What We Can Learn From Kirsten Dunst's Gender Role CommentsKaren Belz

I have a special place in my heart for Kirsten Dunst. Not only has she been the star of a few of my favorite films (and yes, I’m counting the legendary Bring It On) but she seems like a pretty down-to-earth gal off camera. Unfortunately, my girl Kirsten angered quite a few people over a few comments in the May issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK regarding gender roles.

“I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued. We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mom created,” Kirsten said. “And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armor. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work…”

Yikes. While I understand that celebrities sit down with reporters and say things and those things are often taken out of context to seem more outrageous, and also that Kirsten’s specific upbringing worked for her, stating these views seems fairly extreme. If she’s indirectly telling me that in order for my marriage to succeed I need to be in the kitchen, well, the world would disagree as I can’t handle anything greater than a Hot Pocket. While some women thrive in a stay-at-home mom role, many don’t. For a ton of women, having a career is incredibly important. And if they choose the working path, it doesn’t mean that they can’t also be fantastic mothers. I’m sure each and every one of you can point out a strong, successful woman in her life who manages absolutely everything, with little complaint.

Kirsten also identified male and female roles strongly and in a way we’re not used to hearing in 2014. And that’s the biggest problem here: the absolutes and the labels in her statement. Men and women obviously come in all shapes, sizes, and mindsets. A male doesn’t need to be brawny to be successful in a relationship – nor does he need to bring in the big bucks to be a supportive partner. Also? He doesn’t need to be in a relationship with a woman. I bet Kirsten knows all this, and I bet these are the opinions she holds for herself and that she’s not, actually, as the outraged Internet would suggest (many, many bloggers have called Kirsten out for her comments) going out and telling her friends that they have to wait for knights in shining armor and then stay at home with kids and that is the only way the world could work.

But it’s still easy to get upset – especially since Kirsten has been in the business long enough to know how quickly press can spread, how her words can, and will be, taken to heart by people ’round the world. 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686007189 Nadia Liz Aguirre

    Not offended one bit, I actually think she’s totally right.
    Lots of women nowadays fear motherhood and having to act “the perfect wife”. I don’t think that what she meant to say was that women only have value if they’re in the kitchen making a sandwich for their husbands or feeding the baby while vacuuming. No, I think that what she meant to stay is that society these days, especially women, think that raising a family and taking the time out of a potential job or carreer to do so, is wrong, or somehow lacks meaning.
    I think family is important, too. A carreer can give you personal growth and economic satisfaction, but a family will give you the emotional portion your life requires.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504907934 Desirai Marie Boutilier

      I think that what she is trying to say is that in all this effort and fight for women to be equal and have an equal part in the workplace we seem to be forgetting the importance of family and mothers. There seems to be an increasing amount of suffering in children and teens these days and one of the biggest difference is that more and more mothers are in the workplace and building careers, which is a great thing! But many of them are also spending just as much time away from home as the father and children are getting less and less from their parents I think it is something that is greatly affecting our youth today.

      And IMO a lot of it isn’t women who want a career its women who have no choice, most families now a days need 2 incomes to survive adding a lot of pressure and stress to parents, which also has a major impact on relationships because couples have less time to work on their relationship between work, kids and life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1435426590 Gabrielle G Plaster

    I dunno if she should get criticism for these comments. They are just her beliefs, and she say SOMETIMES. It is different for everybody. I know women who want nothing more than to stand in a kitchen and raise children. That hasn’t been my desire, nor do I feel like Kirsten was pushing her beliefs upon me by what she said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1629880826 Shane Mabrey

    “While some women thrive in a stay-at-home mom role, many don’t. For a ton of women, having a career is incredibly important.”

    While many women thrive in a stay-at-home mom role, some don’t. For some women, having a career is incredibly important.

    There, fixed it.

