Finally, a female protagonist who “wears the pants!”

The term “Hegemony” refers to the dominance of one group of people has over others. For example, the wealthy class might have hegemony over the middle and poor class due to their ability to use money to influence aspects of society. Hegemonic masculinity is another aspect of hegemony that involves the segregation of and demotion of women from man. Although hegemonic masculinity can be seen everywhere in media and society today, one show stands to eliminate this view. The show Suits follows a college drop out, Mike Ross, who accidentally lands a job with one of New York’s best lawyers, Harvey Spector, this show illustrates their struggles trying to win cases and the friction within the firm itself. The Boss of this firm is a character named Jessica Pearson, who is a woman and is a racial minority. Her character displays reverse hegemonic roles and inverse gender roles. Usually in media, hegemony is shown in white males over other people but in this show, Jessica is shown to have masculine characteristics usually associated with the gender roles of males. Some of the characteristics she shows are: courage, inner direction and considerable amounts of toughness in mind and body, which are usually associated with males. Furthermore, suits dispels preconceived ideas of man and women. Although we see the idealistic male gender roles in Harvey Spector, he is more or less controlled by Jessica Pearson and the character shows that she “wears the pants” in the firm by taking charge and controlling the actions of the people that work under her. An example of reverse hegemonic and gender roles can be seen in the interaction of Jessica Pearson with another character from the show, “I put you out once. When I beat you this time, they’re going to have to peel you off the wall.” This quote shows a sense of aggression, courage and strength, which is usually portrayed in male characters but never female characters. Furthermore, females are often depicted as passive, not making their own decisions and beautiful. When they do make a decision or manage to convey an opinion in media, the decision is usually portrayed as a bad decision and leads to destruction. This is not the case with Jessica in suits because the characters’ decisions are shown to be wise, tactical and of a true leader. Furthermore, when one of the co-stars makes a mistake she is the one to clean it up and make it right; this is not what is usually depicted in popular culture. In popular culture we are shown that once the female makes a mistake the hero or male comes sweeping down to save her and fix the problem.

 

Additionally, the character Jessica Pearson is a black female, which breaks racial roles as well. In media today, not many minorities are displayed as the “boss”. Thus, media today portrays the ideal boss or hegemonic character as being white and male. Therefore, a black female being the boss is completely opposite to the views of today’s society. In addition, a study done on movies showed that “Black women are shown as being violent in movies 56% of the time compared to the 11% of white women.” (http://voices.yahoo.com/racial-stereotypes-media-38872.html?cat=9) This shows that minorities are depicted as having animal like qualities and are vulgar human beings. Which is certainly not true but is how media today displays the non-idealistic characters, meaning not being a white male or female.

 

In conclusion, do you think that as society matures and learns to incorporate more realistic images of races that gender roles will be exterminated? Do you think the male-female complex (hegemonic masculinity) will ever change and if so how? 

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9 thoughts on “Finally, a female protagonist who “wears the pants!”

  1. One thing that I’ve noticed with shows and films is that even when a mold is broken – i.e. a racial minority takes on a leading role or position – the producers still play into stereotypes. I don’t follow Suits, so I can’t make any definitive statements about the show, but I wonder… Do you think that Jessica represents the issue of black women being portrayed as more violent and aggressive than white women (like in the quote that you included)? Does she ever use her sexuality to her advantage (playing into the female stereotype)?

  2. She does her moments like when she states that she once trashed her old husband’s car (we never actually see her doing it) and she has made a couple violent threats to her old nemesis (Hardman). However nothing of a degree where it made Jessica stand out on the show was being the most violent. Not once does she lose her composure, nor does she ever physically become violent, whereas the secretary, pale and red-haired, once slaps Hardman twice. I’m not sure the producers purposely avoided making Jessica seem violent though. Additionally, Jessica does dress in $1000 dresses and my grandmother may not approve of the length of her dresses, however compared to her companions her sexuality is definitely downplayed (Secretary, Donna is always showing lots of cleavage, and there are multiple sex scenes all of which do not involve Jessica).

  3. In response to Ashan’s questions, although race is definitely intersected with gender-roles, the incorporation of more realistic images of races may help reduce gender-roles but i don’t think it will exterminate it. The reason why I think that is because I believe a lot of gender-roles stem from androcentrism and frankly, proper representation of races does not necessarily stop the male-centered views. However, I believe that the incorporation of more realistic images of races will definitely exterminate the marginalization of non-whiteanglo people in western pop-culture.

  4. Do you think that improved representation of different races is linked to improved gender representation? With females and “racial minorities” being traditionally oppressed groups in many cultures, I think that when producers make an active decision to promote racial equality, chances are they will also be interested in promoting gender equality. At least I would like to think that if producers are really interested in promoting equality and fair representation for all races they would not remain male-centered and sexist… Am I being too idealistic? Do you think Suits is sexist despite Jessica’s role, for example?

    • I believe that Suits is almost utilizing Jessica as a ‘race-card’ to stop the possible racial criticisms. I mean yes she is in a position of power and yes she chooses to dress in sometimes skimpy expensive dresses instead of suits like other female executives (maintaining her feminism, a decision she has made against the ‘norm’ set my male executives) even though she works in a corporate setting. However, we never find out about Jessica’s background unlike Mike or Harvey, we never once see any of her relatives, by not representing her past or her family members the producers manage to create a sense of ‘surrealism’ about her, like its something that’s impossible/not real.

  5. I agree with the media showing hegemony in TV shows and movies. I am Asian and a girl. The concept of this hegemony is very sensitive. When I watch shows or movies, I usually wonder why Asians girls are not the dominant masculine characters. As a minority, I have a different point of view than the middle class while males. They might think that it is normal for white males to be the dominant characters, but I think that it should be diverse. Sometimes I think the segregation in TV shows affect us very much because we are so exposed to the media in today’s society.

      • (And what I mean by “in line with reality” is: do you think that they are keeping the existing social hierarchy in place for a reason?)

      • My guess is that the obvious reason for keeping the existing social hierarchy is to maintain it for them and their races’ (white) benefit, hence the existence of white-privilege in western society.

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