i) Normative Narratives: Gender Roles
While writing my blog post about gender, I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed. I was coming clean about a huge part of my childhood that I was ashamed of, but, I wrote it anyway because it is a true story that I felt others might be able to relate to. Immediately I felt some relief while reading my classmates stories because a lot of them had had similar experiences to mine. My story was about an experience on the playground where I was expected to hang out with the girls and I was only allowed to do “girl things”, but when I chose to hang out with the boys I was ridiculed for it. While reading, I also noticed that the experiences all held a normative narrative, that being: males and females have different roles in society and we have to stick to those roles. Even though in my story I go against the norm, I still express the narrative that males and females have to choose which side of the binary we want to be on.
The two classmates stories that I picked to compare mine to were Brennan’s and Hayley’s. Our stories are quite different because in theirs they are embracing the gender roles, but in mine, I defy them. Regardless of the differences, they all still have the same narrative of gender roles. Brennan’s story is about him going out on a date. He does everything perfectly in my opinion. He asks her out politely, he cleans himself up, picks her up, introduces himself to her parents, and pays the bill etc. All things that a gentleman would do. Now, in this case, the gender role narrative is being used in a positive way, (there are negative narratives in gender roles like “women belong in the kitchen”) but, the point is that he feels obligated to do these things because he is the male not because he is a kind person. Which I’m sure he is, it’s just not the main reason he chose to do all of those things. He even says: “as the male figure, [I] took the initiative that was expected of me and asked this beautiful young woman to go on a date with me.” This is a perfect example of the gender expectations that both our stories hold. Hayley’s story is about her getting ready for graduation and realizing how pretty she feels embracing the female role of wearing makeup and doing their hair. Later on, she admits that she doesn’t exactly understand why being seen as beautiful really matters when graduation is about intellectual success but she still says: “In the moments later that day, walking across the stage to receive my diploma, I felt I had performed my gendered expectations perfectly.”. By saying this she also tells the narrative of gender roles.
Now, these stories are barely similar to mine at all. Theirs are about performing their gender perfectly and embracing it and my story is about rebelling against the norm. That being said, there are still some things that relate to each other. Both Hayley and Brennan expressed the idea that they were only doing some of those things because it was expected of them and I stated in my story that I attempted to perform with my gender because it was expected of me. We all acknowledge the fact that gender roles do not make any sense. Why are the men expected to pay the bill at a restaurant? Why are girls expected to wear makeup? Why are girls expected to only “do girl things” on the playground? It’s all because of the expected roles that males and females have in society and we all expressed that narrative in our writing. Both these stories stuck out to me because they told the same narrative that mine did but they reacted to it differently than me. I also think that Brennan’s story is important to acknowledge because it shows that although most gender roles discriminate against women, there are some that treat women in very high regards.
ii) Disrupting Normative Narratives
While looking for stories from my classmates that disrupt the gender role narrative I realized that most of them did. They were all incredibly similar in terms of how the narrator responded to being gendered. Most of them, like me, did not agree with the narrative and fought against it despite drawing some negative attention to themselves. I chose two people that disrupted the normative narrative because they did a really good job of it. Raylin and Jaclyn have very similar experiences as mine.
In Raylin’s story, she talks about an experience where she was registered in an auto class and she was the only girl. At first, she doubts her decision to take the class, a few boys even start to whisper about her, and it is clear that they think she will fail the class just because she is a female. There’s a moment where she feels that she needs to prove them wrong, and she does. She does not fail the class, instead, she excels at it, she says: “I change tires and balance them just as well as any of the boys. I take apart a brake and put it back together twice as fast as any of them (maybe having smaller “delicate” fingers isn’t such a bad thing?), and finish top of the class.” Clearly, she breaks this normative narrative because, in the end, she finishes better than the majority of the boys. Now in Jaclyn’s story, although it is a different experience still breaks the normative narrative of gender roles. In the town she lives in there isn’t enough interest from the girls to make a basketball team, so she asks if she can join the boys’ team. She is immediately shot down and given the bogus excuse: ” ‘we don’t want you to get hurt’ “. She fights this for over a year before she is allowed to join the boys’ basketball team. Even after she joins the team, she is given little playing time and she is treated poorly compared to her fellow (male) teammates. Despite all of this, she says: “I will forever be grateful to have had the opportunity to play basketball with the boys for my final two years of high school.”. I think that these stories did a really good job at breaking the narratives because once they did the results were only positive. It shows that gender roles are not necessary for society.
Another time that the normative narrative was disrupted was an article called: “Girls Are Pink, Boys Are Blue: On Toddlers And Gender Roles” by Hortense Smith. In this article, the author explains that gender roles can be broken, but it starts early much like it did for a lot of my classmates. At an early age, they were defying the gender norm. However, it’s also not as simple as giving a girl a toy car and a boy a Barbie to play with. Smith states that “Perhaps the best anyone can do, as Eliot notes, is to just try to provide kids with as equal a playing ground as possible.” By providing children with gender-neutral toys it levels the playing field and makes it inclusive of everyone. That way children will never create a gender binary and force each other to pick a side. I think this article backs up the stories’ disruption of the narrative because it explains that children are key in breaking these binaries. Another reading that I think really helped disrupt the gender roles narrative was the article “The History of Pink For Girls, Blue For Boys.” by Margaret Hartmann because it is explained that one of the biggest gender roles (pink for girls, blue for boys) is not even correct! Originally blue was meant for girls because it was softer, and pink was meant for boys because it was stronger. We see here how easily gender roles have been mistaken from the past so why do they even matter? (that’s a rhetorical question…they don’t). I think this really helps disrupt the binary because it helps us see all the mistakes in societies logic. Exactly the way that Raylin, Jaclyn, and my stories do.
Reading all these stories about feeling gendered angered me. I always used to think that the reason I experienced being gendered was that of the mean girls in my school and that everywhere else was better, but the stories showed me that they aren’t. Other places are the exact same as my elementary school. The gender binary exists from the day you are born and they put you in a pink or blue blanket until the day you die and they dress you in “men’s” or “women’s” clothes. The gender roles never stop and it’s about time they do. It may be too late for our generation to stop the gender roles, but maybe our children or our grandkids can be, so let’s give them all the tools to help them succeed.
Hartmann, M. (2011, April 10). The History Of Pink For Girls, Blue For Boys. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from https://jezebel.com/5790638/the-history-of-pink-for-girls-blue-for-boys
Smith, H. (2010, June 12). Girls Are Pink, Boys Are Blue: On Toddlers And Gender Roles. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from https://jezebel.com/5561837/girls-are-pink-boys-are-blue-on-toddlers-and-gender-roles