Thoughts on Changing Gender Norms

The first toy I ever played with was a Barbie doll. It wasn’t that I was forced to; I genuinely wanted a Barbie. My older cousin played with Barbie’s so it seemed like the cool, girly thing to do. I wore dresses, played with makeup, and participated in every stereotypically girly activity, much to my mother’s chagrin. She wanted me to develop my own ideas/feelings and felt that I was succumbing to the societal pressures to fulfill gender roles.

While I couldn’t understand at the time why that was such a bad thing, now that I am older and have gained perspective I can see why these gender norms are so detrimental to society as a whole. Despite the fact that we’ve progressed far enough in America that women should have conceivably as many rights as a man, we still have unfortunately continued to keep many gender norms that have been nearly impossible for many to breakthrough. Recently, in class we were asked to list some of these expected roles such as boys liking blue and girls liking pink in addition to the idea that women are expected not to propose. It reminded me just how much we accept these without any reasoning.

After reading Castor Semenya’s story in class, I was yet again reminded of the unwillingness of many individuals to not accept people with any difference. Women are supposed to be small and feminine while men are expected to be strong and masculine. It is easy to see how there could be a bias among athletes. The fact that Semenya was attacked for not fitting that mold is indicative of it. The trauma that she suffers after finding out that she is intersex is just an example of how our societal gender norms can harm a person’s wellbeing. This article depressed me for many reasons: one being that Semenya’s incredible athletic ability was overshadowed by this controversy over her actual sex, and two was that we still haven’t made it to a point even in athletics where people can be accepted.

Castor Semenya

Yet, perhaps despite this we are still progressing to a point where these differences no longer matter as much.

It made me also think back on a recent change Facebook made to their settings. While previously a user was required to be either male or female, they now have a range of 50 extra ones to choose from. This is great news for the lgbtq community; Facebook reaches millions of people from all over the world and it is reflective on the importance of people who identify as something differing from the norm.

It does raise questions, though. Where is the line drawn? Do we just allow everyone to decide what they are or do we choose specific classifications? I don’t think there is an easy answer. Clearly there isn’t one.

I think that while it may take a while, change is occurring. People are beginning to realize that we all have our differences and responding to that. It’s important though that we start from childhood, teaching kids to be accepting of others and choose how they want to define themselves. It’s fine if little girls want to play with Barbies, but it’s important that they are because they want to, not because they think they are supposed to.

Men in a Girly Habitat

The story of Caster Semenya is quick to inspire debate about the view of female athletes in the sports industry. From the majority of blog posts incorporating this article, I have gathered that most writers have summarized her story with this thought: Why are people quick to question what makes Caster so dominating, acting as if she is not capable of being that good on her own? The world is almost expecting some secret advantage behind her repeated successes. Some of the same ideas have been mirrored in Lavaque-Manty’s “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities.” He explores gender roles and the inequality of such, particularly in the field of sports.

In regards to the commentary on these readings, I believe that the focus on women has been far too strong. In fact, it’s not just women who attempt to excel in areas that perhaps past, and unfortunately still current, societal views have been quick to question. Men also have disabilities too, and furthermore only examining the plight of one gender is doing the exact opposite of the intention of the articles, continuing the inequality. Continue reading

Feminine Essence

“Once, power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact, power has no sex.”
– Katharine Graham, the first female Fortune 500 CEO as CEO of the Washington Post company

Over the past week, we have been discussing the difference that gender presents in sports and in society. From Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty’s excerpt, “Being a Woman and other Disabilities”, to the “Either/Or” article on athlete Caster Semenya. Most recently a guest speaker, Suzy, an officer in the U.S. Army came to class and spoke of the inequities of being a woman soldier and the unfair, sometimes incensing treatment she has received based solely on her gender. Needless to say this week has been a fountain of new perspectives of how the experience of being a woman can vary. During Thursday lecture the class had to complete an activity in which we had to submit things that were “seemingly arbitrary gender norms.” The list ranged from girls liking pink to men not crying. And although the list of norms seemed to be silly in some cases, others were very thought-provoking. I rarely think about my identity as a woman. I am a Puerto Rican girl whose identity as a Puerto Rican supersedes that of a female. As an ethnic minority I allow my ethnicity to overpower my gender. It really wasn’t until this week that I started to think about the nuances and the complexity of gender roles. We discussed the often- forgotten difference between the biological category of being a male or female with the social category of being masculine or feminine. Both Caster Semenya and Suzy were females who in some way valued their professions more than their femininity. As women in the 21st century, must we abdicate being feminine in order to be more successful and respected in the professional world? Continue reading