The notion of gender is discussed by various scholars from different angles incorporating it to certain mediums of society. Some arguments depict general psychological development of a child; others tend to put it into more specific frames by comparison of men and women roles in the society, their behavior and interactions with each other under various cultural relations and time influences. This essay is a comparison of Devor’s ‘Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender” and Kimmel’s “Bros Before Hos” and their imprint on the Calvin Klein Jeans Advertisements of 1981 and 2012. These articles both complement each other, reflecting the influence of the times the video was filmed, and, at the same time, contradict when we apply that theoretical knowledge into the advertisements that represent various periods of societal development.
Devor clearly states that children even from the very young age usually acquire the values of the society by absorbing its generalized standards; he says that they do that indiscriminately (530). He is convinced that children learn what gender behaviors are appropriate for them (Devor 529). In contrast, Kimmel differentiates males from the females stating that: “boys are more prone to depression, suicidal behaviorrious other forms of out-of-control or out-of-touch behaviors that girls are” (Kimmel 616). He compares boys to girls as more emotionally unstable, presenting a little statistics about boys’ behavior at school and outside of it (Kimmel 616). At the same time, he also states that men tend to be more careful when considering general safety rules such as wearing the seat belts (Kimmel 614). Despite these facts have a place for discussion, we shall also take into consideration the factor of individual education and family upbringing, since family along with surroundings influences the child a lot. Some people also tend to believe that person’s behaviour is just all ‘in genes,’ which can be true in some way as well.
Both authors talk a lot about masculinity and femininity, each of them taking different approaches. Devor is completely right when he talks about the influence of the society, as the letter tries to obtrude its own opinion by using various methods. The simplest way for a person to change is to fall under some idolistic personage. There are many examples when men and women changed their sexual orienation and gender because their friends did so. In this essay, we are not going to discuss such, on one hand, extreme methods of influence, instead we will take some all-embracing method of subconscious persuasion, which is called visual adverticement.
The first advertisement is 27 seconds long Calvin Klein Jeans Commercial starring with Brooke Shields (1981). We can easily follow the dialogue between man and woman:
Man’s voice: That beauty must be as isolating as genius ...deep and complicated person you really are, I felt that about you instantly.
Brooke Shields: “My mother wore me about boys like you. Mama said they are only interested in my Calvin’s (2007).
In the advertisement, the jeans figurate on the female body, both at the beginning and at the end of the video. The colors used in this commercial are not bright and more attention is paid to the description of the so-called standard situation: very naïve conversation, which is the best reflection of the societal demands of those times. It intermingles with Devor’s thoughts about the demands of different gender performances by society, when categorizing gender as both social and cultural construct. Those demands change a lot with the development of society and influence of gender perception.
The second advertisement is Calvin Klein Jeans Spring 2012 video. Compared to the one that was taken about 30 years ago, this one is more saturated in bright colors. Action takes place in the mountain river or the ocean. There is an interaction of naked bodies - two women interact with one man. The splashes of water on their bodies increase the sexuality of the characters. There is no voice of the orator, and characters communicate mainly through their beauty and attractiveness. The music serves as the background for those interactions, and the Calvin Klein brand is only showed at the end of the video. That provokes the interplay the interplay between “personal ‘I’ and social ‘me’ is the creature known as a ‘self’” is clearly demonstrated in this commercial (Devor 530).
Devor talks about the demands of different gender performances by society when categorizing gender as both social and cultural construct. Those demands change a lot with the development of society and the influence of gender perception and both videos prove that. The demands also influence the gender roles, and, thus, women and men are depicted differently.
The place of the woman in contrast to man is very different in both advertisements, and does not reflect Kimmel’s ideas about the place of women. In the first advertisement, women are depicted as not “a kind of currency by which men negotiate their status with other men, women are for possessing, not for emulating” (Kimmel 611). Moreover, the woman talks about that. In contrast, the second advertisement is typical up-to-date depiction of how to attract more customers: by using sexy bodies and interaction of women around a man.
On one hand, woman can be considered as the beautiful part of the society, which we can see from the commercial. On the other hand, I can totally agree with Mamet’s ideas about “Women have, in men’s minds such a low place on the social ladder… that it’s useless to define yourself in terms of a woman. What men need is men’s approval” (Kimmel 611). Such approval is clearly showed in the second commercial, which is a typical demonstration of masculinity. It is also true about “Natural’ “roles of males and females: members of both genders are believed to share many of the same human characteristics, although in different relative proportions” (Devor 531).
In comparison to the society and to the commercial, which was filmed about 30 years ago, our world became more open regarding everything. If we look at the clothes of the actors in both commercials, we notice a great difference; although both advertisements are about clothes, there is almost none in the second one. The human body is what attracts the attention, not the jeans that are being advertised. The whole perception of attracting more customers has changed; and it is much easier now to buy the audience with nudity and fit body than the clothes that are being advertised. It is not that the advertisement makers have made something new and striking; it is what our society demands and reflects now. Thus: “Many aspects of the masculinity or femininity are result rather than the cause of status of inequalities” (Devor 531).
There can be many ideas on the interactions between masculinity and femininity, the questions of equality between two genders and “efforts to maintain a manly front cover” in everything we do (Kimmel 612), the one thing is clear: “The social hegemony… ensures that we are all raised to practice gender roles” (Devor 535). Those gender roles result in systematic power imbalances and are based on power discrimination. Such discrimination intensifies with the development of the society. However, cultural aspect plays an important role in this process and the same advertisement can be perceived by the audience of various countries differently. Thus, time frames we live in and cultural peculiarities can be considered as the most dominant factors, which influence the social meaning of gender.