Kirsten Dunst believes traditional 1950s gender roles are ‘why relationships work’

kiki cover

We discussed the film Two Faces of January briefly in February, when Viggo Mortensen turned up to the Berlin Film Festival. Viggo stars with Kristen Dunst and Oscar Isaac in an international thriller set in what looks like the early 1960s. Kiki is promoting that film now, with a cover profile for Harper’s Bazaar UK. The photoshoot is rather lovely, I have to admit. Even though Kiki is on permanent Bump Watch (mostly because of her slouchy posture), not all of the photos are making me think she’s pregnant. As for the interview… well, Kiki has some ideas about gender roles.

Kiki on Viggo Mortensen: “He’s surprisingly hilarious. The first time I met him, he was very reserved. It was in an elevator. I was like, ‘Hi.’ He was like, ‘Oh, hi.’ I learned later he was very shy. So I was nervous, even a little scared, to work with him. I thought, “This is going to be intense.” Then I got the whole other side, which I don’t think many people know. He should do comedy, I’ve told him that… I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy with people knowing how fun he is.”

Kiki on fashion: “I cared more about outfits when I was younger… the older I get, the lazier I get. Have you ever heard of Free City sweats? They’re sweatpants, but very, very comfortable. I can get very comfortable.” This admission prompts another: Dunst also owns a onesie. It has monkeys on it and she has worn it once, on Christmas Eve, when she was given it by her mother’s friend. “I just took silly pictures in it because it looks ridiculous.”

She wants to direct: “I would love it. I love getting immersed in things and being busy all the time. It’s just that I’m not going to write my own script. I don’t think I can, I honestly don’t. It would be easier to find a book to adapt. But, I’m not interested in directing right now. Maybe in three years. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have children then. I probably will – one day – want to try it,” concludes Dunst, who is dating the actor Garrett Hedlund.

Being a child actress: “None of [my friends] were actors, really. I actually underplayed myself [at school] because I didn’t want to be a target. The fact that I was an actress made me nervous. I never wanted to be called names or anything. I was afraid of that.”

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 mum created. And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armour. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work…”

Her BFF Molly: “We’re going to live together in a house, and who gives a **** what we eat, and who cares how many cats we have? Because you know, you have your girlfriends for life.”

[From Harper’s Bazaar UK]

If Kirsten had discussed gender roles with one big caveat – “this is how I feel, this is what works for me” – I think people wouldn’t feel like her statement was one big WTF. For the record, for some couples, for some families, those “traditional” 1950s gender roles work. Sometimes they don’t. Not every woman needs a knight in shining armor to bring home the bacon. Not every woman wants to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. And it’s asinine for Kiki to generalize about “that’s why relationships work,” as if there aren’t millions of people who don’t have that kind of relationship and they still manage to have functioning families and relationships.


Photos courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar UK.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

134 Responses to “Kirsten Dunst believes traditional 1950s gender roles are ‘why relationships work’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. GMarchetti says:

    Good to know she’s still alive…

    And the fugliest dress I have ever seen on pic #2!

  2. Sixer says:

    It’s not that her MOTHER (a woman) was at home; it’s that a PARENT (any gender) was at home. I don’t actually believe all families should have a stay at home parent, but I can see the argument in its favour. It only goes wrong when fools like Dunst think that parent can only be a woman.

  3. Hiddles forever says:

    I agree it is an asinine comment.
    Many relationship work and they don’t work that way. Kudos to her if she can work and also find the time to be at home to wait for her knight in shining armour….

    Just a question, are these HW actresses (goop included) trying to convey to us that they regret to be actresses?

  4. LadySlippers says:


    I think that caveat is something almost all celebrities need to embrace. One size rarely fits all and they need to have an awareness of that — and very few seem to.

    With that being said, I do feel they reflect the general population’s beliefs as most people also strongly believe that ‘their way’ is better than others. So it’s not just a celeb thing.

  5. Ian says:

    Garrett Hedlund ?

    Lucky Bitch :)

  6. sarah says:

    Why does she have to qualify her opinions? Obviously they are asking for her perspective and she’s giving it. I’m so sick of celebrities “toeing the line” to say the thing that will please everyone! It’s so boring!

  7. Tiffany27 says:

    It’s Kirsten Dunst though, she’s not relevant enough to actually be upset at her comments.

