The Misconception of Gender Roles Due to Machismo Culture

The 1945 Mildred Pierce film by Michael Curtiz approaches the importance of gender roles and a balanced family to men and women. During the 1940s, post World War II, was a time period in which society adhered to the hegemonic patriarchal ideas in which men were the ones that had power and the ones that provided for the family. Women were viewed as subordinate which society would expect them to remain at home and take care of the home and family. The idea that men would portray women as simple objects rather than equals. On the contrary, to the portrayal that women were expected to have, Mildred broadened into an effective capitalistic world. 

Explaining the thesis In Mildred Pierce, it asserts the idea that women can’t be successful in the business setting without the help of men and overall the woman’s household can ultimately deteriorate due to her prioritization towards her work rather than the family duties. The film reinforces the idea as to why women should not be more than just help in the workplace which makes it clear that without the aid that men provide, women wouldn't even be allowed to work elsewhere than their home. 

Article Manuel Peña’s, “Folklore, Machismo and Everyday Practice: Writing Mexican Worker Culture,” mentions how women are subject to degradation due to machismo. Manuel Peña states, “the need to keep women in their place”. The belief that men are behave a certain way in order to end all feminine virtues and in a sense feel secure with the manhood which at times goes overboard to protect the manly image. Even though, women may depict certain qualities that represent independence they are still viewed as powerless through he use of machismo. While men are portrayed as being capable of doing as they please anywhere and at any given time, women have duties in which they must follow in order to keep men happy since they know that they need a man in their life.

In scene 2 the sex appeal that is given through the uniform that Mildred utilizes in the restaurant is entirely seducing the male perspective. The uniform being a white cotton material and button downed towards the front. The customers somehow feel the right over Mildred since she is portraying her feminine attributes. Men feel provoked not too much because of the uniform itself, but rather of the symbol it is signifying of servitude. The idea of uniforms are quite popular in the sexual setting since the masculine perspective would view it as the role of master and servant or dominant and submissive. This concept ultimately creates men to feel as if they have complete control over women. Mildred is able to realize that in a job setting the uniform is purposeful to get the job done, but for the customers it’s a more provocative temptation. But, when the uniform is no longer placed upon her she feels as if she is a completely other person. In the film, Mildred Pierce, the uniform is not associated to gender since uniforms are generically associated towards masculinity and dominance. In this case, uniform for a women is seen as quite feminine and submissive.

Article In relation to “Folklore, Machismo and Everyday Practice: Writing Mexican Worker Culture,” Peña focuses on the manipulation that men have towards women. The idea that men have the capability to make them feel degraded due to the machismo ideology. Machismo portrays this idea that men must act a certain way in order to demonstrate their manly enough which overall affects how women are portrayed and how they will react to certain situations. The implication that under the female solidarity, women themselves are contributing to the traditional gender roles and domination by men which makes women the victims. In the film, Mildred is represented to be a lower-middle class woman who undergoes a divorce. Although, at the beginning of the film she is portrayed as an ambitious wife she is willing to help her husband Bert in order to provide for their family. Mildred seems to show that she is willing to keep her family strong no matter the circumstances. Yet, Mildred seems to have two weakness which are being lured by men and having an extreme obsession to devote all her love and wealth to please her daughter, Veda, which is constantly living a fantasy life that she is upper class. It is remarkable how Mildred resorts to sex when she is undergoing difficult situations that cause stress in her life. As stated by Peña, “But women are also portrayed as treacherous and heartless, and capable of betraying a man with out remorse”. The idea that women can also cause some type of harm to the relationship between a man even though they seem to constantly be needing them.

In conclusion, gender and sexuality seem to be oddly reinforced. The film, Mildred Pierce, entirely makes it clear that women depend on the affirmation that men provide them in order to form their lives. Michael Curtiz touches on the expectations that society has made out for both men and women. It draws upon the idea that men tend to be controlling individuals, aggressive, and drawn towards sex appeal. On the contrary, women are portrayed to be motherly, nurturing, protective over their family, and be feminine. This concept of gender and sexuality connects to other films demonstrated such as Zoot Suit and Chavela in which women are being placed in the position of stereotypical beliefs that they must dress, act, and portray femininity. For the most part, gender roles conform to sexuality, masculinity, and femininity. The stereotypes that have been created for women are viewed as what is appropriate. Motherhood is the ultimate role for women to achieve.

Works Cited

  • Curtiz, Michael, Jerry Wald, and Ranald MacDougall. Mildred Pierce. Hollywood, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc, 1945.
  • Peña, Manuel. “Folklore, machismo and every day practice : Writing Mexican worker culture.” (2006).
  • Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. Practices of Looking: an Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford University Press, 2018.
07 July 2022
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