Archive for category 2012 Gendered Bodies

Gendered Body

How is your body both gendered and not gendered?

I have a strong relationship with my body. I have lived inside this body for over twenty-one years and I am still discovering new things while understanding myself further. As we talked about in class, there is a difference between one’s sex and one’s gender. Ones gender identity is based off of how you see yourself: male or female.  I would identify as a female because of how I connect with my body however, I am not a stereotypical female that society puts out  aka gender roles. Gender roles would include for women always in the kitchen cooking, not very strong, eating very little and enjoying flowery things. My body is not gendered in the sense that I do not associate myself with gender roles and I do not listen to society in order to define myself. I let myself decide what is best for me. However, I feel that my gender performance is fairly feminine by dressing up in clothing that is stereotypically feminine however; I also like wearing clothing that one associates as masculine. While I am giving examples of gender identity, it is very different from sex. One’s sex depends on one’s reproductive organs; Male or Female. This picture show’s that gender identity varies among people; some are more feminine others are more masculine.

What other identities contribute to your gendered identity?

I would have to say that when I dance, it plays a role in my gendered identity. I love to move and dance to the beats that the music gives me. I dance in a way that is more feminine than masculine. I like to dance with many body rolls which society poses as being connected with women. The fact that my body is different from a male since I have breasts and more of a butt then the typical male makes me feel more connected with feminine characteristics of dancing. We talked about this in class that there are many different things that we associate with gender such as having a penis vs. a vagina. However, these really aren’t attached to gender.  I dance in a way that my body allows my body to dance based off the music. If I was to not have breasts and have a penis, I think my style of dancing would be different in an odd way. I have to say that while I am connecting the wrong things with gender, these things have shaped my feminine characteristics of myself.

This picture displays a woman dancing in feminine ways that may contribute to her gender identity

How is your body separate from and connected with the environments/systems/people around it?

My body is connected with the environment regarding the fact that what is put into the environment such as pollution, toxins and chemicals will affect my health; in ways that we talked about in class regarding the women working in nail salons getting stomach cancer,  mixed lymphomas, birth defect and many more problems because of the harmful chemicals they are surrounded by at work. My body is connected to the trees that surround me giving people oxygen to breath. My body is connected with other people who identify as women and have a feminine identity.

 

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Little Blue and Pink Boxes

Everything Blue

Everything Pink

 

 

 

Boy or Girl?

 

 

Walk into the children’s section of any retail store and you will not have     to hesitate for a moment to determine where the boy and girl clothes are located. First off, the sections are distinctly separated, and secondly flooded by shades of pink and blue. Starting at birth, based on a child’s sex they are assigned a gender identity. In the hospital, you are given a blue hat and blanket if you are a boy and pink if you are a girl. What does this mean for babies born inter-sexed?  I did not realize how problematic this was until I began working with children. When reading “It’s Okay to be Neither” by Melissa Bollow Tempel, I could relate in many ways. By creating a little pink or blue box and expecting our children to live within the bounds of that box, we create an extremely restrictive and anxiety provoking situation. If the little girl does not like the color pink or the little boy likes playing with dolls, they are made fun of by their peers. In addition, this behavior creates anxiety in the parents and is deemed inappropriate behavior. The truth is at such a young age, children don’t completely understand sex and gender. They only know what we tell them. Why can’t they wear whatever clothes they like and are comfortable in, regardless of the color, and explore all toys in order to help them further develop their motor skills.

What’s wrong with this picture?

 

Working retail, I am able to see the lack of color options that are present in children’s, especially infant clothing, as my check-out line is flooded by pink and blue. However, this I expected.  One thing I did not expect is the anxiety I have witnessed, that many have with gender-neutral. I realize this is a personal anecdote, but on several different occasions I have had customers come into the store to shop for baby gifts for friends or family members who decided to keep the sex of the baby a secret. When the individuals come through my line there is a sense of distress. The customers often complain about the parents not wanting to know or sharing the sex of the baby. However, I haven’t been able to pinpoint whether they are upset that they were forced to chose the usually simple gender-neutral clothing over the more detailed and intricate gendered clothing or if they are frustrated over the lack of options for gender neutral clothing. I think it is extremely important as Melissa Bollow Tempel states, to educate our children about gender and let them know that they don’t have to fit neatly inside of a gendered box. In fact, we should eliminate the boxes all together.