  8. Tia says:

    She is generalizing too much. It’s a very regressive comment. I am jealous that she has Garrett hedlund though.

  9. epiphany says:

    Remember when there were actual fashion models on the cover of fashion magazines?

  10. Kimmy says:

    I’ll always have a soft spot for her bc I feel like I grew up with her, watching her movies (OMG, Little Women!!!)
    , etc. but ugh….foot in mouth strikes again.

  11. Kiddo says:

    Shouldn’t she be married, and at home, making Betty Crocker recipes in high heels and an apron, greeting her son Beaver after school, with a martini and slippers at the ready for when her husband returns from work? Why is she playing crazy cat lady instead? Get to it, gurl, dinner isn’t gonna make itself for the man.

  12. kibbles says:

    This sounds like something Kristen’s character in Mona Lisa Smile would have said. Except her character in that movie quickly discovered that embracing 1950s gender roles still didn’t stop her newly married hubby from cheating on her, so instead of sticking around, she filed for divorce and got into Yale Law School. Too bad Kristen learned nothing from her role or that entire movie.

  13. aims says:

    If that is the model she’s judging her outlook on what lige should be, maybe she should talk to some of the women who lived ot that time period. I would be fine if she said it was for her but to say all women should want that, it’s offensive.

    I personally don’t need man to take care of me. An equal partner would be great.

  14. mkyarwood says:

    Psh, did she learn NOTHING as Betty in Mona Lisa Smile?

  15. Dawn says:

    I like her and really some of her movies are among my favorites like the Virgin Suicides. I love that film and find it haunting. I sort of see where she is coming from with the 50′s talk. Some one was home with the kids, had dinner on the table and the family ate together every single night. There were true neighborhoods then with kids always outside and mothers meeting for coffee. But it was a different time and I think for most people they simply can’t financially afford to live that kind of a life. Everything costs like a hundred times more today than in the fifties. And I do agree with her that as we age we get a little lazier about fashion and makeup and hair. And so I don’t take too much to heart in her interviews.

  16. eliza says:

    Why is it women are no longer allowed to express THEIR OPINIONS on gender roles? Why is she expected to live her life according to the ideals of others. She was asked her opinion. She gave it. Pretty simple in my opinion.

    • Cecilia says:

      I agree. She was asked her opinion & she gave it. She never set herself up as spokesperson for all women. I swear…women are hardest on fellow women & it is not getting us anywhere.

      • olga says:

        Agree! All the comments are so similar always on this site )

      • Kiddo says:

        In other instances, we have celebs with the “All” women are and do (fill in the blank) consistently, and I find that annoying because it is factually incorrect and goes beyond an opinion about what individually fulfills them. I’m not offended by what Kirsten said because I don’t think the language goes that far, and she hasn’t been on a world tour advocating herself as an expert of things, nor is she promoting things that can be or are dangerous.

        However, her opinion doesn’t reflect her actual lifestyle, which is interesting.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      She said “I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work…”

      So she’s making a generalization about everyone else, not just herself. And I’m sorry, but to say that’s why relationships work is just…foolish. She’s allowed to express her opinion, but so am I and so are you, and I’m not going to ignore the fact that she’s making an overly general and in my opinion, stupid, remark just because she’s a woman.

    • eva k says:

      Exactly! Could not have said it better.

  17. Chinoiserie says:

    Why traditional gender roles are so often referred as 50s gender roles? Its not like she phrased that that way either. I guess that with TV they became very cliched in entertainment during the 50s, but the phrase makes it sound like they were invented in the 50s.

    • BendyWindy says:

      Actually they were “invented” in the 40s after the war. That’s when the traditional, middle class, nuclear family became the ideal to strive for. Prior to that, most families were poor and women and children did whatever work they could to help put food on the table.

    • Kiddo says:

      Yes, I think the advent of TV, to the masses, solidified that imagery to the 50′s. In films of the 40′s, you see a lot of the same stereotypical gender roles being promoted with some exceptions like “His Girl Friday” in 1940, where the woman thinks she wants the traditional life, but instead opts for a very male dominated career with her progressive ex. The 1920′s movies were much more liberated and racy than the 1950′s (and most other decades) by comparison, but they each illustrate the social mores as well as broadcast/film regulations of the times.

