just how Beyonce and Janie did, become the subject in your life and stop letting others define who you are, because you and only you should have the right to say who you are.