When I first came to JMU, I was deeply invested in entering the SMAD program with an aspiration to become a director and/or screenwriter (what some people may call a double threat). However, my SMAD 101 class was my first class of my college career, and being a student who has a hard time adjusting to new settings, I unfortunately did not have the best grade to be suitable for the major. That never stopped my deep passion for the filmmaking field though. When I was younger, I always liked to think of myself as not your typical adolescent girl, because I was not into the normal “girly” things. Instead, I was instantly enthralled with film, and not even the silly, teen specific plot-based movies. It was the hard, gangster movies, old cinema, and mature stories that I was truly obsessed with. Anyways, as my last post, I would like to analyze the film industry in curiosity of why it seems to be a male dominated field.
In a piece from the Jezebel website, Laura Beck (2013) provides a number of statistics from a study of about 11,197 directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors whose movies screened in Sundance, which is for independent films, from 2002-2012. Here are some things that she found out when it comes to the gap between the …
– 29.8% of filmmakers (directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors) were female.
– Women support women. Films directed by women feature more women in all roles.
– Females direct more documentaries than narrative films … 34.5% vs. 16.9%.
From only a few of many statistics, it is clear that women are the underdogs in this field, fighting for a chance for their movies to be seen. However, when it is known that women will be taking a seat for work behind-the-scenes, it would be rare for women to be accepted among their industry or even by the public audience. Women are supposed to be the force that drives the male populations, because the men are the true viewers that crews are targeting, to see the film and produce the success of the project. As the stereotypical roles, women are adorned on the screen while men either are the ones filming their process or the ones judging the final results.
In this same study, almost 40% of the women said that “male-dominated industry networking” is a barrier (Beck, 2013). Women are intimidated to enter this field because of the feeling of not being welcomed and being regarded as less of an artist compared to the male majority. In my case, film became somewhat of a hobby for me where I never took on the act of filmmaking, but rather studied it. I have always been one to find a film’s facts, directors, cinematographers, and other behind-the-scenes positions to be more intriguing than the more publicly appealing actors. I am an unusual exception here, however, in society it has been proven that there is a gap between men and women in the film industry that is rarely given attention. Most times, we praise the faces and bodies of women in front of the camera while we recognize the work of men who made these particular films. The public becomes confused at any kind of role reversal, because it has simply become a norm in our eyes. We rarely praise the work of women behind the camera or rudely judge the physical appearance of male characters. Men in front of the camera are looked at for the performances and their good-looking physicality while women are judged on their portrayals and their “madonna” or “whore” appearance.
Moving forward, I would like to emphasize more on women behind the camera by looking specifically at a woman who was publicly awarded for her achievement in directing for The Hurt Locker (2008). At the 2010 Oscars show, Kathryn Bigelow was awarded for Best Achievement in Directing. There were four men in her category who have all been highly regarded before for their directing abilities. However, she came out with the win for the first time ever in Oscar history. She was a big topic in the news after the show because of her landmark win that has never been given to a woman before. Bigelow was stated as saying, “I think, finally, it’s about the ideas and it’s about the passion,” she said. “And that’s what… certainly drives me personally” (Canning & Murray, 2011). She makes a valid point in saying that this shift from a concentration on sexes to a focus on the actual ideas and hard work of filmmakers is possible. But, can it really be said that she was the changing factor and now there is a better environment for the equal work of women in the directing field? Beforehand there were only 12 female directors to have been best Picture nominees since 1977. This is a number out of 216 directors (Pomerantz, 2014). Therefore, yes, she was a major victory for the establishment of women in the field, but that unfortunately still does not mean that the fight for equality ends there.
As we rounded the Oscars for this year, the buzz was all about the guys — Alfonso Cuaron, Steven McQueen, David O. Russell, Paul Greengrass, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Jonze, etc. (Setoodeh, 2014). So, how far have we come since the groundbreaking win by Bigelow four years ago? Well, from the popularity of this past year of film and the subsequent awards season that followed, there is most certainly a long way to go when completely breaking the stereotypes of men and women in society.
