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Gender roles are the social norms that specify how a member of a particular sex should behave, think and speak. For example, society often portrays women as housewives who care for the family, while men are portrayed as breadwinners who must provide for their families. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins portrays eccentric characters who defy conventional stereotypes. Collins has allowed her characters to challenge the stereotypical expectations of traditional gender roles, which impose certain restrictions on women and men. Although the author explores constructive gender roles, her expression on dealing with constraints elicits how gender roles can be reversed as well as redefines the concept of feminine beauty, contributing to progressive societal changes.
Gender Roles Reversal
Katniss Everdeen, the main character in Idealized gendered behaviors in the Hunger Games trilogy, defies the traditional gender roles of males being considered “men of the house” by taking charge of her family. In contrast, she is the “woman of the house” and the family’s breadwinner after her father’s demise. Katniss takes up the traditional male hunting role and fends for her family in the forest using a “bow and sheath of arrows.” Moreover, she depicts women as equally capable of household leadership as men (Hartvik, 2018). Everdeen’s switch of roles demonstrates that gender roles are not as rigid as society would have us believe.
Society has conventionally portrayed women as being emotional and passive. Collins challenges these beliefs by depicting Peeta Mellark as having feminine characteristics in Mockingjay (Golban & Fidan, 2018). Furthermore, Collins argues that Mellark is passive, romantic, and more emotional than Everdeen. He blushes and is not bold enough to directly confess his love for Katniss, telling the interviewer that his crush, Katniss, is there with him. Moreover, he struggles to maintain his emotions when Katniss becomes the female district representative. However, Mellark’s portrayal of feminine attributes differs from Katniss’s’ who views herself as violent, dishonest, ruthless, demanding, and manipulative, defying the belief that men exhibit feminine feelings and women masculine feelings.
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Collins Redefines the Concept of Feminine Beauty
Women are conventionally obsessed with their beauty compared to men. Katniss barely participates in make-up and extravagant dresses as a woman in District 12. Collins further establishes that attaining beauty rewards them since the district members often adorn themselves in warrior clothing (Baker & Schak, 2019). Excellence in the fields translates to elevating one’s beauty through make-up, as seen in Capitol, where the regard for physical beauty is high. Flavius likes wearing a ‘fresh coat of purple lipstick,’ while Venia’s ‘gold tattoos and aqua hair’ explore Capitol’s extravagance towards feminine beauty between males and females.
Every society has rules defining femininity, social power, and masculinity. It expects women to be more sensitive, emotional, passive, and caring. Suzanne Collins defies the societal concept of gender roles by making her female character appear to be masculine and the male ones being possessive of female characteristics. Katniss has stood up for her family and her mother during times of depression and fended for them after her father’s death. Women were associated with duties like cooking, caring, and cleaning, while the men’s responsibilities involved provision for the family. The author challenges traditional beliefs that men should not be emotional through Peeta Mellark. He is more vibrant and in touch with his feelings besides being passive. Suzanne Collins has demystified gender roles and feminine beauty, proving that women are capable of doing men’s jobs and men can equally stand up to women’s traits.
- Baker, D., & Schak, E. (2019). The Hunger Games: Transmedia, gender and possibility. Continuum, 33(2), 201-215.
- Golban, T., & Fidan, N. (2018). The monomythic journey of a new heroine in The Hunger Games. HUMANITAS-Uluslararası Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 6(12), 96-115.
- Hartvik, H. (2018). Idealized Gendered Behaviors in The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins [Unpublished degree project]. Luleå University of Technology.