Growing into my gender

Growing up (stereotypical) lady-like behaviors were valued in my household. Behaviors that were not deemed lady-like were not reinforced. Specifically, I remember asking “Santa” for linking-logs for several consecutive Christmases, but I never received them. Instead, I got all of the dolls, jewelry, and clothes a girl could ask for. I am quite sure that if I brought this up to my parents, they would not remember or admit to consciously differentiating the gifts that me and my siblings received by gender. However, I know that I “learned” through my parents and society how to be/act female.

Its a boy? Its a girl? ITS A BABY!

Its a .... BABY!

 

 

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Social Construct and Gender Identity

For the first day someone is born, it is certified by the doctor in the birth certificate that the child is either male or female. And then onwards, the child is expected to act according to the social norms. For instance when a girl dresses up as a boy as in the case of Allison, a 1st grader, in “It’s Okay to be Neither,” By Melissa Bollow Tempel, she is bombarded by questions from her classmates that why she acts and dresses up like a boy. Thus it is the society that creates this gender binary and imposes it harshly.

Born in a predominantly Muslim country where gender roles are very strongly defined and maintained it was a great relief that I was male. Even in urban areas women are considered to stay at home and take care of the family even if they are educated. The situation is quite remorse in rural areas where most the population is located. Most of the girls are not sent to school and are married at very young age. Thus illiteracy rates are quite high among women. Also no education means total dependency on the husband for a living and thus the women are subject to greater degree of domestic violence and if the husband dies or leaves them they are fall into deep poverty with no source of income. Thus religion plays a very strong role in gender construction and identity. The more religious a country becomes, the more concrete becomes both gender roles and gender identity. For instance, President Ahmadinejad of Islamic Republic of Iran, claimed that his country had no homosexuals.

In Bangladesh, Grameen Bank has started to provide micro-credit or small loans to mainly women to empower them so that they can start a business. More than 8 million women have taken loans from Grameen and have escaped the vicious cycle of poverty and reached a higher status in the society. Thus Grameen Bank took a bold step in breaking gender inequality when it decided to offer the loans to women.

Women waiting to repay their weekly installments or take a new loan at their weekly meeting place for Grameen Bank

 

A girl doing embroidery on a dress. Most of the businesses started with Grameen loans are small ones like this where money from the loan is used to purchase raw materials. Then the final product is sold and the loan money is paid back. With out Grameen, most of these women would be unemployed or would have to borrow money at much higher rates from local loan sharks.

Even though Julia Serano in “Boygasms and Girlgasms” points out that hormones have very little to do with particular gender traits society constantly forces males and females into showing particular behavior. For instance, it is okay for adolescent boys to get into fights as they get their testosterone surge whereas Serano points out that it was not testosterone but rather social constructs that expects men to be aggressive and muscular. Media plays a very strong role in gender construction. From very early stages of life, children watch movies and play video games that tend to define what males and females are supposed to do. No wonder, most men prefer action movies such as “Fight Club” whereas women tend to like romantic movies such as “Letters to Juliet”.

Gender is very hot topic in the over-populated countries of India and China. With more than a billion people each, the government is taking tough measures to lower the population. And most of it falls particularly on females. In China with the one-child policy, most couples prefer a male child leading to massive secret abortions of female fetuses. In India, there is a big social stigma of a female child and it is almost considered burden on the parents as they will have to pay a huge dowry to get her married leading to a lot of abandonment of female children and abortions. It is estimated that almost 100 million women are “missing” for these various reasons leading to a very skewed male to female ratio in countries like India, China and Pakistan (Sen 106).

Works Cited

Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. New York: Anchor, 2000. Print.