Beck, L. (2013). There’s only 1 female film director for every 15.24 male ones, and things aren’t getting any better. Jezebel, Retrieved from http://jezebel.com/5977854/there-are-1524-male-film-directors-for-every-1-female-film-director-and-things-arent-getting-any-better
Canning, A., & Murray, M. (2011). Female film roles still secondary, according to new study. ABC News, Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/men-dominate-film-industry-study/story?id=13439590
Pomerantz, D. (2014). The real fiction in hollywood: Women can’t make movies. Forbes, Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2014/02/25/the-real-fiction-in-hollywood-women-cant-make-movies/
Setoodeh, R. (2014). Hollywood sexist? female directors still missing in action. Variety, Retrieved from http://variety.com/2014/biz/news/the-top-10-grossing-films-of-2013-directed-by-women-is-a-sad-sad-list-1201021712/
What gender issues matter to you? Where do they happen? Create a map about gender issues, such as local resources, international incidents, historic points of interest, etc. Write a post that provides context for the map.
Last semester I became very interested in this fascinating notion that as a society we are all unconsciously set into this patriarchal way of living. It had never really hit me as hard as it did until last semester, with the help of only a few SCOM classes. Anyways, one thing that really stayed in the back of my head was this idea of a rape culture being our norm (again, unconsciously reinforcing it). I would like to use that as the force of this post, and, from it I would like to explore local resources in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham area concerning the parameters of sexual harassment cases.
When referring to sexual harassment, I will be mostly talking about the act as it is carried out in the workplace or in a school environment, which are only two main places to where it can be experienced. Mostly, I am interested in talking about the gender, of course, as well as the power dynamics that are involved in this act. I will provide some perspectives from the growing generation, a media example, and local resources that will hopefully paint an image for how our society tends to deal with these kinds of issues.
In an article from MSNBC, they mention a study done by Marquette University sociologist Heather Hlavka. She conducted a study done by 100 young people between the ages of 3 and 17, and found some alarming results when it comes to the viewpoint of sexual violence. “One 13-year-old girl interviewed in the study said such harassment was just a fact of life. ‘They grab you, touch your butt and try to, like, touch you in the front, and run away, but it’s okay, I mean … I never think it’s a big thing because they do it to everyone’” (Sakuma, 2014). It is actually a bit disturbing to think that someone so young could think that kind of contact is okay. This proves that our next generation is already lining themselves up for a continuous lie. There were many articles about this issue, stating that girls and general young people of the last couple of years believe that sexual harassment is normal. The younger generation will experience firsthand or hear about this act in the school system, and then without any kind of action against this issue, they will most likely continue to be exposed to this when they enter the workplace as adults.
According to Wood (2013), there are several stereotypes of women in the workplace that contributes to the sexual harassment that they may experience. She states that about half the women who have worked outside of the home have experienced some kind of sexual harassment like this (p. 234). This mainly comes from the stereotype of being a sex object, which, for example, can be prevalent in a dominantly male field like the military. This is not to say that men suffer from office stereotypes or even sexual harassment for that matter. I will touch on an example of harassment towards men when I talk about some media examples. However, it is women who have reportedly experienced more instances of sexual harassment in the workplace. The American Association of University Women (AAUW), which is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls, gives statistics that put women in the forefront of this issue. They say, “In 2011, there were 11,364 complaints of sexual harassment made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: 84 percent filed by women and 16 percent filed by men”. That is a considerably big difference.
Moving onto sexual harassment experienced in the school system, there is less of a difference with 56% of girls compared with 40% of boys reportedly being harassed (Ramirez, 2011). In both situations of the workplace and the school system, there is the concern of power dynamics; however, it seems a little more prevalent in the schools. There is the considerable age difference between students and teachers, which can be considered as one factor to power dynamics played into this issue. To back that up, in the same lineup of statistics it is stated that nearly 50% of 7th to 12th graders experience sexual harassment (Ramirez, 2011). That seems to be such a high number that most people seem to be ignorant of, thinking that the authority figures, in this case the teachers, will be responsible with their position.
