How is
patriarchal control towards women explained through a feminist lens alongside
the analysis of the Disney film Tangled?

“When men are oppressed, it’s a tragedy. When women are oppressed, it’s
tradition” (Pogrebin, 1991). This quotation undermines everything we know about
our society today. Over the last 200 years, the society that we once had, a
patriarchal one, has started to decline. Why? Because we no longer are
dependent on others, we are now able to be ourselves. Despite being in a
society where we are able to present ourselves how we want, women are still
being faced with traditional gender roles in films. This is primarily shown in the Disney Cinematic Universe. One
particular movie that will be used to explain gender roles and patriarchy is
Tangled. Through the use of Tangled this essay, the three
main arguments to do with gender roles and patriarchy will be argued in
relation to feminism. These are how woman are
expected to dress, our roles in society and how woman are controlled by the
media. These in some way all link to patriarchy in one way or another. Despite
this, most people when faced with the term patriarchy do not know what it means
but can, however, use it to describe the
oppression of women. Patriarchy is defined by Walby (1990) as a system of
social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit
women. Additional to this Walby (1990) also states that social structure is
important … the notion that every individual man is in a dominant position
and every woman in a subordinate one.

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Throughout this essay, the effects
of patriarchy on our gender roles are going to be analysed through the feminist
lens that normally accompanies the conversations held about gender. When
explaining feminism Jaggar (1983, p.5) states that during the early 20th
century in America, the term feminism:

Was used to refer only to one
particular group of women’s rights advocates, namely that group which asserted
the uniqueness of women, the mystical experience of motherhood and women’s
special purity. (Jaggar, 1983, p.5)

Since the early 20th century there have been three main types of feminism; 1st wave
feminism, 2nd wave feminism and 3rd wave feminism. The 1st
wave feminists are concerned largely on suffrage, the right for women to vote,
and in order for that to happen there needed to be equality between men and
women. Additionally, 2nd wave feminists are interested in equality
between men and women, especially in the work sector, which occurred during
WWII when women worked in factories whilst the men went out to war. Finally,
the 3rd wave feminist came about as a response to the failings of
the 2nd wave feminists. They saw that the 2nd wave
feminists were largely concerned with the interest and issues related to white,
western, middle-class women. 3rd wave feminists are seeking equality
for ALL women. Within this, there are
more types of feminism but the main three are; Liberal, Marxist and Radical
feminist theory. Liberal feminists aim for equality between men and women.
Marxist feminists aim for a revolutionary
transformation of class and gender relations between the dominant and dominated
classes in society. Radical feminists aim for the analysis and transcendence of patriarchy with men and women
as distinct groups with divergent interests. (Inglis. 2010)

To begin with, patriarchy over time has always told women how to dress.
Especially when trying to show their femininity. Overall, this links to the
argument being made, patriarchy has always, and will always shape how we
portray ourselves through fashion.  To
think about how patriarchy shapes how we are able to portray ourselves through
fashion. This has recently become a problem recently especially when it relates
to female students and their male teachers. At a high school in McHenry
Illinois, female students started a protest after they realised how sexist
McHenry’s dress code is and how it teaches students that boys cannot control themselves while
sexualising a girl’s shoulders (Orenstein, 2015). However, male students at San
Benito High School showed solidarity with their female classmates when around
50 girls were sent home for dress code violations on the first day back at
school. A student at the school, who asked not to be named, stated: “the dress code policy hasn’t been an
issue the past two years I have been here,” (Molloy, 2017).

Additionally, in relation to our fashion being controlled by patriarchy,
it is becoming more and more known that when a court case is about rape, the
victim, who are mainly women, are being told that it is their fault that they
are being raped. This accusation is
called rape culture. In Rape Culture, Victim Blaming, and the Facts (no date) it
states that rape culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in
which sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular
culture. A guest on This Morning stated that “women put themselves at risk by
dressing provocatively, and said that she would ‘like to remove herself’ from
increasing her level of vulnerability, even if it was only by a small amount”
(Mills, 2017). Examples of rape culture include: blaming the victim,
trivializing sexual assault and so on. As previously stated, some judges, such
as this particular judge, who is being accused
of suggesting that “while the blame rests solely with the perpetrator,
women need to protect themselves against the threat of being raped while drunk”
(Rawlinson, 2017). This suggests that women should be aware that whilst they
are drunk they are likely to be targeted as they are seen to be easier targets.
These examples simply show that women are still
being seen as weak, in comparison to men who are stereotyped as being strong,
and with the influence of alcohol are
even more weak meaning that men can take advantage of women more.