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Body Awareness and Femininity

Seventeen Magazine, perpetuating beauty ideals with an overly Photoshopped image

I’m a person who is annoyingly in tune with her body. For me and people like me, we note how sluggish we feel after devouring a pizza drenched in liquidized fat. We feel the way our bones and muscles move when we shift a bit in uncomfortable wooden seats. We’re aware.

I wasn’t always one of those people. Part of this connection stems from accepting my body for what it is, not what it isn’t. I’m sure I’m not the only girl who’s stood in front of a mirror and nitpicked about not having a shape like Beyonce. Therefore, my connection to my body was closely tied to my “femininity.” As someone who perceived herself as “unfeminine” thanks to her height, aspects of my gender identity came from other places that had less to do with my physical body and more to do with societal perceptions of it. Sure, society may exaggerate the minimal biological differences between male and female, as Julia Serano wrote in her article Boygasms and Girlgasms: A Frank Discussion About Hormones and Gender Differences. We still exist in a society that largely perceives gender as binary. If someone is not that feminine, they must be more masculine. If someone looks like a female, they will be treated as a female.

Shared experience significantly contributed to part of my identity as a female when I deemed my physical body as a bit less “feminine.” For example, many women have stepped outside to be greeted by wolf whistles and saucy remarks about their appearance, often by men they did not know. I could relate to that with my other female friends, their responses varying from, “I feel like I’m being treated like a piece of meat” to “I take it as a compliment.” Catcalling is another manifestation of how women’s bodies are the subject of criticism – from magazine covers to YouTube comments to a walk down the infamous and now-defunct cafwalk. Take, for example, Adele. She’s a talented artist and a beautiful woman, but she was recently called “a little too fat” by one of the biggest names in fashion, Karl Lagerfeld. If ladies on the thinner, less curvy side, they still get criticized. There is no winning.

Another facet of body-shaming culture, this time in Internet form.

External criticism is, unfortunately, a shared experience for women that attacks their femininity regardless of their size or shape. It’s the shared experiences that make me most aware of my gendered, female body, as opposed to having female “parts.”

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I’m Not a Tomboy I’m an Athlete!

As the only girl in an all male family (aside from my mom of course), I was kind of a big deal when I was born. I remember asking my mom when I was younger on what her reaction was when she heard she was having a girl and her and my dad both jumped up and down with joy. At that point, Rory and Al (my two older brothers) were already born, so they were ecstatic to finally get the baby girl they were eagerly waiting for. My mom had been waiting to name her baby girl Chloe, a name she had always been in love with. Ironically enough, as I grew older she certainly did not expect my “tomboy” side.

When I was 3 months old my mom got my ears pierced with small pearl earrings. I ripped them out immediately and continued to do so two more times until she finally gave up. Apparently, since I was 3 months old I was never the typical “girly girl.” In regards to common stereotypes given to girls who like to wear makeup, dress up do, their nails and go shopping, I did not fit into that category. In fact, I acted more or less like a young boy. I always wore my brothers old lacrosse shorts and t-shirts (which my mom couldn’t stand due to the fact she preferred cute pink bows and dresses). From as early as infancy, I went against heteronormative stereotypes. I had this one shirt in particular that I wore EVERYWHERE that said “I’m not a tomboy, I’m an athlete.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This saying could not be more true for me as a young girl. While I was biologically declared a female in the hospital the day I was born, I did not always fit into societal “female” norms. I always found myself having more guy friends when I was younger, playing with the boys at recess and wanting to get involved in all the action. And while I found myself more involved in male activities, I always felt I was a girl and was proud to represent my love for the game. Above is a picture of me during the Dickinson women’s lacrosse game versus Gettysburg my freshman year.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more in touch with my femininity and LOVE to shop, get my nails and hair done, dress up, etc. But ever since I was a little girl, I was an athlete. I’m not sure if it’s because I was surrounded by brothers (I now have 2 more, Matt and Chris, after my mom got re-married) my whole life who I adored and looked up to, or that’s who I was genetically always going to be. Below is an old-school shot of me, Rory and Al :), I still admire them like crazy.

