“How the Americans understand the equality of the sexes”
1) What roles does Tocqueville assume are natural and appropriate for women? For men? Which of his assumptions, if any, seem contemporary? Which Ones seems antiquated, and why?
2) How do American and European attitudes toward women differ, according to Tocqueville? In what ways does he suggest that American democracy is enabling women to become “more and more the equal of man” (Para. 1)?
3) By the time Tocqueville wrote this selection, the first feminist manifesto, Marry Wollstonecraft’s vindication of the rights of women (1792), had been read and discussed in Europe for over forty years. Which parts of Tocqueville’s essay seem to be intended as a response to feminist arguments for women’s equality?
4) Tocqueville finds some forms of equality between women and men more desirable than others. Which forms does he approve of, which does he disapprove of, and why?
6) Both Tocqueville and Thomas Jefferson (P. 497) attempt to justify or rationalize a particular form of inequality. What strategies does each writer use to build his case for the subjection of women or for the enslavement of blacks? Which of their arguments appear least effective to you as a modern reader, and why?
“Becoming members of society: learning the social meanings of gender” (Pg 387 – 395)
1) Devor charges that most languages present gender as “binary and permanent” (Para. 3). Has this been your own view? How does Devor challenge this idea – that is, what’s the alternative to gender being binary and permanent – and how persuasive do you find his evidence?
2) How, according to Devor, do children “acquire” gender roles? What are the functions of the “generalized other” and the “significant other” in this process?
3) Explain the distinction Devor makes between the “I” and the “me” (Para. 7 and 8). Wrote a journal entry describing some of the differences between your own “I” and “me”.
4) Using examples from Devor and from other reading or observation, list some “activates and modes of expression” (Para. 12) that society consider characteristically female and characteristically male. Which are acceptable cross-gender behaviors, which are not? Search for a “rule” that defines what types of cross-gender behaviors are tolerated.
5) Do some aspect of the traditional gender roles described by Devor seem to be changing? If so, which ones, and how?
6)To what extent do Alexis de Tocqueville’s view of women and men (P. 380) reflect the “patriarchal gender schema” as Devor defines it?
“Two ways a women can get hurt advertising and violence”
(Pg. 420 -445)
1) What parallels does kilbourne see between advertising and pornography? How persuasive do you find the evidence she offers? Do the photos of the ads she describes strengthen her argument? Why or why not?
2) Why is it dangerous to depict women and men as sex objects, according to Kilbourne? Why is the objectification of women more troubling, in her view? Do you agree?
3) How does Kilbourne explain the appeal of ads that allude to bondage, sexual aggression, and rape – particularly for female consumers? How do you respond to ads reproduced in her essay?
4) What does Kilbourne mean when she claims that the depiction of women in advertising constitutes “cultural abuse”? How does she go about drawing connection between advertising images and social problem like sexual violence, harassment, and addiction? Which portions of her analysis do you find most and least persuasive, and why?
5)Media images constitute part of the “generalized other”- the internalized sense of what is socially acceptable and unacceptable- described by Aaron H. Devor (p.387). In addition to the violent and sexualized images Kilbourne examines, what other images or messages about gender do you encounter regularly in the media? Which ones have been most influential in the development of your “generalized other”?