She’s the Man

Whether we wanted to or not, as young girls we eventually came to the widespread realization of how girls were expected to dress, look, and talk, as well as which activities were considered to be feminine and which were masculine. In her Keywords for Children’s Literature essay about “gender”, Erica Hateley discusses how “specific constructions of gender…allow or disallow certain behaviors or experiences on the basis of biological sex; and dictate a specific vision of social relations and organizations” (86). Hateley’s claim here is referring to the distinct gender roles society has been placing on us for years. These gender roles are displayed in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women through the character Jo. For instance, after Jo “boyishly” whistles and puts her hands in her pockets, her sisters quickly address her “inappropriate” behavior by saying, “Don’t, Jo; it’s so boyish…I detest rude, unlady-like girls” and “You are old enough to leave off boyish tricks, and behave better, Josephine. It didn’t matter so much when you were a little girl; but now…you should remember that you are a young lady” (3).  This exemplifies the common idea that a lady was not to do anything “masculine”.

In her text Hateley also mentions Bob Dixon’s opinion that “there’s no reason why girls shouldn’t play football, climb trees and get dirty, no more than there’s any reason why boys shouldn’t play with dolls if they want to and take an active interest in cookery” (89). By quoting this, Hateley highlights the fact that there are certain activities that society has deemed appropriate or inappropriate based on a person’s gender. This concept of gender roles is the main idea in the popular 2006 movie She’s the Man, where Amanda Bynes plays a character who is forced to impersonate her brother in order to prove that girls can play soccer just as well as guys because when she wanted to tryout as a girl, the male coach and players all laughed at the idea of a girl playing a “men’s sport”. She’s the Man is a modern and comedic demonstration of how gender roles and gender inequalities do still exist in today’s society. In order to challenge these traditional gender roles Hateley states that “all behaviors should be seen as available to all young people, regardless of their sex” (89). I think that as our society keeps evolving, these traditional gender roles will continue to be challenged more and more, however, I wonder if our society will ever truly be rid of constituting traditional gender roles.

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9 thoughts on “She’s the Man”

  1. I have seen this movie countless times and love just how empowering it is. It shows that girls can do things just as well as boys can if not better in some situations. I love seeing girls succeed in sports that are considered “men’s sports” because it proves that girls won’t be held back because of their sex. Women are strong, independent, and capable of participating in the same activities as boys.

    1. I totally agree with you. From growing up with all brothers, I was exposed to the world of sports at a young age and immediately sparked an interest. However, I remember my mother suggesting that I try ballet first, because she thought I might get hurt playing the sports my brothers did – but that didn’t work out too well since I was way too competitive with my brothers not to play contact sports. I remember many long nights playing basketball or going to the baseball diamonds with my brothers, always having a small part of me feeling the need to prove that I could in fact compete with them even though I was a girl.

  2. You bring up excellent points about the gender norms that persist to exist in modern times. I love the movie “She’s the Man,” and I find it interesting it was based off of Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night.” In the 17th century when the play was written, and today in modern adaptions, it is seen as comical for a woman to want to act like a man. You bring up the point questioning whether society will ever be rid of traditional gender roles. I think society as a whole has made great strides in gender equality. However in the 400 years between Shakespeare’s play and “She’s the Man”, it is still deemed as funny for a woman to act like a man–which I interpret to mean it will take much longer before gender norms are negated.

    1. I agree with you and that even though our society has made some tremendous improvements towards gender equality in the last 400 years, we do still have some work to do. Before doing research for this blog post, I had absolutely no idea that “She’s the Man,” a movie I’ve watched countless times, was based off of a Shakespearean play from the 17th century. And after learning this, I think that it’s also interesting to point out how even people 400+ years ago also noticed the gender inequalities/gender roles that were present in their society.

  3. I agree with your view that society’s gender norms are slowly diminishing. Although they may never totally disappear, today in 2016 I think they’re less of a concern for most people. In our generation, we’ve all heard stories of girls playing on their high school’s football or wrestling team, something our grandparents’ generation may find crazy or even scandalous. I’m assuming in 10 years when our generation has children, even less importance will be placed on confining to gender roles than there is today.

  4. I believe that in some ways society’s gender norms are diminishing but that there is still a long way to go. Gender identity and sex are so intertwined in today’s society in small things that some may not even notice. For example, buying pink things before a baby is born when you have determined the child’s sex is female. I also have seen the film She’s The Man countless times and find it humorous but I also believe it reinforces gender norms while attempting to break them. For example, Viola has to learn to slouch and “walk like a guy” and use language like a guy. In one scene, she insults a woman and the whole restaurant cheers. I believe this mentality could be problematic in the end.

  5. This movie is a great example of how gender does not determine what someone is capable of, but yet gender norms don’t support that. This reminds me of another movie with a similar premise, Bend it Like Beckham (2002). The movie is about an 18-year-old girl who must hide the fact that she plays soccer from her family because they believe that it is shameful to the family and that there are other responsibilities that she should attend to. But in the end, by practicing and playing in secret, she earns herself a scholarship to play soccer in the US.

  6. I believe that the movie “She’s the Man” efficiently depicts how women can perform just as well as boys, but the whole aspect that Amanda Bynes has to act like a man in order to do so seems a little counterproductive. In regards to your wonder if our society will ever truly be rid of constituting traditional gender roles, I would have to say no. I think gender roles are always something that will remain, but although we can’t rid ourselves of them, I think we can change them. Maybe not today, but someday, women will be able to be seen as the gender of breadwinners and star athletes.

  7. We had an interesting conversation in discussion this week about the disappearance of the world “tomboy”from out modern vocabulary. While I can personally attest to being labeled (and self-labeled) “tomboy” when I was growing up, I feel like this word has become all but lost in this age of changing gender roles. However, I feel like even though there isn’t a word strongly associated with it anymore, the stigma of being a masculine female- at any age still exists.

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