When I was younger my identities were certainly more reflective of males being that I loved sports and wearing my brothers old clothes and never owned a barbie. Instead I liked getting involved with my brother’s Nerf gun wars. As I’ve grown older, I’ve adopted a hybrid of identities that I feel best represent myself. During high school I became friends with more girls, got much closer with my mom and became more in touch with my “female” side. As I grew closer to my mom I also learned more about being a woman and became more in touch with my body and proud of my athletic figure. I started to wear clothing that was more form fitting and grew very interested in fashion. But I’ve never let go of sports and I think a main issue today in the athletic world and society as a whole is the recognition of female sports teams and athletes. The social culture  in which we live in has associated sports with males and I’ve heard several times females being called “dykes” or “lesbians” for being heavily involved in a sport. Society needs to understand that loving a sport has nothing to do with one’s gender, but is based on their personality and personal wants and needs. When my mom was in high school, it was not common for girls to participate in sports rather they were more involved in more “female activities” like cooking and sewing. Today, society has made a step towards welcoming females in the athletic realm, especially those that have been successful such as U.S. Women’s Soccer goalie Hope Solo, who has been praised for her recent success in the world cup. However, former U.S. soccer player Brandi Chastain, who was also an excellent player, was criticized under a societal scope when she pulled her shirt over her head after scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Women’s World Cup. A big controversy started immediately and people deemed her action as inappropriate. But why can men be shirtless in an act of celebration but women cannot?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Julia Serano’s piece “Boygasms and Girlgasms” she says, “While many gender theorists have focused their efforts on attempting to demonstrate that this sort of socialization produces gender differences, it seems to me more accurate to say that in many cases socialization acts to exaggerate biological gender differences that already exist. In other words, it coaxes those of us who are exceptional (e.g. men who cry often or women with high sex drives) to hide or curb those tendencies, rather than simply falling where we may on the spectrum of gender diversity.”  My spectrum varies due to my several “male” interests and hobbies such as sports. I do believe socialization plays a role in gender differences, it certainly did for me as a young girl who primarily socialized with males. But what’s also important to recognize is that “my” gender spectrum separates me from those around me because it is unique and incorporates “my” characteristics. Yes I’m a female but more importantly I’m me and don’t care if people want to associate me as a tomboy, I’m just Chloe.


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Hyper-Masculine Gender Norms

The Ideal Sexualized Football Body. I think this shows how the game has become sexualized in the last couple decades as the players get bigger and stronger using whatever they can get their hands on to get an edge.

 

Originally before I came to Dickinson I was completely unaware of Gender Roles at all. Coming from an all boys wealthy prep school in a very segregated city, Baltimore, I was never forced to live through any serious forms of segregation. The greatest privilege of being in the majority is the fact that you don’t ever have to see or experience the serious ways in which society can effect a single marginalized person. Attending an all male high school made gender even less of a role in my life. Looking back on it now after i have had my mind blown since my first Sociology and Women’s and Gender studies class freshman year I can see that my body was gendered from the very first moment i was born.   Lucky for me I was born in to a gender that matched my sex and along with being born into a family that could provide for me and the fact I was white, I had hit the genetic lottery. I fell into the major categories that society accepts. Julian’s comment about how our lives are gendered with the color of a blanket could not be more true. And from that moment on our lives are set to mold to societal norms.

New Born Baby Boy In The Blue Blanket That The Hospital Automatically Gives Him

Originally my body was gendered simply for athletics. At an early age I simply wanted to workout so that I could be a better athlete. What I looked like was a secondary result. Although i might have been young I was definitely naive about the sports culture setting norms for masculinity. When i started to grow up I moved away from simply trying to become a better athlete and fell into the societal norms of beauty. I tried in every way to conform so that I would be liked.  This gendered ideal that infiltrate our everyday lives can be seen in this trailer for a documentary by Jackson Katz titled “Tough Guise”.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmy2IHYq_y8 : This is the first opening montage for “Tough Guise”

I strongly encourage you to watch this documentary. The whole thing can be found on YouTube and its very powerful stuff. It really hit close to home for me and if you have the time it really had and effect on me.  Katz’s analysis is not in the opening montage, but I recommend you watch it because in my opinion, it is the strongest part of the film and most relevant to our class discussions.