From my personal high school experience, I had a teacher that was arrested about a year ago for acts of harassment that he had performed with students from when I was in attendance there. It was a big deal in the local news and on social media, which is where I heard about it while being here. This is an example where the perpetrator was punished for his actions, but this does not always happen, especially in the school system. Referring to Hlavka’s study again, there is another analysis of it saying, “Lack of reporting may be linked to trust in authority figures. According to Hlavka, the girls seem to have internalized their position in a male-dominated, sexual context and likely assumed authority figures would also view them as ‘bad girls’ who prompted the assault” (McDonough, 2014). This study was specific to the girl’s experience in this issue, which touches on the power that the authority figure has over them. The girls would very much think that they are teachers, they are more powerful in the school system, and therefore no one would believe them over the word of the teacher.
Going from an example of my personal, real-life high school experience, I’d like to transition to a media example that will put this issue into a different perspective. I want to use this not as informative lesson that will help spread awareness of the issue, but as examples of media lessening the blow of the issue, and spinning it not into an issue but instead using it as entertaining and for situational humor. There are countless examples of TV/film in particular that use sexual harassment in this way, however I will only mention the movie Horrible Bosses. I would show a YouTube clip, but it is sort of inappropriate, so I will go ahead and briefly summarize.
In the story there are three men being mistreated and harassed by their bosses. One is named Dale who works as a dental assistant and is sexually harassed by the lead dentist, his boss Julia. At one point in the movie, Dale says he is going to quit, but Julia retaliates by threatening him and showing him pictures she took of them when he was under anesthesia during a procedure on his mouth. She had placed herself in positions and removed their clothes to make it look like they were engaging in sexual activity. However, the pictures are made to be comical, of course, because of the fact that he is unconscious and the look of lifelessness on his face. His reaction to the pictures is, “Rape. Rape, rape — that’s a rape! This is what raping is! You’re a raper and you raped me! That’s a rape! Rape!” To which Julia responds saying, “Okay, just relax there Jodie Foster.”
One could say that technically, he is right. He did not give her consent and she used his body in an extremely sexually charged way. However, the whole situation is downplayed and soon forgotten after a few jokes to literally erase the fact that she actually did rape him. Later, Julia locks Dale and herself in her office, and in this scene she just so happens to be wearing her underwear and her white dental jacket. She is trying to play the role of temptress in order to lure him in, which, in case anyone was wondering is definitely inappropriate in the workplace, ANY workplace! Do not get me wrong, I actually find this movie to be hilarious, which is a testament to the state of our society’s numb minds when viewing any type of entertainment value today.
There is realness in this issue and, with the very current date on Horrible Bosses and on the articles included in this post, it is easy to see that sexual harassment is very prevalent even today. “Huhman said the second time she was a victim of sexual harassment (later in her career, at a different job), she reported the conduct to human-resources officials, who doubted her claims. After that, she stopped getting new assignments and projects, while the person who victimized her continued in his career” (Berman & Swanson, 2013).These are situations that are very real and can happen to anyone, so, there should be more sources that are offering informative lessons that will help spread awareness.
I wanted to explore these sources and see how accessible offices were, especially around this area, so I made a separate page (titled Sexual harassment law firms) that includes some Google maps. These are maps showing the placement of law offices in Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, and Woodstock, all agencies that deal with forms of sexual harassment charges. My choice to include these maps is to reassure that a person would be safe and taken care of if they were to report their experience. To have to go through any of these situations similar to the ones I have briefly mentioned here, and any surrounding this issue, would be so traumatic. It seems almost self-deprecating to have to keep it to yourself. So my hope would be to let people know that there are people out there that want to help, and to shed more light on the harm of harassment in the workplace and the school system.