To analyse
this with the Disney film Tangled,
the songs are what contain the most examples of gender roles and patriarchy.
For example, being told what to wear, as shown above, can have an astonishing
result on girls and women as a collective. In Tangled, the main character,
Rapunzel, is mainly seen wearing a purple dress, which shows her femininity, as
the colour purple is predominantly feminine, whilst the dress is a common
female clothing. When looking at the character Rapunzel it is easy to see that
she is concealed correctly with what would be believed as socially correct.
This includes her shoulders being covered, which as shown previously is a part
of the body that is often sexualised when it comes to females and their male
counterparts. Additionally, when it comes to Rapunzel and how she is dressed
Mother Gothel warns Rapunzel that being “sloppy, under-dressed immature,
clumsy,” (Tangled, 2010) will not serve her well outside the tower (Korf,
2013). This shows that even in the 21st century where women are now
able to do jobs that would have once been classed as a “masculine job” they can
still be classed as being weak and fragile when it comes to portrayals in
films. However, when it comes to feminism and the topic of rape this comes up
“the idea that women’s clothing has some bearing on whether they will be raped
is a dangerous myth feminists have tried to debunk for decades.” (Valenti,
2011) This shows that whenever someone, mainly women, are blamed for being
raped, feminists want to seek justice for these women because it is not what
they wear that lead them to be raped, it is what parents and schools are
teaching boys how to act in relation to a female who is drunk and is wearing
little clothes. They also state:

 

The protests began after a police
officer told students at Toronto’s York University in January that if women
want to avoid rape, they shouldn’t dress like ‘sluts’. (Valenti, 2011)

 

This shows how patriarchy and gender roles rule our thinking especially
when it comes to how we dress when it comes to men.

Furthermore, to the point just made, another
argument that links is how women are
being controlled by the media. Women have often suffered from a narrow set of
representations in the media as they are often linked to the domestic situation
– women as housewives, mothers or sex objects. Tuchman (1981), cited by Fulcher
and Scott (2011) states that this is called the symbolic annihilation of women.
The symbolic annihilation of women is a term to describe the absence of representation,
or underrepresentation, of some group of people in the media (Gerbner and
Gross, 1976). With this essay being about patriarchy, it is easy to look at our
society through patriarchy. In this case, due to the patriarchal nature of our
society women are less likely to be the source of leading news stories such as
political, business, law and religious stories. This is turn allows us to
understand to what point women are controlled by the media. Because women are
less likely to be the source of leading news stories there is more
opportunities for them to be portrayed as sexual objects and are seen primarily
through their domestic roles. This is done to reinforce traditional gender
stereotypes (Fulcher and Scott, 2011). In Tangled, Rapunzel is seen cleaning
and cooking, and during the song When
Will My Life Begin there are references being made to feminine domestic
roles, such as knitting, cooking, sewing and so on. An example of this is “knit
and cook and basically…” (Tangled, 2010) which presents two stereotypes in
which women are expected to be able to do.

On the other hand, because the media controls women, they are more
likely to be concerned by slimming and dieting because they are being
influenced by the images that they are being shown daily. Miller (no date)
states that there has been at least a sixty percent increase over the last
twenty-five years in the way women are portrayed; now, over half of women in
media are perceived as sexual objects. This is important as the media is
portraying the ideal woman as being slim and sexy which makes girls want to be
like that which in turn makes them start to starve themselves to fit into the
stereotype. This is primarily done with Disney. For example, most Disney movies
show women as being slim and attractive whilst men are presented as being
strong and muscly when in reality women are not always slim, and men are not
always muscly. When it comes to Tangled, Rapunzel reinforces these stereotypes.
Rapunzel is seen with a thin waist, petite hips, an attractive face and so on.
These are all aspects of the ideal woman that are constantly being enforced by
the media. Also in Tangled Mother Gothel mentions that Rapunzel is “as fragile
as a flower” (Tangled, 2010) which when looking at Mother Gothel as being a
symbol for the media, shows how the media is trying to control Rapunzel by
suggesting that she is actually weak and is not what she wants to be seen as,
i.e. strong, independent. This links with the theory of a master status. A
master status is a social position that is the primary identifying
characteristics of an individual (Scott, 2014). This point argues that because
women are being controlled by the media they are becoming more and more
concerned with how they look when in comparison to others.