 

My body is also gendered through bathrooms. Lucky for me I always have an easy place to go when I need to go to the bathroom and there is never any confusion on which bathroom i should go into. Our society has made it normal to box people into groups. You are either white or black, either gay or straight, either man or woman. The world isn’t OK with people being in the middle. Sometimes its not that simple for people and encouraging the world to see things as more fluid should help the cause.

As hard as we may try, it is impossible to separate yourself and body from the environment or the people around it. Whether its the food we eat or the way people judge our bodies it will always be affected by the world we live in and the environment around us.

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Given a blue blanket at birth: Gendered from the start

Since we live in a society dominated by a constant barrage of media-generated images of the body, it is easy for a body to become gendered.  Like Miliann Kang mentions on page 4 of her article, it is a socially preconceived notion that those who are gendered as women “naturally and universally” want to pursue a feminine look founded upon beauty.  Socially generated conceptions of gender infiltrate their way into our everyday lives, and I am no exception. With regards to my own body, it is gendered in multiple ways.  The way I present myself (attire, hair, shoes etc.) is one way of proclaiming what gender that I associate myself with.  

A media-generated image of the ideal male-gendered body

Where I get the concepts of what it means to present a male-gendered appearance come from magazines and television, which provide us with the ideal forms of the gendered body.  Personally, I think that physical fitness has become an aspect of a gendered body and a certain physique is socially requested by our culture if an individual wants to be purely seen as a man or woman.  The notions associated with being a man (dressing, acting and physically looking a certain way) undoubtedly have an affect on how my body is gendered.

The ways in which I wish to portray my concept of my gender to the world differ, however, from the ways in which outside influences force my body to become gendered.  When filling out any basic questionnaire, one if forced to participate in the dichotomous relationship that is the social construction of gender.  By checking the box marked “male” my body is now gendered.  Using bathrooms is another instance where an outside force genders my body.  To avoid social stigma and potential consequences, when I need to use the bathroom I use the men’s bathroom.  Whether I associate as a man or not, because of how I physically look, I have to use the men’s bathroom in order to ensure that no social boundaries are crossed that disrupt the status quo. Shopping is yet another place where one’s body is gendered by searching for products in the men’s or women’s section.  This link leads to a Burlington Coat Factory sale which exemplifies how shopping forces one to gender his or her body.  Certain clothing is offered to women and certain clothing is advertised to men, but none for both.
 
 
As I was writing this blog I was trying to think of ways in which my body is not gendered.  I  had some trouble with this.  I feel like the social construction of gender is so deeply embedded in my everyday life that even when I am not confronted with a social force that requires me to gender my body that I still remain gendered, whether I do so consciously or subconsciously.  If anyone is reading this blog, please comment with feedback about when you feel your body is not gendered.  Even when we are babies, we are given either a Blue Blanket or a Pink Blanket, thus gendering our bodies from the very start. 
 
There are many factors that contribute to my gendered identity.  One of these is my participation in athletics.  Athletics forces you into a gendered identity.  Someone can play MEN’s basketball or WOMEN’s basketball, but one is prohibited from playing in the other.  I have played sports since I was 6 years old, and the dichotomous notion of gender has been consistently reinforced year after year.  When this line is crossed and the lines that divide men’s and women’s sports is blurred, there is a large amount of social upheaval.  This is apparent in the case of sprinter Caster Semenya. 
 

Caster Semanya's gender has been brought into question, causing uneasiness in the sports world

 Because her performance and physique were characteristic of traits commonly associated with male sprinters, Caster has been subjected to numerous tests to determine a single clear gender that he/she can identify with.  The lines were blurred, and society took action to force Caster to gender her body according to modern societal regulations.

