"The term gender is commonly used to refer to the psychological, cultural, and social characteristics that distinguish the sexes" (Cook 1). From the idea of gender such notions as gender bias and stereotyping have developed. Stereotypes have lead society to believe that a male or female should appear, act, or in more philosophical terms, be a certain way. What these gender stereotypes are and, whether or not they really exist, will be discussed further so that they can be examined in reference to the plays Mother Courage and Her Children and M. Butterfly. In Mother Courage and Her Children "motherhood", and what it should be, is challenged as a result of the actions and qualities of the character Mother Courage. M. Butterfly gives us a great depiction of a stereotypical male, and uses the female stereotype against him. Both of these plays invert, modify, and even glorify the gender stereotypes.
Society has females and males alike typecasted into roles which have basic characteristics that are the reverse of each other. Although this has begun to change over the past thirty years, typically the man was seen as superior to the female. This superior image is one that today, is slowly on its way to being reduced to one of complete equality between the two genders.
Before the feminist revolution began, the female was traditionally in charge of taking care of the children and household. Her image in life was that of the wife, mother, and nurturing person. Some of the traits that were thought to be uniquely feminine were; ". . .emotional, sensitive, gentle, quiet, nurturing, interested in personal appearance and beauty, focused upon h...
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...ect Woman" (1.3.5) in M. Butterfly. The play shatters the illusion of the female ideal. The character Gallimard discovers that it doesn't really exist. However, the stereotypical male all too real. It is glorified to its absolute extremes in this play.
The one conclusion that can be drawn between these two plays and gender stereotypes, is that stereotypical masculine characteristics are quite genuine. Conversely, those qualities that create the female ideal, are merely a figment of male perceptions.
Brecht, Bertolt. "Mother Courage and Her Children." Worthen 727-751.
Cook, Ellen Piel, ed. Women, Relationships, and Power. Virginia: American Counseling Association, 1993.
Hwang, Henry David. "M. Butterfly." Worthen 1062-1084.
Worthen, W.B. ed. The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama. 3rd ed. Toronto: Harcourt, 1993.
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