Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Modern" Constructions of Femininity

I was watching an episode of Modern Family today that had me thinking about "modern" constructions of femininity and masculinity. In this episode, Claire tries to mediate an argument between her daughters while Phil enjoys a day at the spa where the women teach him the "proper" ways to speak with his wife when she is having a rough day. Instead of offering a solution like "don't use the highway if there is traffic", the women tell Phil to just sympathize with Claire and tell her "I'm sorry" and "That's horrible." In this clip, it is evident that Phil sees men as "problem solvers" while women sit back in their chairs gossiping and giving advice without actually "doing" anything. 

It was funny to me because I remember in my AP Psychology class in high school my teacher pointing out that stereotypical difference between men and women. Men always answer by finding a solution and offering steps to fix the problem while women answer with empathy and a response such as "Oh, I'm sorry. That's awful." I keep returning to that statement because I think it is true and false. While it's true in some situations, in others, I just don't think it is because I'm surrounded by a group of women that are empathetic with advice and sympathy but also know how to solve a problem with concrete solutions. Why can't women be both, and why do those traits need to be separated into masculine and feminine terms?

Also present in this episode is Phil's "feminine" side. He is often made fun of on the show for his tendency to behave in stereotypically "feminine" ways. He goes to the spa, and in this clip, he speaks about his preference for kiwi hand cream. I know this is just supposed to be funny (and of course, I see the humor in it!), but I wonder if it is offering a reality about the way masculinity and femininity are constructed? We need to question what exactly is so funny about Phil behaving this way. It's funny because Phil is acting out of the "norm". He's a man at the spa, a stereotypically female space and behavior. I wonder: Where did that thinking come from, and do I perpetuate it in my daily conversations? I'm not saying that women shouldn't go to the spa (I think it's great!) but can we make it a gender-free zone? But then again, can anything be free of gender differences?

Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0ceYcuo7mI&playnext=1&list=PL6FFD22150704CDF4



  1. I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!! i watched this episode the other day too, and had a brief thought along these lines, although I was laughing too hard to seriously consider it. I miss you darling, keep up the blog posts, I enjoy them very much. Love you tons, and I hope you are having a GREAT spring break, full of relaxation (perhaps at a spa) and lots of modern family and laughing and thinking. Or rather, do some pondering. Pondering is much more fun. <3

  2. Thank you, Liza!!! I love you so much:)