 

 In addition to sports, my sexual orientation has contributed to determining my gendered identity.  Because I am a heterosexual male, my attraction to women has reaffirmed that I myself am a male.  Because heterosexuality is so heavily emphasized in society, I was constantly reminded of my “maleness” because I am sexually interested in women, who are socially identified as different from men. 

My body, as does every body, has a unique relationship with the environment.  I utilize the environment to serve myself.  Whether knowingly or not, I have an impact on the environment just from living every day.  I consume products of the environment and I also produce waste that is introduced into the environment.  There is a direct connection with my body and the environment in which I live because my surroundings heavily influence my actions. The conditions of my surroundings, as well as the people that make them up, heavily influence how I present my body.  I can be much more casual if I am surrounded by family and friends.  If I am on a job interview, however, I would present my body in a different way.   Except when I am asleep, I am interacting with my environment and the people around it, which heavily influences the way in which i interact with those individuals and with the environment.

 

 

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Society’s Genders

My perception of gender is that in society, there will always be just boys and just girls. While I am not naïve enough to believe this gender binary, I do not think society will acknowledge it. I believe that gender roles will change; I have seen it in my own family. My father is a high school football coach and my mother is the “bread winner.” My whole life I have been a girl. Now that I am in college I’ve taken time to focus on myself. I wear dresses and dress-up in ways that make me comfortable and confident. Just as 10 years ago when basketball shorts paired with a baggy t-shirt was my daily apparel. The change in wardrobe reflects a change in my environment and the people that surrounded me. In middle school I spent majority of my time hanging out with my dad or playing sports in the yard. Once high school came that changed, I was cut from teams and pushed out of the athletic environment I once was so comfortable in. Now that I am in college I have adopted a new sense of me. I put on a dress in the morning but will not hesitate to argue over a sports team. While gender roles seem to be able to change, the rest of gender has not. Julia Serano’s piece, Boygasms and Girlgasms, seems to be spot on with her judgment of gender. The combination of socialization and science seem to play a part in gender. However from my own experience, I believe socialization plays a bigger role. Serano brings up that after her transition from male to female she became more emotional and cried more often. While I’m pretty confident that girls cry a lot, I feel like without the socialization of being told tough guys don’t cry, that boys would cry more often. Although I have no evidence to back up this claim, I have watched my brother transition from crying about once a day, to rarely crying. I believe the reason for this is my brother repeatedly being called a girl by my sister or myself whenever he cried. Now, thanks to both Dickinson and Ecofeminism I realize the gender stereotypes I was reinforcing onto my brother by calling him a girl. I also realize that I feel pretty badly that my brother has two older sisters. My brother aside, I believe that the gender binary is almost necessary.

Although it is hard for those who do not fit into either being a girl or being a boy, there is difficulty when you’re in between. It is hard for me to see society shifting in a way that is encompassing of a third, fourth or fifth gender. In the article It’s Okay to be Neitherby Melissa Bollow Tempel, a teacher tries to help out a student who is a girl but dresses like a boy. She teaches her class to be more accepting of the young girl, and that trucks aren’t just toys for boys and that dolls aren’t just toys for girls. While this one situation ends up being great, I do not see it being implemented and working across the entire United States. There is a documentary, Is it a Boy is it a Girl, which dives into the discussion of what doctors do when a transgender baby is born and the results of their decisions. Doctors believe in the science, where there are boys and there are girls, no in between. However, there are cases where a baby is born neither a boy nor a girl, perhaps both. The gender confusion becomes an issue for both the doctors and the parents. When a mother gives birth to a child, she wants to know its sex. When there is not a definite answer, the parents and doctors generally discuss and choose a sex for the baby. Society changes things that are different to things that are normal and alike the rest of society. The change of “abnormal” babies to become “normal” babies is why I do not believe that society will accept another gender.

