Category Archives: Uncategorized

Gender Roles

While I was busy on my nearly daily exploration of, I came across a video called “12 Reasons It’s Really Hard to Act Ladylike.” So, of course I clicked on it immediately. I have been known to not be very “ladylike” in many situations so I knew I would let out a few giggles as I watched the video. After the video ended though I began to think, “Why is it that in 2014 it is still expected of a woman to act ‘ladylike’ at all times?” I hardly ever pull a dress out of my closet and the first time I wore heels was in my brother’s wedding when I was 14, and you best believe I was holding on for dear life to the groomsman I was walking with. If I was going down, he was coming with me. Luckily, I was able to avoid that embarrassing situation. Later that night of course I went around and snuck sips of beer from my brothers and mom, any drink I could get I chugged it down. I cuss every chance I get because to be honest, it makes me happy. There are days I don’t shower and throw my hair up in a ponytail, deal with it. My purse is only used when I feel like it needs to be and I don’t use it to look cute, it is actually filled with a wide assortment of random objects because I have no idea what you’re even supposed to even carry around in it. I know I am not the only girl who faces these “unladylike” situations every day, and I think it is sad that when we are not dressed to the nines we are seen as less of a woman. Even if I’m in sweatpants and have no makeup on I am still a woman, and I want to be treated like one. The same goes for the issue of men, if a man does not act “manly” it is seen as a huge negative and there is no excuse for it. If a man does not play football and instead is interested in being involved in the theater program at his high school, he might be teased and some might even go as far as to call him homosexual. It is sad that we still live in a world where we must meet this social norms or face ridicule from others who “fit in.”  Like I said, it’s 2014, let’s look past this old idea of every woman must act perfect and “ladylike” at all times and accept the fact that woman are woman, no matter how they act.

Gender pay gap Erik Puricelli

In his latest state of the union address President Obama had this to say about the gender pay gap and what women go through living in America. “Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”

This is a nice sentiment; but is anything going to be done about the problem? If we are teaching our children that women can do anything men do, but continue to pay them less for the same work simply does not make sense. I hope the United Stares becomes less politically polarized so something can be done. A good idea to narrowing this gap would be to empower women to propose policy instead of upper class white males. The same can be said for abortion issues. The idea of a male dominated world should end. In 2014 families no longer look like they did on Leave it to Beaver. The dynamics in the household have changed, and women are excelling in the workplace and even surpassing men. Why shouldn’t they be paid for their success, instead of their sex?

The goal of this blog post is to shed light on the gender pay gap in America. In “Feminism and the Family: Two Decades of Thought” Barrie Thorne describes what the ideal family was supposed to be. “ In contemporary parlance, ‘the family’ often implies, in addition, a particular sexual division of labor: a breadwinner husband, freed for and identified with activities in a separate economic sphere, and a full-time wife and mother whose being is often equated with the family itself.” (P.7) This is no longer how the division of labor in a family is separated. Women in America are no longer confined to household chores and childcare as a job. I have always been taught that women can accomplish anything that a man can. Throughout history this has been proven. However, after having fought for years for equal rights more women are entering the workforce. Why are they still being paid less than men?

In a CNN article Maya Harris discusses what the President and Congress can do to narrow the wage gap. “Congress can start by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act so that women can’t get fired for asking their co-workers about their pay. As Lilly Ledbetter pointed out this week, “How will a woman know she’s being paid less if she can’t ask?” Today, nearly half of all workers labor in jobs where they are either prohibited by policy or discouraged by their employers from talking about their pay. They can face severe consequences if they do, including termination. The good news for Congress in this election year is that this issue has the support of most Americans, regardless of geography, gender, race or party affiliation. And if Congress fails to act, the President has been clear that he will.”

My hope is that the President and Congress will act to level out the pay gap and end gender inequality in the workplace.