    I love when people take out of context comments personally, it really highlights their insecurities. If she would have simply said, there are roles in relationships, some people fill those rolls better than their partner, it would have conveyed the same idea without the backlash. In general her comments are completely valid and a harsh reaction to them says more about the person reacting than the person uttering them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1100640106 Eli Nieves

      Yes! I think that’s what’s bothering me about her comment, the way she assigned gender to the roles some may fill better than their partners.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1099447430 Alex Miller

    While I do not agree with the comment, I am not very necessarily offended. I find myself day dreaming about my white picket fence, being able to spend my days baking and caring for my three lovely and obedient children . . . I do, however, also have ambitions to become a business owner, explore, and have a husband who also wants to spend time at home with our children. In order to have a working relationship, I don’t believe that gender roles are necessary at all. I do believe that there needs to be balance: whether that balance comes from him working all day while she house chores, or divvied up responsibilities so they can both live out their dreams–that is entirely up to the couple.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1208847996 Danielle Kinnaird

    I think Kirsten is very sweet and sincere and these comments are her personal beliefs. I don’t think she’s forcing gender roles onto anyone or saying hey it’s wrong to not be a feminine woman or a masculine man. She’s just talking about what she thinks and likes in her life.
    In a way I agree. I have absolutely no urge to settle down and have children the whole notion is horrifying. I can’t find enough time in the day to do all the things I want to so let alone have to so things for someone else haha but if I did make the leap and end up spending my something other then my reflection I’d want to be a stay at home mom, preparing fresh home cooked meals, cleaning the house and doing all those mom things each day whilst I’d want my partner to take a masculine role and be a man. I don’t think this is right for everyone and it wouldn’t ever pass judgement on others for not living this way themselves…

    I’m sure Kirsten didn’t mean any offence bet she never wants to talk to the press again I mean it took her ages to get over the whole hoohah when she said she understood why people illegal download movies ’cause it’s expensive going to the cinema…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1575090018 Mitchell Mumpower

    I’m just going to go on record here and say that I really think this was blown out of proportion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and, as the author pointed out, any statement can be taken and twisted to sound completely different from the way it was intended. These are her opinions, and they do not affect anyone other than herself; why are we jumping down her throat for speaking her opinion, as many of us are quick to do via these very comments. It’s time for the world to grow up and accept that not everyone is of the same opinion. I’m sure there are plenty of other topics where my opinion could be radically different from everyone else, but they are still my opinions. I’m not saying you need to agree with mine, or Kirsten’s in this situation, but a difference of opinion is no reason to bring out the pitchforks and torches. Simply agree to disagree, respect each other for your differences and move on with your life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1031763378 Diane Yoder

      There were pitchforks and torches? I must have missed that part in the article. I thought the author was rather even handed with the subject material.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447946716 Angi Watson Dudas

    As I get older I have realized that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Does it mean they are right or wrong? It doesn’t really matter. What matters how everyone treats one another. Everyone has a place at the table.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=24600147 Kate Huebler

    She didn’t say anything offensive. It’s a totally legitimate opinion and not really extreme at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690960292 Lisa Marie Garver

    The funny thing is that IN PART feminism stems form a LACK OF APPRECIATION. A woman who is bad at mom type skills might get a lot better with help and positive support and end up enjoying her role, if that was her choice.

    The other part of feminism is lack of choice.

    In no way, does feminism take away your opportunity to be a mom! It also doesn’t say that being a mom is not a valuable thing.

    Men have created that stereotype that being a stay at home mom isn’t valuable. Women all over have the opportunity to believe in those stereotypes or to continue THE WORK OF FEMINISM and fight against them.

    Equality, freedom, acceptance. That is all that they want!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=560420252 Tiffany Trotter

    This doesn’t offend me at all. It comes across to me as her beliefs for herself. I don’t feel like she’s saying that everyone has to fit that role. I think people have really overreacted to her statement….

    I personally couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do less then be a stay at home mum (that literally sounds like torture to me) but I understand where she’s coming from and that some women want/like that.

    And even though I wouldn’t want that kind of life for myself I do understand where she’s coming from because both my parents were always super busy while I was growing up and I can definitely see how my brother and I would have benefitted from a more nurturing stay-at-home-mum-type role… which is maybe why I don’t want kids (so I don’t get guilted into staying home :P ).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1548011455 Shar Rowell

    Good for her for speaking her opinion!

