Thursday, September 8, 2011


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?

Insight appreciated.

A penny for your thoughts and a nickel for good ones,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...