Transnational Adoption

Kelly Meyer

“…Families – like religions, economies, governments, or courts of law – are not unchanging but the product of various social forms, that the relationships of spouses and parents to their young are apt to be different things in different social orders” (Collier et al. 39). Differing values between societies lead to diverse forms of family and how those families function within a given society. The process of adding guidelines and procedures to transnational adoption begins to define who is able to have family and who is not. It is a direct process of allowing individuals and couples to become parents and start or grow a family. When this practices in countries forbid adoption to certain groups of people, the message is sent to society that this individual is not a fit parent. This is a process where the standardization of family is able to occur and there is a form of control over who is and is not a legitimate family. When it comes to transnational adoption, those values can conflict at times and lead to a difficult adoption process for both the child and the awaiting parents. We can see this play out in the article International Adoptions in Decline as Number of Orphans Grows, countries are becoming less welcoming of foreign adoptions regardless of the fact their orphaned children need loving homes. This reveals the idea of a country not wanting children from their country raised with different values and family practices. Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, explains this issue “No country likes that it’s not tending to all of its own children” (Voigt, Brown 2). Countries that once had the highest numbers of children being adopted, such as China and Russia, are now making it nearly impossible for international adoptions.

“International adoption: Individuals and families opening their lives to the world’s most underprivileged orphans” (Voigt, Brown 3).  When looking at international adoption it is more than seeing an orphan given a family, but also the effects that it may have on that child by leaving their culture and home. China has implemented new policy on who is allowed to adopt their children, including not allowing obese people, homosexuals, single men, as well as implementing a minimum income for the family. China is trying to ensure the best interest of Chinese orphans (Voigt, Brown 4). These regulations step in the way of many people creating their own family and leaving the orphans without anyone to call family. This article portrays the control the state still has in the determination of family and who is and is not family. For example in China with the one child law, parents are inclined to giving children up for adoption when their first child is not a son. This causes a larger population of orphaned children, or children that do not have a family or home. Although their biological parents are still alive in most cases, they are not in contact with them or being provided for by these individuals. The policies that China implements changes the dynamics of family not only for those giving children up for adoption, but people who are looking to adopt these children as well.  Who should be in control of the orphaned children? Are the regulations posing as healthy guidelines or infringing on the rights of the child?


  • Voigt, Kevin, and Sophie Brown. “International Adoptions in Decline as Number of Orphans Grows.” Cable News Network (CNN). Turner Broadcasting System, 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.<>.
  • Collier, Jane et al. “Is There a Family.” Rethinking the Family. Ed. Barrie Throne, 1982. 31-46. Print.

Women in the Media

Halli Kubes

When you hear the word family, what do you first think of? Personally, I think of a father, a mother and 2.5 children, throw a family pet in there and you have the perfect well-rounded family. Many people still believe that our society is filled with monolithic, “modern” families, when in fact it is quite the opposite of that. Stacey conducted an “ethnographic study, expecting to find that working-class informants would uphold the idea of the “modern” or traditional nuclear family. Instead she found a great deal of variation and fluidity in types of national statistics showing that in 1986 only 7 percent of households fit the pattern of breadwinning father, full-time mother, and at least one child under age eighteen” (Thorne, page 9).

This is exactly how a family is portrayed in the media. Cleaning product advertisements are directed towards the women of the household, because they are the ones who buy cleaning products. As an advertising major, this really resonates with me. Every ad I look at I decipher why they chose the color scheme, the people etc. However, this is not how it is portrayed in many TV series. As a society we still think of the modern family as a mom, dad and 2.5 children. Some TV series such as “Modern Family” have challenged this ideal and this is a step in the right direction.

In Barrie Thorne’s, Feminism and the Family: Two Decades of Thought she looks at how women’s roles have changed over time. Women are still paid less than men on a national average and also do more of the housework (second shift). We are slow to accept these changes overtime. Going back to cleaning product advertisements, it is mostly women featured in them because as Thorne touches on, women are still the ones doing most of the housework. These women also look happy to be doing the work as well. “Many women and men see the doing of housework as what women “properly” or “naturally” do; through cooking, keeping the house clean, and engaging in caring work, women affirm their “gendered relation to the work and to the world””(Thorne, Page 19).

Thorne writes about how women have started to do more, and more and more women have gone into the workforce. This is true for Olympic medalists Noelle Pikus-Pace. The mother of two is a professional athlete, competing in skeleton runs. She has been to the Olympics three times, and this was her final competition. In a news story with NBC, Noelle talks about how it has been challenging to balance training with being a mom, she even brings her kids to the gym with her. In this video you do not see her husband caring for the kids, just her. She was training for the Olympic games and still caring more for her children (women’s work) than her husband, at least in this video. This goes to show that although women have come a long way in the past two decades, there is still a long way to go.

