Gender Equality and Culture

In this society we have to face many different people that involve gender issues. Different personalities with either gender have created a culture for others to follow or to be in. It has both positive or negative effects to different individuals throughout history and it led to many different gender issues revolving gender inequality. These problems have been set in stone and often brought up in history books which the following generations use to learn about past events regarding gender inequality such that, women are treated and viewed unequal to men. Women carry different responsibilities compared to those that men have, where they must be stronger than men in order to compete with others in society. They have to struggle with these responsibilities and try to prove themselves that they are capable of handling situations in order to survive in the biased cultural norms. For instance, in the novel Sing, Unburied, Sing written by Jesmyn Ward, there are various characters that have different styles of living based on their gender roles. There are several examples from the novel where the characters have to face cultural norms and social standards which have greatly affected their lives and it causes similar results to many others that had the same effect on their lives.

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One of the characters which shows as an example of a female character struggling within society would be Leonie, the mother of two kids named Jojo and Kayla. Leonie has trouble taking care of the kids and face difficulties from a mixture of trauma, structural oppression, and her own flaws. The relationship between Leonie and her kids can be seen as painful. Because the lack of parental support leads to a cruel relationship between mother and her two children. They are left without a parent to look after them leaving Jojo being the older brother to take care of his younger baby sister, Kayla. One of the reasons for Leonie’s mistreatment towards her kids is because of drug use. Her usage of drugs is related to the influence made by her husband, Michael as well as his absence that leads to lack of spousal support. Leonie also had been led to use drugs because of the traumatic event by the murder of her brother, Given. Leonie loved her younger brother very much but unfortunately she lost her brother because he was murdered by her husband’s cousin. Given was Leonie’s life line which supported her as a mother of her two lovely children. However, after his death she missed him dearly which caused her to result to drug use. When Leonie takes a lot of drugs she becomes high and this leads to Given to appear in spirit. Because of this Leonie consistently is using drugs as a way to see her brother for moral support to prevent her from self destructing. Another reason of Leonie’s drug use is influenced by Michael because he has his own traumas which led to his own drug use and leads to him being sentenced to prison. After struggling with her brother’s death and her husband’s absence she allows the usage of drugs to keep her from insanity. Leonie also faces numerous racial issues in the society where she lives.

The question of Leonie’s ability to be mother is clear that she is unable to be a supportive mother with her extreme usage of drugs. Without a clear mind she is clearly incompetent to show love for her kids because she is blinded by love for her husband and brother. In, it shows that “Leonie’s incapability to depict the stereotypical gender roles of a mother and a daughter seems to be related with the fact that she was not able to identify with her mother.” The face that Leonie being unable to identify herself with her mother shows her unable to portray herself as a supportive and loving mother towards her two children.This leads to a negative stereotype where a mother is portrayed as loving, caring and supportive to her kids which Leonie lacks towards her own children. This is where gender can be seen as sociocultural construction. The fact that she is a mother of her kids should bring out her responsibilities to take care of them because they are dependent of her however she fails to do so because of her right state of mind. The lack of her parental presence leads to Jojo developing his own characteristics and views within society. In, it shows “those characteristics and traits sociocultural considered appropriate to males and females” meaning the dimension of gender is gender identity or thinking of as male or female are viewed differently from one another. This shows that Leonie’s approach on gendered identities of how men take drugs just the same when women take drugs. The difference between the two genders resulting in drug use differ because men take drugs due to stress from working, making hard decisions and face the consequences, however for women taking drugs is a different approach. Women drug use creates different results like carelessness towards their children, losing the ability to show good signs towards their children and setting bad examples as a parental figure to them. Another negative stereotype can be masculinity. For instance, in The Washington Post, it said “A real man is stoic and unemotional. A real man is physically strong a protector. A real man doesn’t show weakness, ask for or show vulnerability.” This compares to Leonie being a mother because it puts herself in the position to support her children and pull off a strong demeanor in front of them. It caused her to question herself can she be the strong parent, who shows no emotion and provide for her family while her husband is gone and also be the loving motherly figure?

There are many cases where Leonie had trouble being the so call “man” in front of her kids. The man is seen responsible for the kids, taking care of everything, protecting the kids and giving the love to the kids. However, Leonie fails to do so because she cannot control her emotions and keep a straight mind in order to provide the guidance and support which her children need. Obviously, Leonie can’t be the man for her two children because of her incapabilities to control herself from the usage of drugs. Her unstable emotions and inability to face her responsibilities causes her to show the lack of parenthood which she should towards Jojo and Kayla. This reveals that Leonie needs a male figure in her life to keep her in check and be the loving mother for her two children. That figure used to be her brother, Given who was there for her when she needed someone to talk to and helped her face the gender and racial struggles in her life. But unfortunately, with the lack of her brother’s presence as well as her husbands she is unable to control a straight mind which causes her to result in using drugs to vision her brother. This reminds us of Leonie’s feminine side where she is in need of the male figure in her life. She is unable to be the provider for the family because she believes she lacks the characteristics to be a loving mother for her two children. Leonie’s portrayal of stereotypical feminine traits is related to the gender roles within the book. In page 48, it shows “I didn’t want to go in the house just in case Mama decided to give me one of her plant lessons.” This show she doesn’t want to get lectured by Mama because she is afraid and is aware she will be lectured again and again being a bad example. She acknowledges that she is a lacking mother when she admits, she is “The one I’m never good enough for. Never mama for. Just Leonie, a name wrapped around the same disappointed syllables I’ve heard from Mama, from Pop, even from Given, my whole fucking life.” (Leonie, 147) Leonie’s main issue is dealing with herself and how she doesn’t trust herself well enough to take care of others, she is aware of her flaws but she doesn’t try to change them. She desires to be the dependent in her family and is blinded by love for her husband which causes her to disregard her responsibilities. “I stand there watching my children comfort each other (…) I could reach out and touch them both, but I don’t.” (Leonie, 101) Without a male figure in her life, Leonie will continue to be the helpless mother who believes the male figure in her children’s life should be responsible for the love of her children. This is where Jojo’s personality and characteristics’ develop to catch his mother’s faults.

For the young boy Jojo who is unusually serious and mature for his age because of his mother, Leonie’s irresponsibility means that he has effectively taken over as parent of his three-year-old sister, Kayla. Even though Jojo is intelligent for his age he still doesn’t understand Leonie. In the book, Jojo is a strong kid that picks up after his mother’s slack by taking care of his little sister and learning while watching everything happen around him. He shows much love towards his Pop, River who is his mother’s father. He’s desperate to imitate his grandfather, and this is his attempt to prove that he’s old enough to look at death like a man should. In “Jojo’s understanding of manhood is complicated by both the people and places in his family’s history.” This shows that Jojo is living in a difficult family whose mother is black that struggle with the use of drugs. His father is white who sent to the brutal Parchman penitentiary. For Jojo who is growing up at this young age to have both parent struggling is tough especially when he has a three year old sister to take care of as well. Jojo has his own responsibility to help and take care of his sister, he feels the responsibility of being the opposite of his mother and father by setting good example for his younger sibling.

Overall the story shows the relationship between Leonie and Jojo play in different gender roles. They have shown their example of how gender roles have affected their personal life and how their gender roles correspond with one another to support the family. Leonie’s lacks the characteristics of a motherly figure because she does not have a male figure by her side. This allows Jojo to be responsible and try to make up for her lacking characteristics. This shows how their gender role presents itself shown by their characters and how they play out throughout the story.

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Gender Equality and Culture. (2019, Apr 26). Retrieved October 4, 2022 , from

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