sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2011

Music as a Means of Communication: Depicting Gender Roles

Music has been a very important phenomenon for human beings since prehistoric times. In most of the countries around the world, music has always had an extremely important role as a means of communication since it conveys the listener moods, emotions, thoughts, impressions, or philosophical, sexual, or political concepts or positions.
If we draw a parallelism with music, it could be said that since prehistoric times men and women have had to deal with the expectations societies had set up for them. As a result, at a very young age they have to learn the appropriate behaviour and attitudes from their families and the culture they grow up with, coming about their non-physical differences as a consequence of the process of socialization. That set of social and behavioural norms for individuals of a specific sex are part of what is called Gender Role Theory[1], and they are often accompanied by stereotypes that emphasize what is acceptable or not for a society in particular. Although men and women’s personalities are not identical, it is possible to say that there are similarities among those of the same gender that lead to the idea that some patterns exist. At the same time, it can be said that men and women are entirely different in terms of behavior, communication and emotions among others. Throughout history, not only has music conveyed moods, emotions or thoughts, but also it has been utilized to depict the gender roles and stereotypes of societies as in the case of the songs “I will survive” and “Los Mareados”, regardless of the fact that they do not belong to the same time or society.
            To begin with, the Gender Role Theory makes reference to the process of socialization as being the main cause of the differences between genders. Nevertheless, there is another theory, the Social Role Theory proposed by Eagly, Wood and Diekman, in which the authors argue that: “The beliefs that people hold about the sexes are derived from observations of the role performances of men and women and thus reflect the sexual division of labor and gender hierarchy of the society. In their abstract and general forms, these beliefs constitute gender roles, which, through a variety of mediating processes, foster real differences in behavior”[2]
The authors’ opinion develops on the statement that claims “these socially constructed gender roles are considered to be hierarchical and characterized as a male-advantaged gender hierarchy”. (Eagly, A. & Wood, W., 2002) Thus, men are considered to be powerful, rendering, or even authoritative, as opposed to the weak and submissive feminine figure. This aspect of men’s personality is clearly seen from the feminist point of view in the song “I Will Survive” when the singer explains how her ex-boyfriend or husband expected her to await his return, even after he made her suffer and left her.
And you see me
somebody new
I'm not that chained up little person
still in love with you
and so you felt like dropping in
and just expect me to be free (39 – 46)
Moreover, the fact that men are somehow authoritative is also supported by the song “Los Mareados” when the singer, with sheer determination, tells his girlfriend or wife: Hoy vas a entrar en mi pasado, en el pasado de mí vida” (20 – 21).
Although both songs belong to different music genres and times, they clearly demonstrate how the point made by Eagly, Wood and Diekman is accurate. In both cases, they describe the same characteristics of the gender roles: men as powerful, authoritative figures; while women are depicted as weak and submissive.
        Second, broadly speaking, men and women differ in the way they communicate. While most women tend to be more affectionate and unafraid of showing vulnerability or weakness, most men tend to avoid sharing personal or emotional concerns as well as avoiding showing themselves as vulnerable or weak. This can be proved after listening to Gloria Gaynor saying how weak she felt after her partner left her and how she thought she was going to die if he did not return to her.
First I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
without you by my side (1 – 4)
The fact that men try to hide their emotional concerns is clearly reflected on one of the erased stanzas of Cadicamo’s tango, in which he sings: “Separémonos sin llanto y esta escena no alarguemos… Es preciso que cortemos, más te quiero tanto y tanto…”
          In relation to the communication issues between men and women, Julia T. Wood (1998) describes how "differences between gender cultures infuse communication". These differences begin at childhood. According to the author, “Maltz and Broker’s research showed that the games children play contribute to socializing children into masculine and feminine cultures. For example, girls playing house promotes personal relationships, and playing house does not necessarily have fixed rules or objectives. Boys, however, tended to play more competitive team sports with different goals and strategies. These differences as children make women operate from assumptions about communication and use rules for communication that differ significantly from those endorsed by most men.”[3]
The author produced some theories regarding gender communication. Among those theories were the following: women develop identity within relationships more than men, as it is shown in the following stanza of Gloria Gaynor’s song, in which she realizes she has been wasting her time and decides to continue with her life.
…But I spent so many nights
thinking how you did me wrong
I grew strong
I learned how to carry on (5 – 8)
         Another example of Wood’s theories is that men tend to think that relationships jeopardize their independence. That point is reflected on another erased stanza of “Los Mareados”, according to which it can be inferred that the man has met someone else and was betraying his lover.
“Pobre piba, entre dos copas tus amores han logrado.
Triste hazaña de un dopado que hoy festeja el cabaret”
It is possible to say that in terms of communication, men and women express themselves differently. The communicative characteristics of both genders are reflected in both songs, clearly proving the point that even in different times, men and women have always shared the same features in this aspect.
As it has been mentioned before, gender roles are accompanied by social stereotypes for men and women.  Such stereotypes create expectations regarding emotional reactions and expressions and also signal the approval or disapproval of them. Stereotypes regarding genders are considered binary opposed, that is to say they signal the contrast between men and women.
         Dr. Paula Niedenthal, a social psychologist, studied these stereotypes and made a list with them. Among others, for instance, she claimed that
women express their feelings without constraint, except for the emotion of anger. In this case, the woman in the song did not do anything to prevent the man from returning; she is angered by his very presence, however, she only regrets not changing the lock or made him leave his key.
I just walked in to find you here
with that sad look upon your face
I should have changed my stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I had known for just one second
you'd be back to bother me (11 – 16)
Another example of gender stereotypes is that men are overwhelmed by women’s expressions of emotion.  The man in “Los mareados” reflects this male stereotype when he sees his drunken ex-girlfriend or wife and after seeing her in such a estate he realizes how much he had loved her.
Rara, como encendida
Te hallé bebiendo
Linda y fatal.
Bebías y en el fragor del champán
Loca reías por no llorar

