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Be A Man: How Women Portraying Masculinity Can Debunk Gendered Power

Updated on September 6, 2014
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

Society tells females they won't amount to the same level of success as males; fortunately, the option to take on the role of masculinity can blur the line between the genders and allow women to shine just as strongly. Since gender in itself is a social construct, it makes sense for women to take advantage of the physical appearance of masculinity to convey their own strength. Many men admit half the battle of being masculine is the appearance and behavior. Men are taught to be unapologetic; therefore, when women dress as men and act according to that masculine identity they can cross over to the other gender's social status without their sex being noticed.

Bynes at the premiere of Robots, March 2005
Bynes at the premiere of Robots, March 2005 | Source

Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes was cast as Viola in the 2006 film She's the Man which is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. When the girl's soccer team is cut at Viola's school and the boy's soccer team refuses to allow a mixed gender team, Viola uses drag to make the boy's team of her school's enemy team. In the movie, to learn how to act like a man, she imitates various men on the street to get an idea of how to walk, talk and act. A woman's ability to act convincingly like a man cracks the social glass ceiling. By acknowledging it's possible for women to convince men they are men, themselves, women are shown that the boundaries between gendered power only exist within the gendered understanding.

 Actress Kristin Davis in Oxfam warehouse in Dadaab, Kenya. 08 July 2011
Actress Kristin Davis in Oxfam warehouse in Dadaab, Kenya. 08 July 2011 | Source

Kristin Davis

The series Sex and the City made a few episodes dedicated to gender expression. One example is in episode four of season three. In "Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl," Charlotte (Kristin Davis) dates an artist, Baird Johnson, who takes photographs of females dressing as men. From the beginning of the episode, Charlotte is nervous about Baird's request for her to pose for him. By the climax of the episode, Charlotte finally agrees to dress as a man for a photo and ends up seducing Baird in a way she wouldn't have had the courage to as her feminine self.

Life Ball 2009 (arrivals) Fran Drescher
Life Ball 2009 (arrivals) Fran Drescher | Source

Fran Drescher

The Nanny was not a stranger to poking fun at gender stereotypes. In a memorable episode, "Stock Tip" (season 2, episode 9), Fran decides to dress in drag to get into an all-male club, so she can warn Maxwell about her former boyfriend's real job. During her attempt to save the day, she has a chance to hear Max talk about her from a third party point of view. Then, she is made aware of his manipulative techniques to get her to do things for him. Many women can relate to this considering most do not have an opportunity to learn if there really is a hidden meaning behind the things men say.

"Hatshepsut-CollosalGraniteSphinx02 MetropolitanMuseum"
"Hatshepsut-CollosalGraniteSphinx02 MetropolitanMuseum" | Source


After the death of the king, Hatshepsut wanted to be taken seriously as ruler of ancient Egypt. She wanted to be pharaoh rather than queen because of the gender inequality that came with it; therefore, she wore various masculine wardrobe and a false beard. Her masculine style was included in the many statues made of her. She used drag to remind her people of her power instead of her genitalia.

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Females shouldn't have to dress in drag or aspire to be masculine in order to achieve their desired success. There should be equality of any gender or sex. People should not be judged based on their assumed genitalia, but on their character. If females have gotten away with portraying masculinity successfully to achieve their goals then perhaps awareness that it works should cause the male sex to acknowledge how unstable the social construct is; otherwise, not just any person could make it work.

© 2014 social thoughts


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    Gadfly 3 years ago from Olde London Towne

    Greetings from olde London towne.

    I've in mind on the topic the Suffragist movement here in England late 19th - early 20th century who campaigned for the right to vote in elections. It took them 25 years to achieve their aim partly due to women's role in the war effort. They endured imprisonment, hunger strikes and harrasment from sneerers and jeerers. One Lady smashed every window at the Aylesbury, Buckingshire police station in protest of heavy handedness but they didn't catch her, she is still at large!

    We have since had a female prime minister but that's a different story.

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    social thoughts 3 years ago from New Jersey

    Thank you for your comment. We've come a long way..kind of. I wouldn't say women can do absolutely anything just because we see some women in certain fields. Most women in these positions, which seem impressive, include dealing with a lot of other issues society isn't made aware of. I'm not deceived by the appearance of success. Also, remember, women were more free in the 20s than 50s. Many groups who seem to finally gain rights lose them or have other problems to deal with as punishment for gaining those rights. I do appreciate your comment and I would love to say women have really come a long way, but that just isn't true.

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    Gadfly 3 years ago from Olde London Towne

    Women have come a long way in the attaining of power. It is quite feasible for a woman to achieve any thing she sets out to do. Leadership can be born with for example Female heads of state, or alternatively learnt through assertivness training, man management techniques and excelling in certain categories. To illustrate my point the many Ladies both in fiction and reality of strong character to compete in man's world have been articulate, witty and with the use of sly quips to stress an important decision. Finally it is a woman's prerogative to dress as how she feels the most comfortable.