“The literature on domestic labor pursues a troubling question: Given women’s rapid entry into the paid labor force, why haven’t more men, in parallel fashion, increased their contributions to housework and child care? The link between housework and gender, as a division of labor filled with contradictory meanings, has proven to be extremely complex” (Thorne, page 19-20).




Barrie, Thorne. “Chapter 1.” Feminism and the Family: Two Decades of Thought. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 2-23. Print.



Media Implications of the American Family

I found an interesting article about breadwinner moms on CNN’s website within the “Living” section. The author, Kelly Wallace, states that the number of mothers that earn more than their partners is growing. According to a survey of 2,000 working parents by Working Mother Media, 71% of primary breadwinners entered this role by circumstance, chance or luck rather than choice. The survey divided the women into ‘pleased’ and ‘reluctant’ breadwinning moms. Many women reported that they still felt a need to manage the household regardless of the work that the spouse put into raising the children and doing chores. It is no wonder that women still feel that they should be doing their domestic duties based off the messages the media is portraying.

Wallace also points out the rising number of working mothers that are depicted in television shows. After watching Color Adjustment in class, I realize the impact that media has on the public’s conception of the family in everyday life. The film asked if seemingly progressive images of black characters in TV shows were truly positive. One example that Marlon Riggs, the writer and director of the documentary, provides is The Bill Cosby Show. Most television shows before the 1970s revolved around middle-class, white, nuclear families. The Bill Cosby Show presented a black family as the happy American family. The parents were married and both had successful careers. This image contradicted stereotypes of the black family living in the city with a single, working mother. The Bill Cosby Show was also problematic because it reinforced the “American dream” belief in which hard work allows one to climb the ladder of success and obtain one’s dream career. The American dream does not take race, ethnicity, gender, or income into consideration.

It is also important to ask how the media is representing working mothers. Are TV shows showing women being successful in their careers but then coming home to manage the housework at the end of her work day actually progressing feminist thought? This representation reinforces the idea that raising children and taking care of the home is not “work.” It is what women are expected to do, which supports stereotypical gender roles and the idea that housework should not be paid or compensated in any way. Are stay-at-home dads being represented in the media? The news article mentions that “one thing both breadwinning moms and dads agree on, according to the survey, is how expectations about family roles still need to change, with 74% of breadwinning moms and 72% of dads saying society remains more comfortable with men as the primary earners even after the recession” (Wallace).

One article that we have read for class, “Feminism and The Family,” provides us with a way of reframing the family. Thorne points out that we must challenge what we consider to be normal and legitimate, which is often the nuclear family with a breadwinner husband and full-time wife/mother. This conception of the family delegitimizes any family in which the parents are not married or heterosexual. Television shows and movies are hesitant to create storylines around these “deviant” families. We need to be critical of the types of family the media is showing us. Just because the majority of representations depict traditional, nuclear families does not mean this is the only type of family that exists or is normal. It also makes social progress difficult, even when we are seeing a rise in breadwinner moms.

Thorne points out that the closest ties humans have to one another are through blood relations. As we experience reality, there are many ways to shape one’s support system. One person could see his or her family as being only individuals who share a last name or have entered the family through marriage. Another person may consider his or her friends as a family more so than blood relatives. Therefore, it is unfair to present only particular experiences of family. Those public images are labeled by individuals as “normal,” influencing behavior and thought within the private realm. Media complicates the public/private dichotomy that Thorne discusses. If one is continually influencing the other, how can we separate them?

Reading this article with the feminist family in mind allows us to reconfigure our image of the typical American family. As Rebecca Hughes Parker says, “You still see commercials where it’s the woman cleaning the floor, not the man cleaning the floor, like in my house. You don’t see that” (Wallace). If advertising and other forms of media are still feeding us images of the 1950’s nuclear family, it is vital that we continue to challenge stereotypes. Americans today are required to be critical thinkers rather than absentmindedly aligning with the beliefs media images are imposing.

Interracial Families in the Media

Analyzing Interracial Families through analytical tools in Wahneema Lubiano’s piece, “Black Ladies, Welfare Queens and State Minstrels.”

The elite (white Anglo Saxon protestant male), manipulates] cultural narratives such as the ‘poverty-produced welfare queen and the affirmative action black lady not only perpetuating racism and sexism but to guarantee the continued unequal distribution of economic resources,” (Lubiano).