Berman, J., & Swanson, E. (2013, August 27). Workplace sexual harassment poll finds large share of workers suffer, don’t report. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/27/workplace-sexual-harassment-poll_n_3823671.html
McDonough, K. (2014, April 14). Report: Many girls view sexual assault as normal behavior. SALON. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2014/04/14/report_many_girls_view_sexual_assault_as_normal_behavior/
Ramirez, X. (2011, November 7). National study reveals striking findings on school sexual harassment. Care2. Retrieved from http://www.care2.com/causes/national-study-reveals-striking-findings-on-school-sexual-harassment.html
Sakuma, A. (2014, April 15). Study: Many young girls view sexual violence as ‘normal stuff’. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/many-girls-view-sexual-violence-normal
Wood, J. (2013). Gendered lives: Communication, gender, & culture. (10 ed., pp. 23-27). Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
For almost every SCOM class I have taken, I have had some idea of what the class was going to offer me. Whether it’s been about research topics, ethnography, interviewing, or social movements — each class had a pretty self-explanatory title that made it easy to determine what it was about. However, at the beginning of this semester I had to come to terms with the uncertainty of Communication and Gender. In the first week of this class, I was so challenged by the idea of keeping this class or not. However, I was talking to someone in that first week, and she told me she was battling that same idea. She also said that she originally wanted to take this class after making her own understanding of the title of the class. She said, “I am not a feminist, but I want to know why people are.” That actually stuck with me while I was determined to comprehend this class’ title.
Going into this class, I had taken one or two other classes that were connected to a general feminist ideal, in support of discussing the misfortunes of our representation throughout history. So, after those classes I would have considered myself to be a feminist, however, there was still that stereotype that resided in the back of my mind, telling me that feminists were “bossy and raging man-haters”. After finishing this class though, I would, without hesitation, identify myself as a feminist.
What I liked about this class was that I was not only able to challenge myself in that one way, but in many different ways when it comes to gender-related issues. Just like any other person, I had my own opinions on issues and topics that we brought up in class, but this was prior to, when I just had these thoughts because of personal experiences and other influences in my life. This class allowed me to extend on that with analysis of these issues. I have always been open-minded, so learning more into these issues gave me a better understanding that only gave me a greater appreciation for the marginalization of certain gendered groups. For example, I have always been in support of the gay community. Then, after learning about L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community, and how there are many different categories to be identified with, I was able to extend my understanding and grow more appreciation because of it. My first blog post was on Jared Leto’s character of Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club, and I know that there was a lot of backlash surrounding his character, but there was also a lot of praise for it (clearly seen from his success during awards season). I like to pay attention to that appraisal, which is what prompted me to write about that issue. Personally, I was amazed by his connection and passion for his fictional character, and I became so infatuated with him and his character after hearing an interview where touches on how transgender people long to be in another body.
Reflecting on this class, I just love the way it has further shaped my appreciation for people and their characteristics that make our society diverse and each individual person unique. We were not meant to all be the same heterosexual, thin, glowing, white, and perfect beings; we were meant to live with our own values in mind. We were meant to look however we want, love whoever we want, and to have imperfections and embrace them because they are what make us human and bring us back to reality. When we turn away from our individuality, then we conform to these issues, one in particular being mediated messages that our society has become drowned in. This brings me back to the talk on advertising from the class’ Gender Politics presentations. All of the presentations were such an enlightening experience, as they revealed the issues surrounding women, men, and differences between them, however, the advertising presentation reiterated so many opinions I have held onto this semester.
I found the debate that they brought into their presentation to be particularly interesting because it seems like regulating things like photo shopping would be the right thing to do. However, as they explained the research they found behind the establishment and enactment of this regulation could be very problematic. But then what is left when trying to reveal better intentions in messages from the media? The media is probably the biggest outpour of entertainment and information for our society today, so creating a solution to its advertising and other visuals should enter the next step of action, rather than staying in a limbo of discussion.
I can talk on and on about my deep gratitude for this class and that I was able to get past that gate of unknowing. I was able to dive into this class, and rather than getting one important lesson (like usual), I was constantly challenged and changed from engaging discussion. I took away a life lesson that I will never let go of, and that is that gender is something that we have always been and learn to become, as we grow more cognizant of the world. Gender is not something that we can change, and it something not to be ashamed or proud of. Gender is something to simply love about yourself, and to become familiar of with others. Some may not accept other genders, but that does not allow for marginalization, instead we are invited to further understanding. Gender is about being yourself in a world where it is constantly telling you not to be.
