So far, I’ve discussed the ways in which some foreign societies have rejected the basic gender stereotypes based on their own cultural upbringing. One example of a culture that has similarities with our own country’s gender role expectations would be the Temne culture in West Africa. The photo above features several women from that community who exemplify the ideal woman–which is also replicated with the mask worn by the elder woman in the center of the photo (Moran, 2003). The mask is a dark wood that has a round woman’s face, eyes cast downwards with an elaborate up-do.
Significance of the mask symbolically defines the way the culture’s women should be (Moran, 2008). It has smooth, flawless skin, down cast eyes, and a complicated hairstyle–images which are reflected in the women in the background of the photo. The ideal Temne woman is composed, calm, and quiet; she doesn’t speak often, but when she does, it’s full of wisdom and reflects importance (Moran, 2008). Her neck’s design mirrors a myth that belongs in the culture. The story goes that the perfect woman emerged from the lake, so it has a ripple-type look to it, then the girl blossoms into a beautiful woman–similar to the way a butterfly evolves from a larvae to a butterfly through metamorphosis, it’s symbolic of the woman’s stages of life (Moran, 2008). Similar expectations of beauty are communicated through our society through mass media, parental figures, and peers (Gamble, 2003). The textbook also mentions that different cultures instill different ideals in the members of their society (Gamble, 2003). In US society, similar expectations are demanded of women–we must be thin, beautiful, and perfect. It’s interesting that another culture has similar expectations for their women that replicates our own. Does this mean that it’s part of human genetics to expect women to adhere to these qualities? Who knows.
Lamp, F. (1980). Temne nowo masquerade with attendants. Sierra Leone.
Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2003). The Gender Communication Connection. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Moran, E. (April 2008). Art of africa. Newport News, VA. Classroom lecture.
Moran, E. (April 2008). Email correspondence.
Stokstad, M. (2008). Art history: volume two. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.