Narratives about interracial marriage are sewn throughout our culture. An ideological war is raging across our country and it is in large part because of these common narratives developed and kept over time.

The disconnect between reality and what the media portrays as ‘normal’ is extremely misleading. According to a Pew Research Study, the proportion of interracial marriage reached an all-time high in 2010. In that year, about 15 percent of all new marriages were interracial and 8.4 percent of all existing marriages were interracial.

But the television and film industry have not caught up to the reality of interracial families.

graph 1 graph 2

Interracial marriages are becoming more common but lack of interracial marriage represented in the media causes shock from many groups, the few times families are showcased in television, films or ads.

This Cheerio’s commercial, “Just Checking” caused a lot of outrage among certain citizens. The Cheerios ad featured a little girl, her white mother and her black father. The ad brought a rash of racists’ comments to YouTube, Facebook and Redditt including insensitive jokes and racial rants. (Sample quote: “If the dad was a stereotypical black, I don’t think they would have needed more than 2 actors for the commercial.)

Although, The Supreme Court struck down laws that banned interracial marriage way back in 1967, our ideological narratives still give that underlying story of these types of marriages to be outside of the ‘norm’ or ‘bad.’ The lack of interracial families in media can also stand for the media trying to hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist. The racial comments towards this ad shows how strong certain types of families become ingrained in our society and those outside of the ‘norm’ are criticized.

There are even certain narratives within certain interracial relationships. According to Bitch Magazine:

“A University of Florida study of blockbuster Hollywood films between 1967 and 2005 concluded that the media is stuck on specific portrayals of interracial relationships: in the movies sampled, 42 percent of female characters in such pairings were victims of violence. “While white women in interracial relationships came across as either morally corrupt or socially inept or as victims of physical or sexual abuse, women of color who become involved with white men were often presented as erotic, exotic and possessing exceptional talents.” And although it is statistically more likely for black men to ‘marry out’ of their race, the movie industry seems less keen on interracial couples with black men. According to this informal accumulation of movies with interracial couples, there are twice as many films featuring white men with black women than black men with white women.”

Lubiano is fearful that certain narratives can shape and destroy the way we view other people. In Lubiano’s piece certain narratives—they maybe the ‘sapphire’, the ‘strong black woman’ or ‘the welfare queen’, categorize black women. An individual cannot rid themselves of these labels when they are ingrained into our culture. Lubiano says that, “These pictures through their timing and their spatial arrangement, were signposts for a successful set of narrative constructions, activations, and deployments by the state—including what people are reminded of when certain categories, phrases, and abstract figures with political resonance are evoked,” (Black Ladies and Welfare Queens).  The state uses narratives of interracial couples (or purposefully leaves them out) in order to control what is ‘acceptable’ for an American family and what is not.

Understanding how and why the state manipulates narratives of family will help us recognize the line between real and cultural politics. These narratives mask the failures of the state and place blame on the individual for not living up to the idealized (and often, unattainable standards) given to them.

The Legitimacy of Family: Analyzing Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions through the Lens of Collier et al

     In Is There a Family? New Anthropological Views, Jane Collier, Michelle Z. Rosaldo, and Sylvia Yanagisako discuss “what families ‘really’ are like” (Collier et al, 31). The authors first reference Bronislaw Malinowski, an anthropologist who published The Family among the Australian Aborigines in 1913. In this work, Malinowski disproved the idea that the Australian Aborigines and other “primitives” were incapable of having families as a result of their sexual promiscuity (Collier et al, 32-33). The advocates of social evolution thought that this would cause children to not be able to distinguish their fathers from other men. However, Malinowski showed that the aborigines “had rules regulating who might have intercourse with whom during sexual orgies” and “also differentiated between legal marriages and casual unions” (Collier et al, 32). In fact, children were able to recognize their fathers because each mother had a single husband, regardless of how many wives each husband had.

        Malinowski therefore felt that sexual promiscuity did not affect the existence of a family, and that families were necessary for the human need of child rearing, a need that he regarded as universal (Collier et al, 32). He established three aspects that were necessary of a family as a result of this universal need: 1) families needed to be a group of people that were distinguishable from outsiders, 2) families had to have a “home” or a physical space that family-focused tasks could take place, and 3) family members felt a certain set of affectionate and loving emotions not felt for others (Collier et al, 33). However, other anthropologists challenged aspects of Malinowski’s claims about families.