“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
— E.E. Cummings
I wanted to have a visual along with our Q&A. The purpose of this video was to articulate her thoughts towards the questions. I wanted to have a little bit of back-and-forth easy conversation with her, and with that came a continuation of how people overlook the bible’s perspective. Brianna has a passion for her faith and for gay rights, and we were able to communicate in this video to the point that her views are clearly expressed.
An interview with a friend who has a heart for people, no matter what
When I learned that we had to provide an interview blog post for this class, I was so fixed on asking one of my best friends. I know how hard it can be to interview someone you know very well and already know so much about, however, I was ready to take on the challenge because I felt as if her perspective was very important to acknowledge.
Luckily, she said yes, and here I am with a Q&A and video with one of my best friends since freshman year. I did not choose her because of any particular work she has done, a program that she took part in, or any gender identity that she places herself in. Rather, I wanted to interview her because she is one of the most open-minded people and, plot twist; she identifies as a Christian who is strong in her faith. In our “normal” culture many people who would learn that she is a Christian, would automatically assume that, based on her beliefs, she is not in support of gay rights and the LGBTQIA community.
However, after getting to know her throughout college, I have learned that she has something different to say that puts her beliefs and her acceptance on the same level. She was probably one of the first people I had met that was open about her acceptances, portraying, right away, a heart for anyone and everyone, no matter what.
- Me: Could you give a shortened version of how you came to believe in God?
BD: I grew up believing in God for as long as I can remember. I was raised Catholic as a little girl, but I wasn’t a strong believer in God until I came to college and joined the Christian organization Cru during my freshman year.
- Me: How did you decide that this was the right thing to do?
BD: My faith was important to me growing up until around my middle/high school years. By then it didn’t really mean anything to me and I was living a life that was constantly searching for something. I was searching for love, acceptance, joy, satisfaction, and purpose in all these things that ultimately would never fulfill me the way I wanted them to. It’s not that I was miserable by any means, but I was never content or satisfied and I would make decisions that were centered around those things. When I came to college and rededicated my life to Jesus, I became free. I was free from feelings of not being wanted or loved or accepted etc. and I have never previously known the type of joy and contentment that I do now that I’m living for Him and not for me.
- Me: Was there anybody telling you that this was wrong or that you were going to regret choosing this life?
BD: I didn’t have anyone tell me that I was wrong, but I had people tell me they didn’t agree with what I was doing and who tried to make me change my mind or feel ashamed of my new lifestyle. Specifically, my boyfriend at the time and my sister were the two people that I would say were the biggest opponents of what I was doing.
- Me: Tell me about your experience in the gay culture? How did you come to accept this “other” way of life?
BD: One of my closest friends from high school is gay and I’ve read fictional books, like the “Rainbow Boys” trilogy, and watched television shows/movies that have gay characters in them, like Glee and Perks of Being a Wallflower, that I’ve enjoyed so much. I must have first heard about it in middle school, but didn’t give much thought to it until high school. My group of friends was really open to differences and welcomed people who were outside of the “popular crowd”. I’ve always been accepting of others and how they may be different from me.
- Me: Was there any moment in your life or any people in your life that were influential for you when learning to accept others for who they are?
BD: My mom is one of the biggest reasons that I’m so accepting of others. She always taught me to look past skin color, religion, stigmas, sexual orientation, fashion choices, etc. and judge someone based on their personality and what type of person they were. Even if I didn’t like them, I still was taught to treat them with respect.
- Me: Now, can I ask you to mention some reasons why many people may assume all Christians believe that choosing a same-sex relationship is wrong?
BD: I think that there are a lot of misrepresentations of Christians as a whole in the media in regard to this issue as well as many other issues. Often times we only see the extreme Christian portrayed in various types of media who is very unkind towards gay people/culture and who spew hatred with their words and actions. These people do exist and do this very thing, and it’s so frustrating and heartbreaking for the rest of us who, even if we didn’t agree with an aspect of how a person is choosing to live their life, would never take that approach when telling them how we feel about it. I think most Christians would approach it in a respectful, kind way, but since that’s not shown very often a lot of people think that if you’re a Christian you automatically hate gay people.
