Idaho State University Cultural Construction and Gender Bias Narrative Essay
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Sociology 2201: Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies
Seeing Gender and Sexuality: The Gender Journal Assignment
10 points each
The gender journal assignment is an exercise in “seeing the unseen” as it relates to norms, expectations, behaviors and representations associated with gender and sexuality. We will have four gender journal assignments over the course of the semester. For each of these you will write short entries (approximately 2 double-spaced pages, using 1 inch margins and standard 12 point font) about your observations and experiences. The idea for the assignment is to notice how cultural constructions related to gender and sexuality are all around us. As you move through your daily life, try to pay attention to gender as it happens (take the role of an ethnographer, with your life as your subject). You might notice, for example, gendered advertising on television or in magazines, gendered assumptions about politicians or public figures, the ways that men and women that you do not know carry themselves or interact with each other in public, or how men and women you do know (or you yourself) “do” gender. As you make your observations and write your journal assignments, please make an effort to build upon the concepts and ideas you have learned in this class, using terms and facts from our textbook and other course materials. In your writing, please be as specific as possible.
The best method for completing this assignment is to set aside a few minutes a day to write down your thoughts and experiences that are relevant to gender and sexuality before you forget them. Your journal assignments are due on the date listed in the syllabus and should be submitted in the appropriate Moodle assignment box. Your journal entries can cover multiple observations or they can be more detailed descriptions of one specific gender or sexuality-related thing that you noticed or experienced. In the pages that follow I am including some examples from past classes of exceptionally good gender journal assignments. I suggest reading through these before writing your first assignment.
Excellent (10 points) Acceptable (8 points) Superficial (6 points) Incomplete (0-5 points)
80% –Refers to concepts, theories, ideas, and/or other materials from class
— Insightful –Includes some concepts, theories, ideas or materials from class, but they are only partly explained –Purpose unclear
–Very little reflection about gender or sexuality
–Sources tendble or used appropriately. –Assignment is shorter than two full double-spaced pages.
–Content is thin and often superficial
Organization and Writing Style
20% –Organized and logical
–Sentences are clear and well-written — Somewhat organized, but some parts are confusing
–Some writing issues, but content is fairly clear –Confusing
–Frequent writing issues, grammatical and punctuation mistakes
–Writing is extremely difficult to read due to mistakes throughout
Examples of Excellent Journal Assignments
About a year ago, I attended a church service each Sunday with a few of my family members. The service typically began with announcements of upcoming events, church needs, and job opportunities. During the time, one of the most anticipated events was a workshop lead by a (heterosexual) married couple aimed towards improving communication between husbands and wives. In the preview video, the wife of the couple hosting the workshop stated, “Men are like waffles, and women are like spaghetti.” She went on to explain that men can only focus on one thing at once, and their thoughts are compartmentalized, drawing an analogy to the way that syrup gets trapped or contained in each square of a waffle. On the other hand, women represent spaghetti in the way that if you ever followed a spaghetti noodle on your plate, you would notice that it touched every other noodle before you found the end, implying that one thing is connected to everything else in a woman’s mind.
Each time the workshop clip played at the beginning of the service, men and women in the audience would chuckle as if affirming, “Yeah, that describes the way my spouse thinks and why I can’t get through to him/her sometimes!” The viewpoint and collective reaction to it upholds typical stereotypes that all men are simple-minded and poor listeners, and that all women are touchy, complicated, and difficult to understand. Further, it reinforces the perspective that men and women are widely different not only in their communication styles but in their overall nature as human beings, which directly illustrates Michael Kimmel’s concept of an Interplanetary Theory of Gender.
Our cultural perspective of gender differences that expect men to be detached and unemotional and women to be sensitive and emotionally expressive is further demonstrated in my past interactions with a good friend who is male. We became friends in high school, and he often discussed his personal struggles and relationship issues with me to a degree that, admittedly, I didn’t expect of a male. His emotional sensitivity and the degree to which he expressed concern for others did not fit my schema of what a man was like. Drawing from Kimmel’s words, he did not match the hegemonic definition of masculinity; he represented a subordinate form of masculinity in the sense that his emotionally expressive character deviated from the indifferent character expected of all men. Other friends picked up on this too, and while very few of us criticized him for it, the fact that he was an emotionally sensitive male stood out as an exception in our minds. Instead of him being thought of as a human being who is more expressive than other individuals tend to be, he was regarded as a feminine male, as if his identification as a male defined him and our expectations of him before he could define himself and embody human qualities without “breaking” any rules of masculinity.
My final observation of our gendered society concerns a recent episode of the popular TV show, Shark Tank, which allows entrepreneurs an opportunity to partner with investors, or “sharks,” after demonstrating the originality and utility of their product/service. In this particular episode, investor and QVC queen Lori Greiner took advantage of a gap between questions to offer input and raise her concerns related to a product. Before she completed her first sentence, investor Kevin O’Leary began talking over her as if she had never started talking. Within those moments, Lori Greiner discontinued offering her insights. This brief incident serves to demonstrate that even though Lori and Kevin are both in powerful occupational positions, Kevin’s position as a male fosters his expression of dominance by speaking over her. In this manner, this episode along with the previously mentioned occurrences highlight the divide our society draws between males and females and the tendency to favor hegemonic masculinity over other expressions of gender.
A few days ago a female friend and I went to the bar with the intention of playing some pool and catching up over a few drinks. We got our drinks and went to the farthest pool table in the corner with the intent to have a little bit of privacy so we could talk. We started out along but a little later a few males walked over to our table and asked if they could join our game, we accepted and played males vs females. Now my friend is actually very good at pool, one of the best players I have seen, I on the other hand have absolutely no clue what I’m doing, we both play for the entertainment of the game and not to win. Completely ignoring my friend’s ability to play the game just as good as them, if not better, they begin to instruct both of us on the best way to aim. As they are instructing us they make sure to explain everything as if we are children that have never played before.
