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Bechedel's Use Of Reversing "Traditional" Characteristics Of Gender Roles

1343 words - 5 pages

Social conventions placed on both men and women, have haunted the pages of society for decades. The belief that the ideal man allocates more of his time into the masculinity of hard labor than his appearance, while the ideal woman doesn't bother herself with work or anything that hasn't to do with dresses and entertaining, appears time and time again as the social “norm”. Members of our society use these “traditional” characteristics of gender, as an integral factor in assuming a persons sexual orientation. Alison Bechdel, in her graphic memoir Fun Home A Family Tragicomic, uses these same conventions to her advantage, yet reverses the roles society have given gender, giving the male characters more “feminine” qualities, and the women more “masculine” ones. In doing this Bechdel illustrates the broadness of gender roles, a key factor in determining sexuality, thus stripping the idea that “traditional”sexuality is synonymous with “normal” sexuality.
Bechedel first illustrates the reversal of gender roles when she describes the differences between her and her father’s characteristics. As the story progresses, Bechdel reveals a sense of resentment towards her father for his treatment of his “furniture like children, and his children like furniture”(14).Examples of this include his neglect of his male children, and through his using of the children as free labor. Due to her father's neglect, she decided early on in life that she would be the complete opposite of her father, the “spartan to my fathers Athenian. Butch to his Nelly. . . I developed a contempt for useless ornaments, what function was served by the scrolls, tassels, and Bric-A Brac that infested our house?”(15-16) In this passage, Bechedel portrays herself as having the more masculine tendencies between her and her father. She gives herself the role of “Spartans”, soldiers of Roman time, known for their strong abilities and cunning nature, while she gives her father the role of “Athenians”, the losers of the war. The idea of losing, especially in war, is heavily associated with the idea of being weak. Since war is considered by society the most masculine thing that a man could do, in giving her father the role of the loser, and herself of the winner, Bechedel conveys a role reversal of traditional gender based values She appears to take the role of winning, associated with men, and assumes it, thus making herself seem more masculine than her father. Furthermore, in calling herself “butch” and her father a “Nelly”, Bechedel once again reverses the roles. Since the term butch gives the connotation of being masculine, strong, and very powerful, in contrasts “Nelly” gives the connotation of being both weak and fragile, by giving herself the title of butch and her father the one of Nelly, Bechedel conveys that these roles are not confined to just one of the gender. They can be interchangeable between the two. Lastly her statement about the random and unimportant things that her father...

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