The purpose of this paper is to examine the roles of gender and stereotypes in economic organizations, using examples from the movie "One Fine Day" to illustrate these roles. An abundant body of literature exists within both academic journals and the popular media concerning work and family conflicts that are encountered daily by Americans. Many work and family conflicts have been endured for time immemorial, such as the requirement to travel or work overtime. The result of work and family conflicts has often been that work wins over family, ending in missed life events such as births, deaths, skinned knees and soccer games. Often the father was the one away on business while the mother was home maintaining the family. This familiar family situation arose because "Ideologies assigning primary child-care responsibility to women prevail in most cultures" (Treas and Widmer, 2000).
The role of women in the home and in the workplace began to change in the twentieth century. Women began entering the workforce in greater numbers, with the result that the accepted roles in both families and organizations faced significant upheaval. The level of upheaval, however, is borne primarily by women, who remain burdened with the expectation that they will assume the primary responsibility for family duties but will conform to male-dominated organizational behaviours (Conlin, 2004). Despite significant gains that have been made by women toward equality in both the workplace and the home over the past 30 years, many inequalities still exist. Wage gaps between men and women are well-documented, with recent estimates showing that women currently earn 77% of men's compensation, representing an increase over the previous 30 years from 59% (Bernstein, 2004). Stereotypes also exist in the area of dress and deportment. Gender differences are many, but some similarities exist. These similarities and differences in gender and stereotypes will be presented in the balance of this paper, with examples being taken from the movie "One Fine Day."
In the opening scene of "One Fine Day," Michelle Pfeiffer's character (Melanie) is shown late in the evening, trying to balance work and family needs, with the balance being found by working after her son is in bed. She pays bills, and is obviously distressed by the fact that the bills seem to stretch, if not exceed, the available resources in her bank account. She snacks, implying that her time went to looking after the needs of her child and her employer before looking after her own needs. The former point is illustrated as she places a carefully packed lunch in the refrigerator, ready for her son in the morning, while the latter point is illustrated by her architectural drawings and workbooks spread on her bed. All of this takes place in a well-appointed and well-maintained dwelling, which also illustrates Melanie's stereotypical role of woman as the one to tend the nest. Thus is the plight of women in the modern-day world, trying to fulfill the roles of professional (Melanie is an architect), mother, and self (as a woman), with neither enough time nor resources to do any of these sufficiently, but nevertheless trying valiantly to do it all.
Melanie's opening scene provides a great contrast to that of George Clooney, playing his character Jack, a successful writer for a New York newspaper. Jack's opening scene involves him greeting his ex-wife at his door, as she stops by unexpectedly to drop off their daughter for Jack to take care of while his ex-wife leaves on her honeymoon. The childcare arrangements that had been made fell through, and Jack, as the girl's father, is the fall-back position to cover a difficult situation. Jack's place has a definite male look to it, including sparse furnishings, rooms that could stand to be cleaned, and Jack himself looking to need a good shave and shower. Jack tries pleading his way out of his duties as father, noting that he has work to do and that today is not a great day to be a father.
The contrast between the two opening scenes of Melanie and Jack provide an excellent introduction to the stereotypes of men and women that are present both at home and at work. Women must first and foremost fulfill their role in keeping the home and family together, which Melanie does by decorating and cleaning her home, feeding her son and getting him organized, and eating only when time permits. Women will find time to do their work, even if it means taking the work home and working on it. Sleep may need to be sacrificed in order to prevent home-life from keeping the work from being done, but such is woman's lot in life. Jack, on the other hand, claims work as his first priority, even over the needs of his daughter (who could plausibly end up on the street if he doesn't give in and agree to take responsibility for his daughter during his ex-wife's honeymoon). Jack's home and personal hygiene come second, since Jack is obviously working on his computer at home. For men, as illustrated by Jack, work is first and foremost, and everything else comes second.
When Melanie's son and Jack's daughter (who happen to be neighbors in the two mothers' building and classmates at the same school) miss their school's fieldtrip because of Jack's inconsiderate and selfish actions (he forgot to call Melanie to indicate that he would take his daughter to school instead of having Melanie pick her up), the four share a cab to try to catch up with the field trip. In this scene, Melanie calls her office to indicate that she will be in as soon as possible, while Jack calls his boss but pretends that he is actually talking to his naughty mistress. A second stereotype is introduced, showing that women are expected to be serious and committed to their job, while men can be joking and crass.
Once Melanie and Jack realize that their children have definitely missed the field trip, and that they, as parents, need to take responsibility for their respective child's welfare for the day, each heads to their own office with child in tow. Melanie takes her son to her office building, where she is faced with having to beg and plead with the receptionist to keep an eye on her son for five minutes while Melanie meets briefly with her boss, to confirm details for a meeting scheduled for later in the day. The receptionist comments that children are inappropriate in the office, and only grudgingly accepts to briefly provide childcare duties after Melanie cajoles and coerces her to do so. When the boss appears and sees the boy in the office, Melanie is forced to pretend that he is a lost child, for fear that acknowledging that she brought her son to the office could jeopardize her career.
Jack, on the other hand, takes his daughter directly to his office building, where they head straight to his boss's office. Jack is unapologetic that his daughter is with him, and provides only a brief explanation concerning why she is at the office. The boss responds by introducing the girl to the office cat, and then pulls Jack aside to have a heated discussion about a hot work topic that is currently brewing.
In the above two scenes, an additional set of contrasting stereotypes are presented. The first is that women cannot be trusted to take their children to work - ever - for fear that this might become an ongoing occurrence, while men can take their children to the office when in a pinch because exceptional circumstances warrant such extreme actions.
In a subsequent scene, Melanie spills her son's juice on her work outfit, which forces her to borrow her son's shirt with a dinosaur on it. Obviously this change in clothing is inappropriate for a woman in a work setting, creating the need for Melanie to try to cover what she is now wearing. Meanwhile Jack is at his office with his daughter in tow, while female coworkers openly flirt with him despite having his daughter present. The contrast in stereotypes presented here is that women in a bind must make every effort to maintain a professional image (including physical appearance and demeanor), while men are able to put aside their work front in order to make time for flirting and small talk.
Later in the movie, after an arrangement has been reached between Melanie and Jack to share child-care duties for the remainder of the day (to help each other fulfill the role of parent or care-giver while also responding to an urgent work issue for each), Melanie overcomes the obstacles created by her son and makes an excellent pitch to a potential client. The client is so impressed that they insist that Melanie and her boss meet them for drinks after work to further discuss the project. Melanie knows that this commitment creates a direct conflict between work and her son's soccer game (which she has committed to…