Friday, January 30, 2009

Guise will be Guise, Boyz will be boyz?

When I was young I had this T-shirt. It was small, with orange sleeves in the baseball style with a white front and back. It had a cartoon on the front with this cool looking girl in a baseball outfit. She had freckles and orange pigtails. She was cool because she was playing this sport that I had never even seen before and seemed to be playing it well enough to be allowed on some team. I loved the shirt and there seemed to be two of them floating around our household. I would always take them and wear them. There was a sentence under the baseball girl and it said “anything boys can do, girls can do better.” I bet Freud might have had a field day with my family.

I was reminded of two occasions growing up in this weird female dominated house. In our neighborhood we had a hierarchy. When my sister Melissa was old enough to be let out to play with me she joined my group of friends. Because of her tomboy appearance and willingness to do whatever we were doing she was welcomed.

One time we all got in a fight with another group of kids who lived on the other side of the estate and I remember coming home from it crying with a bleeding nose and I didn’t hear the end of it for a while. My friends and Melissa mocked me for crying and I knew without a doubt that boys did not cry, ever.

A few weeks later a boy Melissa’s age bit my youngest sister B on the cheek. After deliberating together with the gang, we decided to get revenge. We were going to lure this boy to the park and then it was decided that because Melissa was a girl she would be the one to beat him up. We managed to get him to the park alone and Melissa accused him and the fight started. I felt as though it should have been me fighting for my younger sister and protecting their honor. It had been exciting but scary at the same time. Instead, I watched one of the most brutal fistfights of my young life. Melissa fought and punched and kicked, the other kid fought back like a cornered dog. Melissa was just harder. Bless. Melissa cryed through the fight, and my friends just told her "let it out, tears give you power."

There are just so many contradictions in genter stereotypes, even the ones we listed today. I felt that i wanted to go through them and list why they couldn't be trusted as a solid example of Manhood and what actually made them different, and why it sometimes is different for women to be in those same roles. My own life is a bundle of contradictions of what it is to be male and what that means in regards to feminism.So much so that i think I was programmed while young (whether i wanted to be or not, or even if i knew it or not) to have this active mind that questioned my role and my role pertaining to the women in my life.

I think that Douglas does a great job of analysing these times where there were all these changes in femininity and social stereotypes and roles. I can see a lot of the things she is discussing in the readings and am inspired by her wit and view of the times that she has lived through. Even today a lot of what she says still holds, there are so many examples in the media today that mirror the ones in the book.
Anyway I will post more on that, i think i've self indulged too much in this post already.


Meg said...

I can agree with you on the point that the family situation in which you were raised has a huge impact on your own cognitive construction of gender roles. I have 3 sisters and no brothers, and was raised by a single mother. I know that I've often been at a total loss to what a man's role is "supposed" to be, what they are supposed to do in relation to women. Obviously I became way more confused about it when I started to get into more serious relationships with boys. Douglas talks a lot in her book at how women had to be defined in relation to men and how insane that was. I'd have to say it's equally bewildering when you've defined yourself in relation to their absence.

adamreitz said...

Man that is a great story. I don't know what to say man at that age crying during fights is obviously off limits. Then again I grew up in a male dominated house. You make some good points I wonder how different we are from each other based on the simple make up of our families. That would be an interesting study.