holding the remote and ‘male’ vs. ‘female’ genres

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I, like several of my colleagues, was very interested in Ann Gray’s article and the conclusions it draws about gender and television.

Firstly, I got to page 507 (where one of the women interviewed said she would knit if her husband’s program didn’t interest her, and the other referred to the TV as ‘the telly’) and suddenly realized that Ann Gray must be British. This may seem insignificant, but as someone who has half a family’s worth of relatives in small-town Scotland, I can tell you that male-female relations within the household are indeed different there.

It is much more common for women to be stay-at-home moms (cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids), and the role of the husband is still very much to be the head of the house. This is the kind of home in which my dad and his brothers grew up, and this is the kind of home my cousins are growing up in (for the most part). When the family is watching a movie, Dad holds the remote. When they go for a drive, Dad drives while Mum navigates. At dinner, Dad comes home from work ready to eat and Mum serves up the food she’s prepared. Mum is warm and kind, but Dad is the boss. (Disclaimer: this is only for the most part. This is mostly personal experience, based loosely on facts.) The UK is evolving, but the Americas seem to be evolving slightly faster in terms of working parents and parental equality in the home.

The home I grew up in is not like this. My mum was largely raised by a working single mother and I would consider her the head of our household. When my parents watch TV together, they watch mostly British programs (medical and murder mystery). My mum has little interest in soap operas or reality TV, and my dad hates watching sports. (I like watching reality TV and hockey, but when it comes to sci-fi, I could take it or leave it. Hmm.) As soon as my sister and I were old enough, my dad passed on his love for Doctor Who.

A lot of the time, I ask my mum about her TV habits and she says something along the lines of “oh, your dad put it on and I was half watching and half doing something else”. If my dad is not into what’s on the TV, he’ll multi-task on his laptop or with a Sudoku. Although my mum is the head of the family, my sister is the boss when it comes to the TV. When I was living at home, we fought over this job, but now that she’s the sole child in the house, she often controls what the family watches. As soon as she was old enough to know that the holder of the remote also holds the power, she insisted that she be the one to control the volume, press play and pause, etc. (When we were kids, we called it the ‘channel changer’; I am now nearly 20 and still call the remote the ‘channel changer’. Old habits die hard.) This article made me giggle a bit because, contrary to Ann Gray’s argument, in my home the TV is usually controlled by a very persistent 13-year-old. (I love my sister, but she is very stubborn! It’s a trait we share.)

This article also does not account for same-sex parent households, single parent households, and households with more than two adult/parental figures. I will not comment on these for fear of being rambly and too-many-words-y.

Just to comment briefly on the issue of ‘male’ and ‘female’ genres: I can’t remember if it was in this class that someone mentioned the ‘chick flick’ generalization. Their example was basically that ‘The Heat’ is classified as a ‘chick flick’ because it stars two women, but ’21 Jump Street’ is classified as an ‘action comedy’. Both of these are comedic buddy cop films, but because ‘The Heat’ stars two women, it’s assumed that the viewership will be mostly women and therefore is a ‘chick flick’.

Essentially, this is bringing out the feminist in me. Whoopee.