Characters with dominant identity markers are also present in Glee. When it comes to their identity markers, these dominant characters are often viewed as privileged.

To be privileged means that you have an item of value that is “denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do” (Johnson, Privilege pg 21).  In other words people who are privileged are given opportunities and advantages that tend to make their lives a little bit easier simply because of their gender or the color of their skin.

Unfortunately, privilege can be a rather complicated idea and often times it goes unnoticed by those who are given the advantages. As Wildman and Davis said, the characteristics held by and the advantages given to the privilege group often become what society see as the “norm” and because of this people do not see their opportunities as “special” or as “limited” to who receives them (pg 53). They either believe that they deserve them or that everyone else experiences them as well.

According to Johnson, privilege comes in two forms, as unearned advantages or conferred dominance. Unearned advantages arise when entitlements that all people should have are only received by a select group of people. This includes “feeling safe in public places” and having one’s opinion valued (Privilege pg 23). On the other hand, conferred dominance is when one group is given power over another. This one is more difficult to see because it is not about giving something to one group verse another, conferred dominance deals with feelings of superiority over other people.

An example of conferred dominance could be seen in a man telling his wife what to do around the house, but not listening when she asks him to do something. The notion of telling a wife what do is felt to be okay by a husband because they see themselves as superior since they are the man.

Both types of privilege can be seen in Glee. An unearned advantaged can be seen when Kurt no longer feels safe walking through the school hallways due to the fear that Karofsky will torment him or slam him into the closest locker. This fear is something that no one should have to feel. Because of this, the characters that are not effected by this feeling of fear (since they are of a dominant sexual orientation; heterosexual) have the privilege of feeling safe. This applies to Karofsky because even though he is actually homosexual he is perceived as straight, as well as Kurt’s step brother Finn. Neither of the characters have ever once thought that walking through the hallways could be frightening.

Conferred dominance in shown when Mike’s dad orders him to quit the Glee Club as well as the school musical in order to pull his grades up after receiving an “asian F”—an “A-“. Although I have not discussed this identity marker before, this event deals with age. Due to the fact that Mike’s dad is significantly older than him he feels superior and believes he has the right to tell Mike how to live his life even though MIke is 18 years old. (Yes I agree some of it probably had to do with the fact that he is his dad, but the example can definitely be applied here.)

Johnson, A.G. (2006). Privilege, oppression, and difference. In privilege, power, and difference, 2nd ed (pp. 12-40). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Johnson, A.G. (2006). How systems of privilege work. In privilege, power, and difference, 2nd ed (pp. 90-107). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Wildman, S.M. , & Davis, A.D. (2000). Language and silence: Making systems of privilege visible. In M. Adams, W.J. Blumenfeld, R. Castaneda, H.W. Hackman, M.L. Peters, and X. Zuniga (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.



In my previous two posts I described the differences between dominant and subordinate groups based on identity markers. These groups are determined around what society deems as the “norm.” But there is a problem with having multiple groups; that inevitably one benefits more than the other. That group is most often the dominant one. And if the people who have dominant identity markers receive privileges, then the other people must be oppressed in order to keep the cycle rotating.

According to Young, “oppression designates the disadvantage and injustice some people suffer…because of everyday practices” (pg 36). In other words, people of subordinate identity markers tend to experience hardships and are put at a “disadvantage” by not receiving as many opportunities as the dominant group.

Those who are privileged need the oppressed to stay in their current position so that they can keep being handed advantages. I believe that one way dominant group members keep others oppressed is by pointing out that society sees them as unimportant or less valuable. In order to do so, people use discrimination.

Discrimination is the unjust treatment of someone, which results due to something about them being “different” or “unacceptable to society.” As Pincus describes, there are three different forms of discrimination, individual, institutional and structural. All of these different forms can be seen within Glee, where discrimination is used quite often to negatively impact people with subordinate identify markers, such as being female (gender) or homosexual (sexual orientation).

The first type is individual discrimination, which are actions taken by an individual person or group of persons that are meant to differentiate from/harm someone from another group (pg 31). An example that can be seen in Glee is from a very recent episode where Santana is “outed” as a lesbian by a group of politicians out to ruin Coach Sue Sylvester chances of becoming a congressional member. This is individual discrimination because a “group” of politicians target Santana as a way to ultimately affect Sue. This was intentional because the politicians were well aware it would negatively harm Santana. Which it did, as she is seen running out of Sue’s office crying. The politicians were suggesting that her sexuality was “wrong” and that Sue should not allow her to be a member of the Cheerios since Santana is considered “different”.