However, in relation to the previous points the last point is how gender
roles are still controlling women. When thinking about gender roles the most
common ones for women are; cooking, cleaning, sewing, caring etc. This is
because we have been constantly exposed to these gender roles from the moment
we were born through toys and the media. Traditionally in the media women are
portrayed in a narrow range of characters in mass media. For example, when
looking at fiction and news-reporting, women are more commonly associated with
the household and being portrayed as sex-objects when it comes to fiction,
whereas women have a lack of roles when it comes to the news-reporting aspect
of the media (Davtyan-Gevorgyan, 2016). 
When we are taught what is expected of us, we are told that girls are
the compassionate ones and the boys are the strong ones. Ideally this is meant
to deter women from certain jobs that are thought to be too masculine, i.e.
builder etc, and lead them towards jobs that are meant to be full of caring,
i.e. teacher, nurse etc. when it comes to caring, an example of this is in
Tangled. This example is the Healing Incantation song which is as following:

Flower,
gleam and glow

Let your
power shine

Make the
clock reverse

Bring back
what once was mine

Heal what
has been hurt

Change the
Fates’ design

Save what
has been lost

Bring back
what once was mine

What once
was mine (Tangled, 2010)

 

Here it talks about “healing” which is a
primary characteristic that women are most known for. Throughout the whole song
the aspect of healing and taking care of something is being magnified as the
main character Rapunzel is healing the male protagonist, Flynn Rider. This also
links with the gender roles of society as women are supposed to be the ones who
looks after the men when it comes to being injured, as they would a child. Some
people would believe that these gender roles are natural, when in fact the
gender roles so many people consider “natural” today are in fact socially
constructed (Anne, 2011). Feminism started as a criticism of gender roles as
they perpetuated patriarchy through the public private divide. Alongside the
gender roles feminists criticise the nuclear family structure in the 1950s as
it taught women that the housewife role was the only option and socialised them
into subservience (Feminist Perspectives on the Family, 2014). However,
feminists now want to break out of the subservience that is placed over us by
men by getting rid of the patriarchy in society as that is the biggest reason
for how we act in society. Overall, this shows that women are still being
controlled by patriarchy through the use of their gender roles which in turn
controls them.

 

In
contrast of these points, whilst patriarchy may still exist in the world today,
our society is no longer as patriarchal as it used to be. This is because women
are now able to pursue the jobs that they want, but because they are able to do
this there is now the problem of the gender pay-gap. Today men and women doing
the same job are getting paid differently not based on hours but based on
gender. But, despite this gap, women such as Theresa May and Angela Merkle have
positions of power within their countries as being the representative body for
the law. In the UK, only two women have been able to break the glass ceiling
and progress to the high jobs, i.e. Prime Minister, whilst over the last 300
years there have been 60 male prime ministers. Some feminists, such as radical
feminists, believe that for society to be equal patriarchy needs to be
demolished, but in a world where men are needed for such tasks as reproduction
it is hard to get rid of a patriarchy as men will always find a way to dominate
over others. Despite this Marxist feminists believe that due to men being
linked with both capitalism, as they are primarily the breadwinners, and
patriarchy, as it’s a society dominated by men, they both need to be demolished
otherwise men are always going to find one way or another to demean women
especially when it comes to work and the home situation.

Tangled
tries to do this as most of the movie has connotations to patriarchy, such as
the tower being patriarchy itself and when she leaves the tower Rapunzel is in
turn escaping from the patriarchal grasps she has grown up in. Additionally,
with Rapunzel escaping from patriarchy she is able to become more masculine
without being judged by society. This is seen when she fights with Flynn
against the castle guards in the reservoir. Due to her fighting with a frying
pan she is still holding to her gender roles with using an object that links
with her femininity to partake in an activity that is typically masculine. This
overall shows that despite patriarchy still being present in society women are
now able to escape from patriarchy and live a life how they want to, i.e. a
life without fear of being controlled by men.

To conclude, the arguments which are, how women are expected to dress
according to patriarchy, how are women being controlled by the media and how
are gender roles still controlling women, all suggest that women are being
controlled by patriarchy which leads to their lives being dictated. With the
analysis of Tangled it shows that patriarchy still does control women as men
are always going to be in positions of power which will inevitably lead them to
control women. Considering my counter argument which is that despite patriarchy
still being an evident aspect of society, women are no longer limited to
certain jobs and are able to extend further up in the social positions when it
comes to work. This means that everything that we know about patriarchy is no
longer relevant and my points about us being controlled by patriarchy is still
true to an extent but is not always relevant in today’s society.

 

 

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