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The double standard of gender roles

I believe this must be the stereotypical image Americans think the roles of dads are:

Man in a messy kitchen

The messy kitchen is attributed to the unsuccessful dad, and that the mother can cook and clean up dad’s mess. This stereotype negatively reinforces the idea that men cannot be homemakers. Neither of these is true in my situation. Instead, I had a Stay-at-home Dad. Similar to Serano’s article about what is right and wrong for the gender binary (essentially that it is “okay for a man to have an overcharged sex drive and not for a woman”), I question this aspect in my life. I know there is a stigma in America against Stay-At-Home Dads, but I feel that (as my mother’s daughter), it is okay for women to make money outside the home as “bread winners,” and that it is perfectly okay for men to be the domestic in the relationship.

 

 

This leads to my personal aspect of myself. Growing up, I always saw myself as a boy scout. I never had the badges, or the actual certificate, but my dad was the pack master, and so we held the meetings at home. I participated in the field trips, the meetings, everything it takes to be a boy scout except in without the acknowledgement in ceremonies.

"Typical" Boy scout of America

 

 

So this got me thinking about gender roles in our class discussion. Society has deemed that girls participate in girl scouts, and boys in boy scouts. However, I feel there is a stigma against girls participating in what is ascribed to men, such as boy scouts, or vice versa.

Destiny's Child, (as well as Beyonce) would be the ones in the Boy Scout Uniforms

 

 

 

Also, I feel pressured at Dickinson College, a subtle pressure to dress up. This is the way that I sometimes express myself (such as on senior portrait day):

 

My senior portrait attire.

However, this is the way I often want to dress, especially when the weather is warm:

Hiking around Palm Springs, CA January 2009

I guess my confusion correlates itself well with Melissa Tempel’s article, that can I both wear the nice skirts, as well as the t-shirts, and still be considered a girl? I feel pressured at Dickinson to wear nicer designer clothes and jeans, rather than sweatpants all the time, because I feel the East Coast has a “dress up culture” that Colorado just doesn’t have. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like dressing up, but all the time, is cumbersome. Also, there is a fascination with name-brands clothing at Dickinson, and sometimes I feel like a pariah when I admit that half my wardrobe came from Thrift Stores, because that in itself, is a social stigma that middle-class America shies away from.

 

Finally, I’d like to ask some questions about society’s standards versus how I personally see myself. I like wearing nail polish, and like cross-stitching, but is it okay to say that I enjoy those things because I personally do, or just because it is ascribed to me as my role as a girl? Or, is admitting that a miter saw as my favorite power tool (high school theater crew person) a behavior to be scorned like a woman with a powerful sex drive, in Serano’s article? Bottom line, I think we need to have some common ground, and just accept that we, as Dickinson students, are unique individuals who shouldn’t feel pressures to dress up, and should express ourselves in whatever way we see fit. Instead, we shouldn’t be a culture of dress up, but to celebrate diversity of expression. So, don’t be afraid to wear your older brother’s jeans and your blue nail polish. However we chose to express ourselves, we shouldn’t be afraid to hold back, and should have community standards to feel free and not pressured against such methods of self-expression.

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Gender, Glee, & Me

Gender is usually described as your identity and traits associated with your sex. So sayeth the great and powerful Wikipedia and who am I to argue? However sex is a physical state while your gender identity is a mental one. It’s assumed in our society they match but that’s not necessarily accurate. I am lucky enough to be Cisgendered, a term that word processors do not accept but means to have a physical sex and a gender identity that coincide. It makes things easier. My identity as a daughter, where I’m assigned to live in my dorm, what products I’m expected to buy, the people I’m expected to root for in stories, all manage to fit my personal gender identity well enough that I can avoid many awkward situations and credit my less binary stereotypical tastes simply to personality.

Gender Binary: The idea that there are only two solid genders for people to have. It doesn't really work like that. Think of people as liquid not solid.

However once you get into society as a whole the concept of gender and sex not fitting together gets more confusing. There are plenty of people who don’t understand the idea that sections of themselves don’t necessarily have to coincide. Serano comments on this in chapter five of her book Whipping Girl. The questions people ask her are well intended but ultimately clueless. “Why did I feel it was necessary to physically change my body? How could I possibly know that I’d be happier as a woman when I had only ever experienced being male? If I didn’t believe that men and women were “opposite” sexes, then why change my sex at all? Unfortunately, while these are among the most common questions people ask, they are also the one’s people are the least open to hearing my answers.”