Another example of individual discrimination based on gender happened when the high school football team made the decision not to play in a game because they were upset that their new coach was Bieste who is a woman. Again a “group” of people target Bieste showing their lack of belief in her abilities and harming her emotionally all because she was female and they did not approve.

The second form of discrimination is Institutional. Institutional discrimination is when the policies of dominant institutions are purposely set up in such a way as to negatively impact or harm someone from a non-dominant group (pg 31). This type of discrimination can be seen when Arty who is physically disabled tries to play on the football team. He is not even given the chance to try out and told that it is policy. This policy intentionally prevents people who are physically disabled from playing. Arty eventually convinces the coach to play in a game and Arty shows that even though he is in a wheelchair he can still play football.

FInally, structural discrimination is the last form listed by Pincus. Structural discrimination is when the policies of dominant institutions are meant to be neutral, but in reality they end up harming someone from a minority group (pg 31). This final type is shown in Glee from a previous example I have given. I talked earlier about Kurt being teased by Karofsky and when he went to the principle he said there was nothing he could do because policy states he must be threatened before the school can take action. This was meant to be a policy that benefits both the accused bully and the bullied, but it ultimately harms Kurt because it allows Karofsky to keep tormenting him.

Allowing any form of discrimination to take place should be unacceptable especially in schools where students do not have a choice in who they interact with each and everyday. No matter someone’s identity marker, he or she should be treated with respect and given fair opportunities.

Young, I.M. (2000). Five faces of oppression. In Adams et al. (Eds.) Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 35-49). New York: Routledge.

Pincus, F.L. (2000). Discriminating comes in many forms: Individual, institutional, and structural. In Adams et al. (Eds.). Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 31-35). New York: Routledge


When talking about issues such as gender and sexual orientation within Glee, I am referring to a broader topic called identity markers. Identity markers are traits and characteristics about people that they are often unable to change, and because of them they tend to be put at a disadvantage or an advantage. These traits include, race, social class, language, religion, and of course gender and sexual orientation. Based on what you identify as, you are either labeled as part of the dominant group (privileged) or the subordinate group (oppressed).

If you were to list off an individual’s identity markers it would sound something like this, a white male, who speaks English, is of the upper-middle class and is homosexual.  Now if you notice this partuclar person has characteristics that put them in both the dominant group for some identity markers and in the subordinate group for others. This is the idea of intersectionality— where most people do not consist of identity markers that are all dominant or subordinate, but rather a mix of the two.

Intersectionality can be seen in Glee. Arty is a white (dominant) male (dominant), who is also physically disabled (subordinate). On the other hand, Tina is a Korean (subordiante) female (subordinate) who is heterosexual (dominant). Both of these characters have identity markers from both groups and different ratios of the two.


Although different forms of intersectionality can be found in Glee, I would like to address the intersectionality specifically between gender and sexual orientation and how one identity marker influences the other, which happens as a result of intersectionality.

Lets start with Kurt.

Kurt is a homosexual male. Being homosexual puts him in a subordinate group since heterosexuality is the “norm” and therefore dominant, while on the other hand being male assigns him to the dominant gender group. For Kurt his subordinate identity marker has greatly affected how people perceive his dominant one. Because Kurt is gay he is seen as almost “less of a male.” This refers back to the names Coach Sylvester calls him, such as “Lady” and “Porcelain.” These names suggest that he is feminine or even more female-like than male. Another example of how his sexual orientation has affected his gender is seen when Kurt tries out for the school musical, West Side Story. Kurt tries to get the leading male role, but is denied the position because the directors do not see him as having the needed “manly” traits and believe that the audience will also not see him in this way.

There is also another character in Glee who has a non-dominant sexual orientation other. Santana identifies as a lesbian. In this case Santana has two subordinate identity markers. During the show, Santana has struggled coming to terms with her sexuality because her of gender. Santana is a rather strong female, who is see as “popular.” She is part of the cheer team and is known for “getting around” with the guys. Due to the way she is perceived as a female, I believe she is afraid to be up front with her sexual orientation. If Santana were to openly acknowledge that she is homosexual, she might be seen as “less of a female,” something that is very important to her. This could jeopardize her position as a cheerleader and affect how her other female friends treat her.

