When considering the working class it is not uncommon to first think of businessmen. The actual word “businessmen” infers that men are the subjects of the working class. Upon looking at our group topic—the issue of women in the workplace—I have come across multiple comic strips that target the contemporary problem of inequality through satire. The comic I am analyzing consists of a bodacious, curvy, light-color haired, woman walking out the door of her employer’s office. Inside the office labeled “Chairman,” are two shocked men dressed in suits and glasses. One of the men sits behind a desk with a phone and note pad on it, behind him there is a chart hanging on the wall. From these small, but pivotal additions to the drawing one can conclude that the men are of superior importance to the business. The comic reads, “I use to lose my secretaries because they were getting married—now they leave to start their own companies.” My analysis of the comic will show how women are represented in the work field, and how there are often times misinterpretations of the significance of women.
The text within this comic is noteworthy for many reasons. The first is that the Chairman uses the word “secretaries” when referring to the woman leaving his office. He does not address her as a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer or even simply a Manager, which implies that women are not capable of holding a commanding position in the workplace. This comic conveys the idea that women are only good for secretarial duties. This complies with earlier times in that women often took on the role of secretary, assistant, or receptionist as those positions were sought after by women who were looking to leave their household duties of wife, mother, and caretaker. Now, in more recent times, women are standing up for themselves in the workplace.
My next point analyzes the text as a whole. Like I mentioned previously, women used to be recognized as the spouse who had to stay home with the children, and tend to household duties. Now women are taking a stand in an effort to gain height on the corporate ladder. In earlier times women would quit their job to get married. The irony within this comic is that this woman is not leaving to get married; she is leaving to start her own company. This has become a common trend now that equality within the work field is becoming mainstream.
To look at this comic strip rhetorically, it is important to understand that there is a difference between “sex” and “gender”, and also understand what gender really means. In Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture, Wood states, “sex is a designation based on biology…society designates people as male or female based on their external genitalia” (19). Wood later expresses that gender is more of an idea “we are born male or female (sex), but we learn to act in masculine and/or feminine ways (gender).... Gender involves outward expressions of what society considers masculine or feminine.” (21). The world has communicated to us that working is a masculine trait, hence the word “businessman”; and that tending to a home is a feminine trait. In this comic this is not the case. The woman is breaking a social norm when she goes against the gender roles society has set out for herself.
A final aspect of this comic that stands out to the viewer is the actual graphic feature—the art. The first thing I notice is that the woman is curvy; she is wearing a short skirt dress suit, a scarf around her neck, and her hair up. She is fully embracing her feminism. Lots of women are curvy, but in this instance it also implies her as a sex icon. Wood says, “the most traditional stereotype is woman as sex object, and that continues to dominate media” (269). It is interesting to see that even in a comic a woman is represented as a sex symbol. The second part I notice is the ratio of men to women is 2:1. Later Wood explains, “mass media consistently underrepresents women and minorities relative to their presence in the population…although in reality women outnumber men, media (mis)interpretations would lead us to believe the opposite” (267). Men are given the power when they are shown outnumbering women.
In conclusion, it is evident from this comic that women are frequently portrayed as not only a minority, but also a sex symbol. This commonly happens in the workplace although times are changing. The woman in the comic is proud to be a woman, and knows that she must take a stand in the workplace to get what she wants.
Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. 10th ed. Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives: Gendered Media 10th ed. Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
Author: Molly F.