            First of all, some anthropologists disagreed with Malinowski’s argument that families were the result of the need for child rearing. “[B]ecause a social institution is observed to perform a certain necessary function does not mean either that the function would not be performed if the institution did not exist or that the function is responsible for the existence of the institution” (Collier et al, 34). Furthermore, later anthropologies disagreed with Malinowski’s idea that families always include a father; however, these same anthropologies regarded a mother and her children as a family. Other anthropologies pointed out that many languages do not have a word like the English word “family” for a parents-and-children unit (Collier et al, 35). Also, some anthropologists recognized that some “families” lacked physical spaces as homes, such as the Mundurucu of South America who have men sleep in different areas than women and children (Collier et al, 35). Finally, it was refuted that family members need to “love” each other, with examples being modern Zambia and the Cheyenne Indians.

          Collier et al acknowledge that Victorian-period evolutionists were at least right in understanding that The Family is affected by society and culture; The Family is not single fixed notion. The authors state that they “understood, as we do not today, that families – like religions, economies, governments, or courts of law – are not unchanging but the product of various social forms, that the relationships of spouses and parents to their young are apt to be different things in different social orders” (Collier et al, 38). Therefore, Collier et al argue that this “ideological construct” can be molded by what we believe we want and need The Family to be (Collier et al, 45).

            In regards to applying this piece by Collier et al to a contemporary news story, one can use the various viewpoints of family as an analytical tool to examine LGBT rights and issues. Last March, a story of Boise, Idaho couple Lori and Teresa Burke-Ellet was produced in light of the discussions by the Supreme Court regarding the same-sex marriage ban in California that same week. The article stated that Lori and Teresa have a 4-year-old son, David, and have been together for 10 years ( Though they had a church wedding and have a civil-union, the couple wants same-sex marriage to be legalized federally. Lori Burke-Ellet stated, “[f]or us it’s making a statement that we are a legitimate family.” The topic of same-sex marriage is a very prominent debate in recent years, with arguments against it ranging from it being “bad for children” to the argument that marriage is “only between a man and a woman.” Drawing from perspectives in Collier et al, one could argue that if a family’s purpose is to nurture children, and if a father is not necessary to make a family, then having two mothers cannot be “bad for” the Burke-Ellet’s son. Therefore, why is a family with two mothers not legally recognized? (Of course, I feel that a family with two fathers should be legally recognized as well; this is only an analytical example.) Ultimately, one could analyze the relationship between LGBT rights and the notion of family through the concluding statements of Collier et al: “family,” and in this case “marriage,” are what Collier et al call “ideological constructs,” meaning that they are developed by society and culture and are not actually set in stone. Understanding this and using it to analyze the article, it is perfectly rational for the Bruke-Ellets (and other same-sex couples) to desire a legally-recognized marriage. Therefore, it is not that same-sex marriage would be “bad for children” or “can only be between a man and a woman.” That is simply what some people have said it is; it is up to our society as a whole to decide what The Family and A Marriage mean, and we must recognize that these definitions can – and will – change over time.

           Looking back in history, it was not uncommon for politically-powerful men to have more than one “wife.” Today, marriage as understood by some religions (such as Mormonism) can involve more than one wife. Furthermore, some countries already give freedom to marry to same-sex couples, including The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Canada. In each of these cases, as well as in the case of the Australian Aborigines, a family does not mean simply one man and one woman with children. Families can come in all forms and sizes: two moms and children, two dads and children, a couple without children, a single parent with children… The list goes on and on. These differences are not necessarily “bad for children and human reproduction.”  Based on the arguments by Collier et al, we will someday see same-sex marriage be federally recognized in the United States, and the Bruke-Ellets will finally be a legally “legitimate family.”