    • We Are All Made of Stars says:

      They were invented along with suburbanization and consumer culture in the 50s. Before that point, most people lived in extended family units on farms. There was work that needed to be done (and lots of it) and everyone pitched in, including children. Women weren’t isolated in a house away from other family members and relegated to doing a few hours of housework and cooking.

  18. amanda says:

    I do not like that she says “I’m sorry”. She shouldn’t be sorry for her opinions. That makes me not really respect her opinion, if she’s sorry…bitch please…own it or keep your mouth shut about it.

  19. Juliette says:

    Because this is coming from Kiki, who has only failed relationships under her belt, I do not find this generalization offensive or self-righteous.

    I think in her mind, she’s probably trying to understand what makes other people’s relationships last a lifetime, and if she looks to her mother and grandmother (as is natural) and sees traditional gender roles, then that’s what she sees. Its actually probably quite hard for her to see that because in her reality she’s a working actress who makes a lot of money. Very few men would be able to match her in pay and be the “breadwinner” and “knight in shinning armor.” Stating traditional roles work may be her way of understanding why her relationships fail.

    Based on the last comment, that she would live with her best friend and a hundred cats, I don’t think she’s saying she feels the need to subscribe to those gender roles or to have a marriage that lasts forever. Rather, the opposite. That her relationships will inevitably fail because she cannot be a traditional wife/mother, and she’s okay with that, she’d rather have her career, her cats and her friends.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      My parents have a very traditional and a very happy marriage. My mother never worked outside of the home and my father was the breadwinner and did very little around the house or to help with the children. And their marriage was and still is a successful one, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the division of their responsibilities. My father adores, respects, and trusts my mother and her opinion, and she does the same. They both value the other’s contributions and care about the other’s happiness. That’s what makes a relationship work. I think you can divide up the roles however you want as long as you have that.

  20. Bucky says:

    It’s comments like these that just make me wish more celebrities went to college. Sigh.

    Kirsten, there have been several waves of feminine, with later ones clarifying that women don’t necessarily need to totally ape men to be powerful – because the dynamic of aping traditional masculinity to have agency still sets men/masculinity as the “standard” and women/femininity as the “other.” And also, traditional femininity and masculinity are constructs and both are problematic.

    And this is all still way over-simplified, but damn, Hollywood actresses who insist on making sweeping statements in forums with broad reach – like, take a gender studies class, or something. And while you’re there, take some classes on, like institutional racism and people of color, and maybe some poli sci … It would prevent a lot of ignorant statements from hitting the public.

    • Judy says:

      Bucky, I think you’re being a little snooty here. My mom worked, brought home nearly as much as my dad. I went to college, even took some women’s studies classes. I taught high school in NYC, and when I had kids I stayed at home until they started school. I wanted to give that to them. I loved being Betty Crocker. Eventually, I went back to work . My 18 year old son thanks me for those years when I volunteered at school, made homemade donuts on rainy days and showed them how to play gin and gamble. Feminism is about choice and I think the fact that it’s her choice is implicit in her statement.

      • Bucky says:

        I agree with you 100%. My complaint was that I get sick of celebrities waxing philosophic about gender roles, politics, and other “big issues,” when they are perhaps the least qualified to be speaking on those topics in public forums.

        I think it’s great that you had a choice and you are enjoying it. Your work in the home is absolutely valid (not that you need me to validate your work, you’re a grown-ass woman!), which is what I was trying to say about some of the later feminist movements.

        And I hold that pretty much every celebrity who regularly gets quotes out to the public would do well with a few gender studies and African American studies/people of color studies classes under their belts. Hell, everyone would benefit from that.

  21. Nick says:

    I have a question – when I see comments like Kirsten’s above about gender roles EVERYONE should adhere to, i know that it is going to annoy/frustrate/anger a lot of people and rightfully so. Doesn’t Kirsten have a team of people educating her on what to say/what not to say. As Kaiser said, all she had to include was, what works for me in my relationships is……and there would be A LOT less uproar about this interview. More and more I come to the conclusion that the majority (see what I did there, Kirsten?) of celebrities are just not that smart.

    • Bucky says:

      Haha, see my comment above. It brings to mind a lot of Lainey’s criticism of actors, saying essentially that so many of them are vain, fragile, uneducated narcissists. Not that they’re necessarily dim (though they may be), but that their world is insular and doesn’t often include much continuing education.