Even media that pats itself on the back for it’s handling of LGBT issues struggles with the fluid issues of gender when it comes to the T. I’m not holding a show like Glee up as a paragon of alternative identity depictions here, they are basically the worst when dealing with lesbians too, but when it comes to transgender issues they essentially ignore it as much as humanly possible.

"Bisexual people don't exist. Gay people just say that so they can walk down the hall with a girl holding hands.” - Kurt, proving this show has more issues than just this. But that's a whole new blog post. Lets just focus on his shirt.

When the club performed “Born This Way,” by Lady Gaga the break out gay character of Kurt, wearing a shirt announcing “LIKES BOYS” all out and proud like, began with the song’s spoken intro, but they cut these lyrics: “No matter gay, straight or bi,/lesbian, transgendered life/I’m on the right track baby/I was born to survive.” Now the Gleeks among you could argue it was cut for time or that the very nature of a song called “Born this Way” ignored the concept of being born into the wrong body to begin with— but this isn’t the first time Glee had pulled something like this. The pilot itself had blonde cheerleader Quinn teasing main character Rachel with “Getting ready for the tranny prom, Rachel?” The episode “Rocky Horror Glee Show” is the worst of all this. The club put on a production of, you guessed it, Rocky Horror Picture Show to demonstrate their quirkiness. The episode was clueless about basic gender brain chemistry and women’s sexualities (“Internet porn altered the female brain chemistry, making them more like men and thus more concerned with our bodies.”), had one of the characters use an incredibly rude word for people who are transgendered (“They’re just not cool with me dressing up like a tranny.”), and in the end just had the part of morally questionably Dr. Frankenfurter played by a woman singing not the original lyrics of “I’m just a sweet transvestite/from Transexual, Transylvania” but instead oddly replaced it with “I’m just a sweet transvestite/from sensational Transylvania.”  So apparently in Glee land just dressing up as a woman, when being played by a woman, is fine but the thought of a man wanting to be a woman is something to hide. No, worse than that, erase.

I would watch a show where Tim Curry and Amber Riley dressed up like this and had adventures. However in context something about this just doesn't fly.

This is the show hailed, for better or worse, for being accepting, inclusive, and progressive and this is how they treat people who are Transgender. So obviously we can conclude people, mostly people who are Cisgendered like me, have trouble even considering these issues in our society. The Glee ones above concerning the Rocky Horror Picture Show also seem to fit into the basic fundamental sexism surrounding one direction of this issue. Going back to Serano- “…one cannot help but notice how much more empowering trans male descriptions of hormone transitions sound compared to those of trans women. […] the reason for these differing connotations is obvious: in our culture , femininity and femaleness are not appreciated not valued to the extend that masculinity and maleness are.” In the Glee episode girls are explained as becoming more masculine for the joke to work. Boys dressing up as women is dismissed and ultimately avoided— leading to the impression that there is something shameful about femininity. We’re just not open to hearing what anyone who has gone through the experience really has to say when we can just make a joke about it instead. It’s considered “strange” and “unnatural”. However this clearly shows Transgender issues often hurt Cisgendered women as well.

It’s complicated. No one is arguing that it’s not complicated, and difficult, and pleasing everyone is just not going to happen. But right now very few people in mainstream media are even trying. There are people growing up right now whose identities as daughters or sons, the bathrooms they are expected to use, and the pronouns applied to them do not fit. More likely then not a large portion won’t realize they’re not alone until High School or College because their brother’s and sisters go unseen here. The joy of television is how it portrays us but here it portrays our ignorance for all to see. It’s important to educate, others and ourselves, when the situation allows it and to acknowledge all the different ways human beings can function. While gender identity and physical sex don’t always coincide being a alternative savvy decent person is a universal trait for everyone to aspire to.

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