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

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

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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 t...

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...estraints on what each gender is allowed to do.  Furthermore, through redefining these characteristics, which are used by society to determine whether a person’s sexual preference is normal, Bechedel renegotiates sexuality, proving that just because something is traditional and the standard does not mean that it is the case for each person. Through proving time and time again that the thing that is considered a integral part in proving the sexual orientation of a person, has flaws in it, Bechedel inadvertently proves that that the bigger issue of what is “normal” sexuality has flaws in it as well. Through Fun Home, Bechedel renegotiates what is deemed as “normal” actions of genders, thus renegotiates the concept of sexuality that those characteristic heavily influence. The novel speaks against “tradition” and what is “normal” and shows that each person is individual.

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