I thought this picture below was interesting because Santana also identifies as Lebanese, another subordinate identity marker. She is wearing this t-shirt for a song the Glee Club puts on called “Born this Way,” where each member embraces something they are insecure about. Rather than putting down her true insecurity, which is the fact that she is a lesbian, she chooses to write lebanese since it is less threatening to her status as a woman. It is as if she is taking a step in the right direction since the words closely resemble each other, but cannot fully accept her sexuality.

Glee works to show, that no matter who you are, whether that is part of a dominant or subordinate group , you should accept yourself and be proud of what makes you different.

This is the song referred to above: “Born this Way.”

Sexual Orientation

Just as Glee talks about issues dealing with gender, it also portrays experiences that students have based on their sexual orientation.

When talking about sexual orientation there are a couple of key terms that are important to understand. The first is heterosexism, according to Friend (1998) heterosexism is the “privileging of heterosexuality” over other sexual orientations such as homosexuality (pg 139). The second key term is homophobia, which is the “fear and discomfort” of homosexuality. This can include the fear of homosexuality within others as well as within one’s self (pg 141).

The next topic to discuss, is the issue of “coming out.” I am sure most of you have heard someone say, “I think he is still in the closet” or “I just wish he would come out already.” People say these types of things when they believe that someone if homosexual. These phrases develop from the idea of heterosexism, where the “norm” is to be heterosexual. But if that is the “norm,” then people who do not identify as heterosexual must tell their families or “come out” about being homosexual in order to express themselves (pg 140). This can be very difficult for a lot of people due to the risk of rejection (Blumenfeld 2000).

Glee works to prove that rejection is not always the answer and that kids should feel comfortable talking about their sexual orientation. In the show the character who most heavily deals with sexual orientation is Kurt, who identifies as a gay man. Throughout the seasons Kurt struggles to tell his father that he is gay and is viciously tormented by students and even staff at McKinley.

When Kurt finally tells his father that he is gay, his dad simply laughs and says he has known for a long time and will always love him no matter what. Kurt’s dad later becomes his support system, and works to keep close “family ties” and fight homophobia within Kurt’s school.

Not only is the issue of “coming out” discussed in Glee, but homophobia is one of the biggest reoccurring events related to sexual orientation. As I said earlier, homophobia can be the fear in one’s own homosexuality. Kurt is tormented by a character named Dave Karofsky, who in fact is gay himself but is struggling to come to terms with it. Because of his fear of his own sexuality, Karofsky takes his frustrations out on Kurt, who in reality is probably the one person who would actually understand him.

Continuing on with homophobia in Glee, Blumenfeld (2000) talks about the four different types of homophobia. There is personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural homophobia. Both interpersonal and institutional homophobia can also be seen in Glee.  Interpersonal homophobia is when the personal homophobia (one’s opinion) leads to “active discrimination” through name calling, teasing, or physical violence (pg 268-270). When Coach Sue Sylvester calls Kurt names such as “Lady,” “porcelain,” or “tickle-me dough face” she is showcasing interpersonal homophobia. These names suggest that Kurt is feminine and delicate, which can be insulting because he is not a woman but rather a man who is simply attracted to other men.

The second type, institutional homophobia, is the discrimination of homosexual people through the government, educational system as well as other organizations (pg 268-270). This can be seen through McKinley’s school rules. When Kurt was being tormented by Karofsky he went to the principle to see how to stop it. The principle said there was nothing he could do since Kurt had no hard evidence and that Karofsky was not threatening him, but rather calling him names (not to be mention the physical violence, which the principle seemed to ignore). These rules enforce the oppression of homosexual students by allowing the negative behavior to continue.

While heterosexism and homophobia take place within McKinley High many of Kurt’s friends such as Rachel, Mercedes and his step-brother Finn do support Kurt and his sexual orientation.This support, shows viewers that there is nothing wrong with having a sexual orientation other than being heterosexual.

Blumenfeld, W. J. (2000). How homophobia hurts everyone, (pp. 267-275). In Adams et al. (Eds.), Readings for social diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge Press.

Friend, R. A. (1998). Heterosexism, homophobia, and the culture of schooling. In S. Books (Ed.) Invisible children in the society and its schools (pp. 137-166). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


The next time you walk down the street, take the time to observe the people around you. How they walk, how they dress, how they act and ask yourself if their behavior and outside characteristics match up with whether they are male or female.