Check out the article here:

-Aly Schmidt

Every Kiss Begins With Prejudice

every kiss w every kissaa


When you hear the jingle, you hear the music in your head, but do you realize what you are actually watching? Every couple that Kay advertises is a same-race couple but it’s never an interracial couple. If you dig a little deeper, you can see that they play certain races’ commercials in certain areas more than others according to Also, does it ever strike you that they play out this “romantic love” concept by the simplicity of a kiss between a two people? It is so played out that if you end up with a couple of the same race as you and you buy them this ring, then it will automatically work out! I personally feel that there are a lot more trials you must face in order to be a happy couple that they so easily display in their commercials. I also believe that the couples that they choose are very stereotypical, in that they are always dressed the part of a middle-to-upper-middle class lifestyle; and then when you look at it from a socioeconomic standpoint the advertisers take out more than half of the American population. I think that what Kay Jewelers and so many other advertising campaigns do well is show the cookie cutter couple. When you have the cookie cutter couple, you take out interracial couples, poor couples, same sex couples and so much more. Although it is so easy to remember their little jingle, you have to ask yourself what end goal do they have in mind?

The Kay Jeweler’s advertisements our group found remind me of the White Privilege article by Peggy McIntosh. Towards the end of the article, she writes about heterosexual privilege. From all of the advertisements that our group found, none of them featured a homosexual couple. They all featured the stereotypical heterosexual couple. This creates a very biased view about romantic love and what it’s supposed to be. Advertisements are seen by millions of people, so only showing heterosexual couples establishes that as the norm. Everything else will be seen as abnormal. These advertisements can be particularly damaging to children who are still developing their own view of society. If we are trying to build toward a more accepting and diverse society, only showing heterosexual couples on these advertisements is doing everyone a disservice.  Ending heterosexual privilege isn’t going to be an easy process, but by diversifying the types of couples featured in advertisements will help. If children begin seeing advertisements featuring homosexual couples, hopefully they will no longer see that as abnormal.

The images we see, the images built up and perpetuated by the media, help shape our perception of the world. These images can often work to disempower the lowest of the social strata, and can often have unintended consequences. Pauline, in The Bluest Eye, lapped up the fancy and happy world portrayed in movies. However, it worked to worsen her perception of her own life. Because she could not be “pretty” like Jean Harlow, who she imitated, and her family and marriage could not be the happy, relatively carefree life she admired, she gave up. She found it impossible to identify the beauty and positives in her life. Similarly, those who find themselves excluded in the media, or portrayed negatively, find it hard to accept themselves and their lives. Because mixed race or same sex couples are absent or often stigmatized, it promotes a lack of acceptance in society. Life becomes increasingly difficult for those breaking from “the norm.” More diverse and accepting images could help eliminate the narrow image of the “proper” and “normal” to better reflect reality. This would likely help broaden acceptance and alleviate some of the problems of self-hate plaguing society in this day and age.


I think it’s important that we look at this ad in a different way. When thinking specifically about wedding rings and the Kay commercials it is easy to forget that there are many forms of proposal across cultures and some cultures suggest that it’s a better idea to wait to kiss until after they’ve said their “I do’s” at the altar, or jump over the broom, or whatever other cultural norm they partake in at their wedding. In the piece “It’s Not an Oxymoron: The Search for an Arab Feminism” by Susan Muaddi Darraj, she makes a point of talking about the Arab rituals her and her husband went through in order to pay homage to the traditions her family practiced culturally. I think it’s important to remember that not all families, cultures, religions, sexualities will want to have a traditional Christian wedding that we’ve come to be so accustomed to in America. Even though I think it’s easy for Kay Jewelers to get their point across I think it’s important that as a jewelry company that they pay attention to the range in their demographic and how they will connect to their commercials. What kind of messages are they sending across cultures? Maybe not a good one.

Chelsea, Codie, Darshan, and Alex, Intro to Women’s Studies

Romantic Love

The topic of romantic love and marriage has been a focus in society and politics for decades. Whether it manifests in terms of interracial marriage or the question of same-sex marriage, people have very strong opinions on who should be allowed to married. Today, the biggest issue is same-sex marriage. Opposition comes strongest from various religions, and many feel that allowing gays to marry will “ruin the sanctity of marriage.” The concerns that society has about marriage now are no different than they were decades ago.

pie chart ssmarr romatic love cartoon

Interracial marriage was a legal issue in the United States up until the end of the 1960s. Through the end of the 1800s and the first half the 1900s, many states slowly started repealing laws that made interracial marriage illegal. Before 1967, all but 14 states in the U.S. had either repealed or never passed laws that outlawed mixed marriage. However, in 1967, the Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, making mixed marriage legal in all 50 states. However, at that point, only less than half of one percent of all marriages in the United States were mixed. Despite the legalization of interracial marriage, the stigma that existed kept the number of those marriages down. Today, same sex marriage is in a similar place. Many states still ban same-sex marriage, and supporters of the ban worry about how allowing gays to marry will affect the state of families and marriage in America. This worries existed during the debates of interracial marriages as well. However, every year, more and more states legalization same sex marriage. However, the stigma that, to an extent, still follows interracial marriage now follows same-sex marriage as well. This attempt to control the institution of marriage mirrors the way that media changes the viewpoint of romantic love in general, and how we, as a society should analyze romantic love, and what our expectations in that area should be.