  22. Dia says:

    And yet she still isn’t married. Isn’t that the traditional 1950s thing to do as well?

  23. K.B. says:

    Aren’t her parents divorced? And she’s not married yet, either. So how’re those traditional roles working out for you, “Kiki”? And if your “Mum” was really that successful in her traditional role, you wouldn’t have gotten a reputation as a hardcore party girl, gone to rehab, and/or have a reputation for being a HUGE b***h.

  24. Cotton Candy says:

    Why is this relationship model bad? Traditional model does not mean that woman is submissive and the goal of her life is trying to please her husband, Kirsten is probably talking about appreciation of femininity in women and masculinity in men which we are losing in our age.

    • Patty says:

      I agree. What is so wrong with appreciating women and men and recognizing that we are different. There is also nothing wrong with a manly man or a feminine woman. I don’t want a Don Draper but a lot of men I meet in my age group are overgrown boys and it gets frustrating.

  25. aenflex says:

    Maybe she’s right? Someone needs to nurture and cultivate a family. Both parents working 40-50 hours a week is not ideal for family raising, no matter whom or what your family is comprised of.

    • Miss Scarlet says:

      The person working can be a woman, and the person at home can be a man. I know several couples who have this type of relationship, and they’re all happy. I get really upset when people call the husbands less ‘manly’ because they take care of the kids and cook. They’re all manly guys. They just love being at home.

    • Becky1 says:

      @ aenflex-Unfortunately most families need two incomes now to survive. I would love to be a stay at home Mom for a few years but we’d lose our house, wouldn’t be able to continue paying on our student loans, make car payments, etc.

  26. Zbornak Syndrome says:

    I hate it when people talk about 1950′s traditional gender roles. It wasn’t just the 50′s people! It was almost EVERY century, every decade leading up to the 1960′s that these roles were in place. It’s not until very recently that the patriarchy has diminished.

  27. TheCountess says:

    As T&L pointed out in their post on this, it’s not like Kirsten has a great track record of her own when it comes to relationships.

    Quotes aside, she looks very good in the photos.

  28. Amanda_M87 says:

    My brother and I were very fortunate to always have one parent at home. My mom stayed home for the first few years and my father worked from home after my mom returned to work.

  29. Latisse says:

    These people are CRAZY, I googled those sweatpants, they’re a $148 a pop…FOR SWEATPANTS. SWEAT.PANTS. I quit this life.

  30. serena says:

    I’m more interested in that Viggo story, man I can’t wait to see him doing promotion for this movie!

  31. shellybean says:

    I actually kind of agree with her. I get what she’s saying.

  32. itsetsyou says:

    I agree with her view on relationships. The way I understand is what she is saying is that it’s nice to be in a relationship where more or less traditional roles exist. I wouldn’t stay at home cooking and cleaning though. I like to have a job and life outside of the house too much and I’m not interested in being a mother but I would never be ok with a man who wouldn’t want to be the main bread winner. I also could never understand an open marriage.
    To each their own, I guess.

  33. JenniferJustice says:

    There is so much sensitivity here, I’m baffled. Everybody is different. All kids are unique. What works for some, may not work for others. A stay-at-home mother is the ideal, but necessarily the reality, so we work around it (pardon the pun). But the most important thing I learned in my son’s early years when I was working, was that although he did fine in daycare and his grandmother was a teacher in the room across the hall to his advantage, some kids do not do well in daycare. Parents have to amend, make changes, adjust, etc. for their kids’ individuality. Even though I feel a stay-at-home mother is the ideal and I was not a stay-at-home mother, I am not offended by anybody promoting stay-at-home. It is an ideal – not at all reality for some, but simply stated as an ideal.

    • grace says:

      I completely agree with your comment! I was quite shocked by the whole vitriol.

    • Emily C. says:

      She was not saying what you are saying. She prescribed her ideas for everyone. She said “you need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman.” She said this was the only way relationships work. (What on earth does she think about people who aren’t straight?) That is what you are seeing vitriol about, and it is entirely deserved.