I assume, most of the time it will. This is because gender has been drilled into us ever since we were born (Lorber 2000). Gender refers to the way we are suppose to dress, act, and talk based on our sex. It is a socially constructed mechanism used to differentiate between male and female (Lorber 2000). To give you a better understanding, if you saw a baby with earrings in both ears, most people would conclude that it was a girl. But if you were told that your friends named their child Jacob you would most likely assume that it was a boy.

The assumptions people make to determine one’s gender is based on what society deems feminine or masculine. If a world existed where there was no gender, girls would be able to play football and boys could wear colors such as pink without being questioned or judged. But the reality is that because gender does exist people are expected to follow the norm, and “any possible alternatives are virtually unthinkable” (pg 207).

Gender is a rather prevalent issue in the t.v. show Glee and several characters are showcased defying the gender norms. Coach Sue Sylvester and Coach Bieste both have what society would call “masculine traits.” They do not wear make-up, or dress in “girly” clothes such as skirts and dresses. Instead they wear track suits and have loud opinionated personalities–traits society would deem unacceptable to have as a woman.  Coach Bieste unlike Sue (most likely because Sue is rather scary) is picked on, yes even as an adult, and treated differently because the students and staff do not see her as a woman. As Lorber (2000) would say, she is “missing” her “gender signs” and that is why people feel the need to bully her; they are “uncomfortable” that she does not fit into their view of her gender (pg 204).

But Glee works to show that no matter how Coach Bieste acts or appears she is still a woman and has feelings and desires just as other women do. For example, when Bieste gets asked out on a date, she cries over being treated so kindly. Crying is typically seen as a feminine quality.

It is not only the woman in Glee who challenge gender norms. Finn is the high school quarterback who enjoys singing and performing in the school musicals. He is pushed around by some of his fellow teammates for participating in such a “feminine activity.” But Finn does not let that stop him.

Lastly, in a more recent episode of Glee, Brittany decides to run for school president. At McKinley High School the student body president has yet to be a girl. Brittany decides that it is time to show the power within being female and performs this song…breaking her gender “norm” of lacking the traits needed to be a leader (Sadker and Zittleman 2010).

Lorber, J. (2000). ‘Night to his day’: The social construction of gender. In Adams et al. (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge Press.

Sadker, D. & Zittleman, K. (2010). Gender bias: From colonial America to today’s classroom. . In Banks J. , Banks C. A. McGee, (Eds.) Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. 7th ed. (pp. 137-153). New York: John Wiley.

Mediavine Inc. (n.d.). Quinn Fabray quotes. In TV fanatic. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from



I am assuming most of you, if not all, have heard of the term “trekkie,” referring to someone who is obsessed with Star Trek. But have you ever heard of “Gleek?” “Gleek” is a name given to someone who LOVES the show Glee on Fox Network.

Glee is a recently made hit t.v. show about the experiences of high school students in their ever unpopular Glee Club. This t.v. series showcases problems that today’s high schoolers face, from being the “football quarterback whose real aspiration is to sing,” to being the “gay kid” in school. Glee works to prove that differences are what make people who they are and that those differences should be celebrated rather than looked down upon.

This video is of my favorite song, “Loser Like Me” performed by the Glee Cast. Here, the students are finally taking pride in who they are, while standing up to Jane Lynch who plays Coach Sue Sylvester, probably the biggest bully out to destroy the Glee Club.

As a hit t.v. series, Glee has managed to impact schools and their students all around our nation. Students are now more open to talking about issues such as race, gender and sexual orientation in school and the students who were once seen as “uncool” and found themselves “lost in the shuffle” are finally figuring out where they truly belong.

Watch this CBS New Report on the show!

I chose to do an analysis on Glee because I myself am a “gleek.” But more importantly, I believe our society needed a positive show in the media where kids are not taught to look or act a certain way, but rather to accept themselves–Glee does just that.

Several identity markers are displayed throughout the seasons from social class, when Sam’s family loses their home, to physical disability, shown within the character of Arty. In my posts to come I will discuss the roles of sexual orientation in Glee and the messages it is sending our nation’s youth. I will also talk about gender and how being a female compared to a male effects students’ experiences through out high school and within the Glee Club as well as how Glee challenges gender “norms.”

In talking about these two identity markers I plan to bring up how the show uses discrimination, more specifically individual and institutional discrimination (Pincus and Johnson) to show how the subordinant students are impacted.  I also would like to talk about how privilege (Johnson) plays a role in the show, not necessarily with race, but with gender and sexual orientation.

Keep following my blog if you want to hear more!