    I’m proud of her. There’s so much pressure for celebs in the limelight to fit a certain criteria as far as their beliefs and their acceptance of certain things. I feel what she said was her opinion and it was commendable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006941502365 Claire Writes

    I really don’t think Kirsten has to re-evaluate what she said. She’s not asking every woman to conform to her way of thinking, but because she doesn’t think like you, she must conform to yours? I think it’s fantastic that she has came out and said this, because contrary to what society thinks, a lot of women live like this and thrive like this. It is not any less feminine to want to be a housewife, or stay at home mother. I have to agree with comments below. You are blowing this out of proportion, and reading into this a lot more than is necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006067051801 Kate Thomas

    I don’t find her views unfeminist. I have traditional views on gender roles in relationships, too. I agree with her, and what she’s saying isn’t sexist. There’s so much more REAL sexism in society but it’s veiled. The whole “working career mom” “women can have it all” thing is bullshit. Women don’t have it all. Women are oppressed. She’s not saying if you want to work you shouldn’t work. But if you want to work you’re also probably brainwashed by capitalism, and that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I’m a diehard feminist, but I’m also of then belief that women should be women and men should be men. I identify as very feminine and feel very feminine and have no interest in being masculine or taking on a masculine role. Feminism has nothing to do with being equal to men so you suddenly decide should be a man. I’m happy to be Separate but Equal and pursue my own interests.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006067051801 Kate Thomas

    I don’t find her views unfeminist. I have traditional views on gender roles in relationships, too. I agree with her, and what she’s saying isn’t sexist. There’s so much more REAL sexism in society but it’s veiled. The whole “working career mom” “women can have it all” thing is bullshit. Women don’t have it all. Women are oppressed. She’s not saying if you want to work you shouldn’t work. But if you want to work you’re also probably brainwashed by capitalism, and that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I’m a diehard feminist, but I’m also of the belief that women should be women and men should be men. I identify as very feminine and feel very feminine and have no interest in being masculine or taking on a masculine role. Feminism has nothing to do with being equal to men so you suddenly decide should be a man. I’m happy to be Separate but Equal and pursue my own interests.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006067051801 Kate Thomas

    I don’t find her views unfeminist. I have traditional views on gender roles in relationships, too. I agree with her, and what she’s saying isn’t sexist. There’s so much more REAL sexism in society but it’s veiled. The whole “working career mom” “women can have it all” thing is bullshit. Women don’t have it all. Women are oppressed. She’s not saying if you want to work you shouldn’t work. But if you want to work you’re also probably brainwashed by capitalism, and that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I’m a diehard feminist, but I’m also of the belief that women should be women and men should be men. I identify as very feminine and feel very feminine and have no interest in being masculine or taking on a masculine role. Feminism has nothing to do with being equal to men so you suddenly decide you should be a man. I’m happy to be Separate but Equal and pursue my own interests.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685923873 Colette Massarelli

    I love this blog and I usually don’t comment but this post really sat wrong with me. I love the support towards Kirsten from other commenters! She literally said nothing wrong or offensive. She seemed to be simply stating her preference towards traditional gender roles in her own, personal life seeing as that is what works best for her. It is so frustrating to watch media jump on anyone who states their preference towards something that is not seen as a “modern, empowered” ideal for women today. I strongly believe that every individual person should have the right and support to do and be whatever they want to be and that if someone seriously goes on record to offend your beliefs you should passionately fight for them! But it honestly feels like the pendulum has swung too far. The blogger writes at the end that we all “need to be careful to promote a positive, modern, empowered idea of what girls and women can do, lest we move backwards” Really? In what ways are what Kirsten said not positive or empowered? There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to fill a more traditionally feminine role in a household. And, Kirsten is a successful actress, so she is clearly ambitious and financially stable on her own. If anything, her comments were inspiring, especially for those listeners who may feel like their desire to be a stay at home mom, or a housewife, or to have a “traditionally” masculine man provide for her and her family are looked down upon in “modern” society. This truly was blown far out of proportion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1340770609 Ursula Victoria

    I don’t find this offensive at all and I’m a feminist. Sometimes I do need my guy to be my knight in shining armor. That doesn’t mean I can’t take care of myself (I can). I don’t think her statement sets gender roles back. She said what she felt was right and I applaud her for that. She stayed true to herself which is difficult to do these days. I love Kirsten and this doesn’t make me love her any less.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1216266963 Silvia Peguero Rodríguez

    As a person that was raised by a single full-time working mom and as a full-time working mom myself, I don’t find Kirsten’s opinion offensive at all and I understand where she’s coming from. I think this whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000561278822 Brittany Clayton

    This article was utterly pointless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000458495308 Michele Davidson

    I think that, by this time anyways, women should be allowed to define our roles however we see fit. If you want to be a bring home the bacon kind of woman go for it! If you feel your place is staying home and raising your child/ren and taking care of your home go for it! It’s utterly ridiculous that people [in general] seem to be so intent on shoving everyone into neat little labeled boxes these days.

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