Look at the title. What do you see?
Two. She and he. He and she.
But what do these words imply?
What does it mean to be a she or a he? A man or a woman?
I want to write a little bit about a current topic that's been in my head.
I'm currently taking a special topics course in Psychology called "Violence Against Women." Currently, we are talking about gender in our class, with a focus on how the the idea of being a "real man" (masculinity) is related to violence. Certainly, women can be violent, too, but a overwhelming majority of outwardly aggressive and violent actions are committed by men.
We often tend to attach certain expectations with the words "man" and "woman." A man is tough, a woman is nurturing. A man is an individual, a woman is part of a group or community. And so on. The way I've always personally avoided "the problem of being female" is becoming more like a man. I hated most girls when I was younger, and this only intensified in high school when most of those same girls seemed to focus solely on getting a cute boyfriend, buying clothes, shopping, playing with makeup, and so forth.
I never really thought about it back then, but I knew I wanted to be mentally and physically "tough" (which seemed to be a main motivation of my desire to work out in the form of regular weight-lifting in HS), independent, smart, self-supporting, and never cry. I grew up with my dad HS onward, and I just always thought my desire to be more masculine stemmed from the lack of a mother-figure in my life. But really, I was afraid of girls--they seemed to be like these unpredictable but dangerous creatures, dumb but conniving and mean-spirited, ready to smile to your face and spread rumors about you the next minute. And yet I was a girl.
As I got older, and especially in college, I stopped hating girls so much. I didn't have a girl best friend, but I began to adopt "girl qualities" here and there (trying out flowy skirts/dresses, makeup, actually enjoying shopping) as I saw them fit. My hatred of females diminished, and I was able to adopt more "feminine" sorts of characteristics.
But I still don't think I have completely resolved this issue. Biology offers reasons for why men are physically stronger--more muscular than women and may be more aggressive due to hormones--there isn't much beyond social construction to help explain why our conceptions of "man" and "women" are still embracing all of these divides, like that of protector/protectee, bread-winner/caretaker, strong/weak, smart/dumb responsible/irresponsible.
I don't think we've moved past these inequalities between men and women, I think they've really just become so deeply rooted in culture. I speculate that people may be afraid, after all--it's 2011, and we still have gender inequality? what? not possible, right? However, ignoring the problem doesn't do much for us; it will exist whether we ignore it or choose to acknowledge it.
I don't want to make too many after-the-fact assumptions about my own behavior or others, but I can see this relating to my problems with eating. I've always been afraid of the "femininity" threatening to jump out on me unawares. Of turning in a woman. I suppressed my hunger, my wants, my needs, anything that could make me seem needy, emotional, like "too much." I jokingly remember wishing I had the body of a male a few times when I was younger. I wanted to escape my hips, my thighs, become masculine or at least androgynous if I couldn't become male. An eating disorder seemed to allow me to escape to escape a lot--my fears about life, family upheaval, fears of inadequacy, fears of the female sex.
I guess the question I want to leave you with, one that I'm still pondering, is this. How does one become a person and not just simply the sum of a bunch of stereotypes about a woman or a man?
How do we resolve our fears about our gender and its implied roles? How do we decide what to do when sometimes our biases get the best of us?
A penny for your thoughts and a nickel for good ones,