G.I. Jane Fights Gender Roles
G.I. Jane is one of the most memorable feminist films ever created. Demi Moore plays a woman who is selected by a female Senator to enroll in the Navy Seals. Throughout training, nearly 60% of participants (typically men) fail to graduate. When a female steps up to the challenge, no one expects her to succeed.
This film is a representation of the ideological social structure of gender roles in American society, which believe that women cannot succeed on paths traditionally sought by men.
When Jane makes it part way through the rigorous training program, government officials become afraid of her success. Ultimately, the superior power is in opposition to the development of her female power. Her strength contradicts female stereotypes, and could catalyze a change in the American hegemonic masculine ideology.
Ironically, the female senator—who originally elected Jane into the program—attempts to jeopardize Jane’s reputation by hiring a journalist to frame Jane as a lesbian. Thus, both males and females are threatened by a change in the ideological system that constructs the expectations of male and female societal roles.
“Sexism rests on the assumption that men and women, by nature, are suited to different and unequal tasks” (160).
Yes, women and men are wired differently—physically, communicatively, emotionally…but by how much? How vast are the differences in male and female capabilities? As part of the American (and world wide) views, women are politically, domestically, professionally, and socially inferior to men.
As Croteau exposes,
“more than half—52%—of news stories in the United States reinforce traditional gender stereotypes through ‘generalized, simplistic and often exaggerated assumptions of masculinity and femininity…46% of news stories in Europe reinforce traditional gender stereotypes, and 81% in news media in the Middle East” (157).
Those gross representations have helped to normalize stereotypes and expectations of women.
However, within the 90’s decade there was a tremendous fleet of feminist films that rocked the U.S. box office:
Elizabeth (1998) Epic, Based-on-a-True-Story; The Piano (1993) Drama; Erin Brockovich (2000) Based-on-a-True-Story; G.I. Jane (1997) Drama; Dangerous Beauty (1998) Based-on-a-True-Story, Drama.
Interestingly, these films follow close behind the release of the 1980s Vietnam and War films, which,
“were part of a larger process of ‘remasculinization’ of American society, another key component of the ideology of the Reagan years, in which a masculinity defined by its toughness is reasserted in the face of the twin threats of the defeat in Vietnam and the growth of feminism,” (169).
Just ten years earlier the media was reacting to the rising voice of feminism by stifling it. Then, within a few years, the media realized the idea of feminism was marketable and would appeal to the majority of audiences attending the box office.
There are numerous factors that play a role in the shifting ideology of gender roles. Studying the representations of males and females in media, and how biases are framed, can help us to understand the ideologies that construct our realities, and how those ideologies have changed over time.
Blog #2: G.I. Jane Fights Gender Roles