      • grace says:

        I’m pretty sick of people calling other people stupid, dumb, not that smart etc. simply because their opinions are different from the so called norm, in this case the “feminist norm”. Feminism should be about having the liberty of choosing your own path; in this case, being able to stay at home or working, having a “knight in shining armour” by your side or not.
        Kirsten Dunst is simply expressing her own ideal of relationship or how a relationship could successfully work. Maybe it’s from her mother’s or grandmother’s experience and how she benefited from growing in a family with traditional gender roles. She doesn’t say other people should subscribe to it.
        It’s something I’ve noticed while reading a lot of comments on this website: the judgmental, preachy attitude “I know better than you, you stupid, silly woman”. And it’s sad because if this isn’t also backward of women I don’t know what is.

  34. Kelly says:

    You mean that’s why fake pretend Brady bunch marriages work, with outward appearances being everything. I’ve heard about so many traditional gender role marriages working but the people in it being unhappy secretly that I’m tired and sick of marriage in general. Half of the marriages fall apart, what is she even talking about. The irony being greater when you look back on her crazy love life.

  35. Godwina says:

    Poor hare-brained Kiki. I’ll never forget seeing her and Charlotte Gainsbourg doing a Cannes panel together (the one where Von Trier made his infamous Nazi comment) and what she said re. women was so…facile and unsophisticated and nervous and inarticulate, you could literally see Charlotte’s shoulders tensing in embarrassment. I feel bad for the one, who’s clearly not skilled in public speaking and easily cowed by more cosmopolitan people…and I maintain my egregious crush on the latter, who was so GIANT next to silly Kirsten at that table, it wasn’t even fair.

  36. Abby says:

    Is it bad that the only thing I care about regarding this post is that Free City sweats are $148 a pair. Ridiculous. A 50/50 poly-cotton blend pair of sweat pants for $148. Shoes – yes. Sweater or dress pants – yes. Dress – absolutely. Sweats – NFW. For that price, they should be more than comfortable … they should blow me. Unless they are for charity or something?

  37. Aisha says:

    I think part of the reason celebrities are the ones spouting this crap is because they assume everyone makes the kind of money they do and therefore can live off a single income/stay at home. If women left the economy in droves so they could be proper 1950s housewives again the economy would crash, so we won’t be returning to that way of life because it CAN’T happen. And what about gay relationships Kirsten? Help! I don’t know what my role is supposed to be! I wish society would dictate that for me, oh wait, no I don’t because it’s bullshit.

  38. Emily C. says:

    It’s good to value femininity, but then she got stupid by saying, “you need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman.” Wow. I never thought she was stupid before, though I’d never heard of her being smart either. That’ll learn me; from now on, I will assume all Hollywood celebrities are stupid until proven otherwise.

  39. Anne says:

    I luuuve the floral dress in the last picture. Oh, yeah!

  40. Moi says:

    MY personal opinion is that some men can be the stay at home only, homemaker, but most cannot. Blame it on evolution. I, a female, did not like being at home and ONLY being a homemaker/wifey with dinner waiting on the table for when my man gets home. No matter how much of a fantastic parent/partner you are, I think we all need a purpose outside of only just that itself. Whether it be working part time, volunteering, something. Money not-withstanding. I became very depressed and acquired a severe loss of energy due to that. To me, if you’re happy with only being a stay at home parent, it is because you possibly have some sort of outlet. Or how????

    A male family member of mine is homosexual, and his partner is going to medical school to become a dermatologist. But…my family member is yet still all man and refuses to let his partner make more money than he does, so he’s going to school to study law due to this lol

    • Aisha says:

      I tend to believe it’s more social conditioning rather than evolution. Girls are pushed into the caretaker/homemaker role and boys are pushed into the breadwinner/worker role from a very young age which shapes their view about the way things are supposed to be. Boys are also taught to be very competitive and told their worth depends on how much money they make, while girls are taught that finding and keeping a man and having babies is what determines their worth (not so much anymore, thanks feminism!). Straying from that path can result in being made fun of/labelled an outcast so there’s a good reason most of us stick to clearly defined roles. I believe men and women are a lot more similar than what society would like us to believe…

      There’s a school in Sweden that is trying out gender neutral preschool education to try to break down these rules (and a lot of people are angry about it! They’re annoyed that they’re trying to turn boys into girls but not the other way around, hmmm). Not trying to change your mind just something to think about :)