The concept of femininity in its relation to the behavior of women and their treatment is a difficult topic to address. While traditional femininity is seen as the societal norm, it can often feel repressing or degrading to actual people. In recent years, rejection of femininity is often seen as a form of empowerment, with women breaking ties with the expectations society places on them. In terms of media representation of women, however, this process is more difficult.
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As seen by the characters of Lucy and Martha on TV programs I Love Lucy and The Martha Raye Show respectively. Both actresses satirize typical feminine behavior by performing unusual acts or acting in a way that is unexpected from women. While these portrayals of women can be seen as empowering, promoting variety and freedom of expression within the female gender, they can also be seen as belittling and promoting the status quo instead.
Both acts are primarily of a comedic nature, with the audience finding amusement in the unusual way these women behave and in the difference between their perceptions of femininity and what they are seeing. In this way, the characters of “Lucy” and “Martha” can be seen as belittling of deviancy and non-traditional behavior. It can be even be argued that these figures are being accepted only because they are both celebrities and a part of a show, not reality. In another TV program, Queen for a Day, women are competing for a chance to win prizes (MeditationsBySharri, 2016).
The goal of each contestant is to tell the audience and the host about their needs, appealing to sympathy. The women’s plights are then judged by the audience who decides the winner by applause. The system can be seen as a good example of gendered social instruction, as the contestants are encouraged to appear fragile and emotionally vulnerable before an audience. The premise that belittles women and humiliates them before a large audience would not work with a man in a similar setting, because of the inherent expectation of men being strong and unemotional.
MeditationsBySharri (2016). Queen For A Day 1950s tv show. [Video]. YouTube. Web.