Romantic love is often referred to as a destructive concept in The Bluest Eye, and readers can see how it affects Pauline’s life. Because she is very influenced by the stories she sees in movies, she creates inner narratives about how her life will go that become self-fulfilling prophecies. Based on the love she sees in the media, Pauline thinks that love has a lot to do with possession and physical beauty, and that idea is reflected in how she allows her husband to treat her. She hoped that one day a stranger would meet her and accept what she sees as her ugliest part—her bad foot. When she meets Cholly, the fulfillment of that fantasy blinds her to the fact that he may not be the best man for her, and eventually leads to unhappiness. Pauline had spent a lot of time watching movies and began to compare herself to others on the idea of an “absolute beauty scale.” Pauline believed that if her beauty could compare to that of the white women around her, Cholly would come back and take care of her like the media portrayed romantic man should.

The way that Pauline envisions finding love is not uncommon from the way many young girls think they will find a husband. Many of the images we subject girls to from very young age depict love as destiny—something that you wait to happen to you. Most Disney movies show the lead woman as helpless, fragile, and beautiful, waiting for a strong, powerful man to rescue her from whatever problems she is involved in. Romantic love is also shown as something that happens instantly, with one kiss or one chance meeting. The “prince charming” image can create unrealistic expectations among young girls when it comes to finding love, and for how the relationship will function, similar to how Pauline relies on her daydreams rather than reality.

Foucault’s “knowledge is power” idea states that what society knows and understands as normal is socially constructed rather than an absolute truth.  He also says that what is established as normal is only done so by society’s experts who study the abnormal.  Only once we are able to see what individuals in society are the outcasts are we able to determine what the “norm” is.  This claim can be seen when observing society’s standards of romantic love.

For example, in the United States there is a general understanding of how loving relationships should work.  When an individual is usually in his or her mid-twenties they are expected to find another individual around the same age with whom they plan to enter into a monogamous relationship with each other for the rest of their lives.  Deferring from this plan is seen in general as abnormal.  Some aspects of what is considered right changes over time.  Many years ago marrying outside one’s class would be something considered abnormal.  Also it would be looked at as odd if the man in the relationship was younger than the woman.

There are other aspects of a relationship that are considered abnormal that would cause others to not believe there could be true romantic love. For example, society has implemented the idea that long term relationships must be monogamous. Polygamist relationships are rejected by society because our knowledge tells us that you can’t be in love with more than one person, and if you are it is usually considered an act of sexual perversion. And according to Foucault, people who are in polygamous relationships do not have the opportunity to speak about the legitimacy of their relationships because their opinions are immediately dismissed since they have already been labeled as abnormal.

Only until recent years, homosexuality has been seen in the same light.  Because homosexual couples are “abnormal,” other aspects of the loving relationship are questioned such as whether or not a homosexual couple can raise a family with the same “quality” that the normal heterosexual couple can.

Finally, age gaps also determine the legitimacy of romantic love in a relationship.  If a couple is seen out to dinner and the man looks like he has twenty years on the lady, then it is assumed that she is marrying him for his money and that he is her “sugar daddy.”  And if there were to be a couple that consisted of a thirty year old and a seventy-five year old, then that is just seen as some kind of sexual fetish.

The knowledge is power statement would state that the reason these abnormalities stay the way they do is because this is how we are teaching ourselves.  In other words, generation after generation our youth are gaining the knowledge of what is normal in society and continue to perpetuate these societal norms.  This knowledge of these norms is the power that fuels this continuation, and what is considered “abnormal” is very hard to change.


–       Tinh Le Ngoc, Brian Kalina, Alexander Hilton, Lindsay Sulsa, Amanda Grout