Somehow the game of pool has been deemed a man’s game even though it doesn’t require any specific physical attributes that males may possess. It doesn’t benefit the player if he is physically stronger, or bigger. Yet it is considered a man’s game and it’s considered unusual if a couple of females play alone. It’s also apparently socially acceptable for males to join our game then completely dominate it. I couldn’t take a single turn without one of them correcting me or trying to teach me how to play the game. This fits in with the hegemonic definition of masculinity, that we don’t know how to do this man’s game and that it is ok and even encouraged that they would come help us. Even after my friend gently assured them that she didn’t need help and she could manage on her own they still continued to give her lessons. She later told me that she doesn’t want to be mean in any way by insisting that she does not need their help, she saw this as attacking his male ego.
Later on we were joined by two females at our pool table and we thought we would get a break from the lessons on how to play pool. As these girls join us and we make introductions they both offer up statements on how they’re sorry but they suck at this game, and to not expect much. I offered the same statement and my friend continued on to say that it’s just for the entertainment of the game, nothing more. When we got started I saw that one of these girls was actually exceptionally good at the game and went on to beat us two out of the three games, one of them she won for us when she scratched on the final ball otherwise we would have lost yet again. This goes along with emphasized femininity, in the beginning she was very friendly and sociable while almost completely lying about her skill at this ‘man’s game’. For some reason women feel the need to announce their low skills at certain things that are considered masculine. We belittle our own skill just to go along with the status quo of men.
At the end of the night my friend and I were complaining about the lessons given to us by our male opponents. How they think its ok to physically touch us in order to teach us a game that we never asked for lessons on, and how they wouldn’t take a gentle hint that we were fine without their lessons. On the other side we talked about how we didn’t feel comfortable firmly telling them that we did not want their help or the fact that my friend who was receiving lessons was in fact better than they were at the game. We did not want to get labeled derogatory names just for taking charge. We also felt like it would have been extremely rude to reject their help and inform them that they aren’t really that good, therefore bruising their male egos. That could also be us using emphasized femininity by choosing to remain docile and sociable.
This week presented me with a couple of different scenarios in which my behavior was very “masculine” or I found myself “doing my gender.” However, it took a couple of people actually saying something to me for me to realize, that there was still room for improvement in my behavior when it comes to gender and social situations.
The first scenario was Friday night at a friend’s house after the bars had closed. We were getting into a very heated political debate about class, gender, race, prejudice, the glass ceiling, police profiling, and opportunities present at different class levels. My friends and I were getting really worked up and trying to convince an obviously politically conservative person that women do get paid less than their male counterparts, and that police do profile and kill minorities at a higher rate than they do white people.
You see, I love to talk, and I’m good at it. I express my points very well, and with decisive confidence, and passion. This sometimes leads me to try to interject, or interrupt, and also try to “help” people express themselves, or even make their point for them. I never really realized how bad I am about interrupting and answering for my female friends. I do it for my male friends too, but most of my friends here in Pocatello are female, so the gendered aspect has been more obvious recently. It took a friend of mine saying something to the effect of “Will you shut up, and let me make my point!” to make me realize that I am a horrible interrupter when it comes to females during conversation. I don’t want to be that way.
I think the reason that I am that way has a lot to do with my male socialization. I want to be aggressive and “win” or “convince” the opposing side in debates, and in conversations in general. There is a pervasive attitude I have, where it does not matter if I was spoken to or not, that my opinion is valid and I have a duty – even an obligation – to make my point heard! I have realized before I have this tendency, but I often forget.
Another incident along these lines occurred in Boise last week during the second day of “Advocacy Days” I attended as a member of the Student Social Work and Sociology Association here at I.S.U. Tuesday morning we had time allotted in the conference schedule to go and meet our local representatives of the house in the state capitol. “We” ended up being three female students and myself, and we all ended up talking with and getting to know our local Pocatello representative, Mark Nye (D). In the process of our conversation with him, he looked at one of my female friends and said, “If you had a magic wand, and could fix everything in the government and change anything that you could, what would that be”? My friend hesitated for just a second, but without hesitation on my part, and because I already had many ideas “locked and loaded” on what we can do to fix this wretched system, I started in with “I would!…..” Representative Nye stopped me abruptly. He said, “I asked her, not you! She has the magic wand! Not you! Let her answer!” This took me aback and I realized that I had not fully learned my lesson about letting people, and in particular my female associates, speak for themselves in the time that they are given, and to show respect for their way of expressing their opinions and really listen to their voices.
This really hit home for me. I really do think I finally have learned my lesson about how to conduct myself with more respect when engaging in conversations with women. Mind you, I have always championed women’s rights, and I consider myself a feminist. But there is always room for improvement and important lessons to be learned throughout life. I am not afraid to reevaluate myself and make those improvements. I don’t want to think that it took a powerful “Man” telling me to wait my turn for me to learn this lesson fully. I was already aware from the other night, but it did hit home a little harder for some reason. I think it was more his station as our representative than his gender, but all the same I learned that in the course of me “doing my gender” I need to be more aware of respecting each human’s turn to talk, whether they are timid and struggle to express themselves or not. I need not feel the need to “help” them express their ideas and opinions but should instead allow them to do it in their own way and in their own words. As a man, I can wait for my turn to speak, respect someone making their points in their own words, and realize there will be a time to make my points as well, but it mustn’t come at the expense of others’ time on the floor. I am committed to continuing to work on this. I still get all worked up, especially when talking politics or religion, but I am committed to showing even more respect to women in my day-to-day dealings with them.