Pena me dio a encontrarte
Pues al mirarte yo vi brillar
Tus ojos con un eléctrico ardor
Tus bellos ojos
Que tanto adoré (1-10)
Other possible example according to the gender stereotypes observed by Paula Niedenthal, is the fact that most men are stoic. This fact is illustrated by the following stanza of “Los Mareados”, in which the man says how, even though he is deeply hurt, he understands that his relationship with his lover has met its end and he has to accept it.
Hoy vas a entrar en mi pasado
En el pasado de mí vida
Tres cosas llevan mi alma herida
Amor, pesar, dolor.
Hoy vas entrar en mi pasado
Y hoy nuevas sendas tomaremos (20- 25)
Opposite to that fact, there is the female stereotype according to which women express more love, fear and sadness. In this case, Gloria Gaynor shows how the woman in her song felt pity for herself.
…and I spent oh so many nights
just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry
Now I hold my head up high (35 – 38)
Stereotypes have always had an important role in every society and they function hand in hand with gender roles. Owing to the fact that the songs are not from recent years, it is important to highlight that, in spite of that information, both songs distinctly describe female and male stereotypes that are still valid nowadays.
            Music has always functioned as a means of communication: it is a very powerful tool used to transmit people’s deepest feelings, thoughts or ideas. In the case of these two songs, not only do they tell two similar stories about hearts being broken and relationships being destroyed, but they also depict the gender roles existing in different societies and eras. However, after what was exposed above, it is important to say that regardless of the fact that these songs belong to different music styles, different eras and societies, they do not fail to represent and describe important characteristics of the male and female genders. On the whole, it is possible to say that although the characteristics of men and women are not universally identical, they share a great amount of them and for that reason it is possible to see a pattern in both genders. Gender roles have always been of great importance for people in different societies all around the world since they provide them with the norms they have to follow in order to obtain the society’s approval. 

Eagly, A., Wood, W. & Diekman, A. (2000) The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers .

Gender Roles in music and lyrics (n.d.) Retrieved 13th 2011 from http://www.shvoong.com/social-sciences/sociology/1620416-gender-roles-songs-lyrics/
Historia y letra del tango “Los Mareados”
Retrieved June 13th 2011 from http://www.zorzalcriollo.com/argentina/historia-y-letra-del-tango-los-mareados.php
Niedenthal, P. (n.d.) Retrieved June 13th 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_M._Niedenthal and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_roles#Gender_stereotypes
Wikipedia. Gender Roles (2008) Retrieved June 13th 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_roles#Gender_stereotypes
Wood, J. T. (1998). Gender Communication, and Culture. In Samovar, L. A., & Porter, R. E., Intercultural communication: A reader. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth.

[1] Wikipedia. Gender Roles (2008) Retrieved June 13th 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_roles#Gender_stereotypes
[2] Eagly, A., Wood, W. & Diekman, A. (2000) The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers .  
[3] Wood, J. T. (1998). Gender Communication, and Culture. In Samovar, L. A., & Porter, R. E., Intercultural communication: A reader. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth.

2 comentarios:

  1. Very nice piece of writing, Euge! I agree with your point of view...

  2. Very interesting point of view!!! and a very nice blog, Euge!!!!