Reading through my classmates stories about gender, there was one thing that I found that stuck out. Many of the stories were about how they enacted their gender roles that society says is “proper” in an almost perfect way. While this wasn’t exactly shocking, it was a little different to see after just coming out of writing my own blog post about how I had acted against the norm. I think it goes to show how it is seen as kind of rare to not act like our genders are “supposed” to, even if we do it without meaning to. It just happens naturally as that’s how we were raised, to follow these societal norms that have been inflicted upon us from a young age.
An example of this normal narrative can be seen in Brennan’s post. In his post, he talks about a time when he asked a woman on a date. From the time he asked her out, he did everything that society expects out of a proper “gentlemen”. “Throughout the night, I took the lead role in directing the conversation and ensured that I was not at all dominating it. I made her the focus of the evening and of the conversation, as every good gentleman does.” This is just a small portion of the many examples Brennan portrayed of acting as a proper gentlemen. He knew how society expected him to act and acted as such.
Similarly, another example of gendered normal narratives can be found in Hayley’s blog post. In her post, she displays something quite similar to Brennan’s, but with the opposite gender norms. “I had allowed myself to become swept away in the beauty of the ritual. Every year the senior class celebrates their new graduate status. Every year the senior girls will throw special parties themed pink to signify our femininity. As if people had forgotten that the upcoming generation of girls is breaking the glass ceiling of inequality, but don’t forget, we’re pretty too.” While somewhat more self-aware in the moment (going as far as to question the gender norms she is replicating), Hayley’s post reflects the same type of enacting of gender roles that Brennan does.
These posts really show how hard it can be to break from the gender norms. While, generally, people don’t mean to follow these norms on purpose, they have just become so ingrained into our society that it’s hard to break from them. While it can be hard, it is definitely not impossible. Regardless, it is generally second-nature to follow these gender norms, as it is what we, and most people, understand as “acceptable”.
However, not everyone wrote about following these types of normal narratives. Some wrote about the exact opposite – breaking through the narrative, either intentionally or unintentionally. While these stories were rarer than ones that followed normal narratives, I feel like the ones that did had a lot more of an impact on me. This is likely just because they are counter to the norm, so they’re not what you expect, and a piece of work – like a blog post – that betrays your expectations is always a lot more interest than one that goes exactly as you imagine it to.
A post that I thought was really well done was Amy’s post on her experience of playing football in elementary school. She talks about, even though she was an extremely good football player and was able to contribute to the team, people still judged her based on the fact that she was a girl. “Yes, it was true: I was the only girl playing football in that field, and I started to think about why. Was it okay that I was the only girl playing football? Should I be playing on the playground with my other girlfriends? Why does it matter?” The fact that Amy was a person of wonder at the time since ‘Wow, a girl performed really well in a MANLY sport like football!’ is a problem with how society portrays how genders need to act.
Amy’s experiences are quite different than that of either Hayley’s or Brennan’s. In their case, they acted just as society expected them to; Brennan, a perfect gentlemen, being the dominant force in his date with a young woman, and Haley, a prettied-up woman, getting ready for her graduation with an expensive make-over and an expensive dress. Amy, on the other hand, was doing the exact opposite as these two – she was playing a ‘mans’ sport, and excelling at it. Yet, she was judged for it, just because she wanted to play something she found interesting, just because it isn’t seen as something that women are supposed to do.
As Hortense Smith cites from a “The Times” article, “…the brains of boys and girls aren’t really that different after all; it’s the social conditioning they receive that makes them pick up and internalize gender roles”. Knowing what’s ‘manly’ and what’s ‘girly’ isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something we’re taught by society. Knowing that these issues are all caused by an external force is extremely upsetting, as we’ve practically been raised to judge others if they don’t follow what society tells us is ‘appropriate’ for our gender roles. Even though modern society is getting somewhat better at not being as judgmental over these gender roles, it’s still a huge problem that likely isn’t going away anytime soon. The most we can do is make others aware of the issue, why it’s an issue, and encourage them to spread the word. The more people that are educated on the matter, the better.
Smith, Hortense. (2010, June). Girls Are Pink, Boys Are Blue: On Toddlers And Gender Roles. Retrieved from https://jezebel.com/5561837/girls-are-pink-boys-are-blue-on-toddlers-and-gender-roles