- Me: There are people who reference the bible for verses that speak against the gay community, saying that because it is said in God’s word it has to be the ultimate truth. What do you think about these verses (particularly these two) and how can you shed light with your perspective?
- Leviticus 18:22 “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.” (NLT)
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (NLT)
BD: Being a person who supports the gay community, it has been a struggle for me to accept that homosexuality is a sin. However, as a Christian, the Bible is my source of truth. If I’m going to put all my hope into something and choose to live my life to be more like Jesus, I can’t just pick and choose the parts of the Bible that I like and ignore the parts that are harder for me to accept. If I do that, I’m devaluing the truth and freedom that comes from the Bible as well as justifying certain sins but not others. Sin is sin to God so my sins that I commit are no different than someone who is choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle. Their sin isn’t bigger than mine and the Bible mentions and goes into more detail about many other sins. When these types of verses are brought up, I’m reminded of that and also that all sin is detestable to God and all sin brings death, not just being gay.
- Me: Do you have any verses from the bible that you may know to counteract these paths that claim to be speaking the truth?
BD: I don’t have verses that contradict that homosexuality is wrong; the Bible is clear on that issue in that it is wrong. I have a few verses though that I think of (and should be remembered) when talking about this issue.
- John 15:12 “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” (NIV)
- 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (NIV)
- 1 John 3:14-15 “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (ESV)
I loved gay people before I was a Christian and that hasn’t changed in the slightest since I’ve identified as a Christian. Jesus tells us to love each other as He loved us; so even though I have come to accept that homosexuality is a sin, I would never condemn anyone who is of the LGBTQ community. I respond with love rather than hate, compassion rather than being degrading, and understanding rather than judgment. I think the Christians who read the two verses from the previous question and behave in such a way towards the gay community are then forgetting the three verses that I mentioned — they are doing a disservice to their ministry and are misrepresenting Jesus and what He’s about. They get so caught up in winning a battle that they lose sight of the message of the gospel and loving others the way that Jesus did.
- Me: How do you like to show support for the gay community? It can be any little thing done daily or something big you’ve only done once.
BD: As I mentioned earlier, one of my closest friends is gay and I love to go with him to gay bars/clubs as well as drag shows that he’s performing in. I also plan to attend one of the gay pride rallies with him this year. I support gay rights and have shared images of the equality sign on facebook explaining why I support it. I also am not a fan of calling things/actions “gay” and I’ve shared the buy a dictionary movement’s image of a plethora of other words to use instead with the movement’s name at the bottom on multiple social networks and have asked others not to use that word in that context.
- Me: How do you / would you like to show support for the gay community while performing your identity as a Christian believer? How would you work to destroy any misconceptions others may have?
BD: I’m a part of Cru, a Christian organization on campus, and one event that has been done in the past has been the “I’m sorry” campaign. People write on posters different things that they’re sorry for that can either be something they’ve done like I’m sorry I judged you before I got to know you or they can be wrongs that other Christians have done like I’m sorry that crusades happened and many people lost their lives because of it or I’m sorry if Christians have made you feel unloved. If we did that event again, I would like to make a poster specifically for the gay community that says I’m sorry that Christians have been so unkind to the gay community and have given the impression that we all hate you. Hopefully this would spark some conversation with LGBTQ students here and break down misconceptions they have by showing them that there are Christians out there who love and understand them.
“Doing gender” is something that is very hard to escape in a world that preys on the “normalcy” that we have to offer to our physical and social interactions. The video, What a Girl Wants collects the opinions of young adults by interviewing them about their everyday uses of media and how they perceive its representation of women. I remember one boy who said he considers appearance as the first indicator to making an impression. He says that a boy would not think to approach a girl because they may have a good personality (Bricca, Buzzell & Massie, 2001). This really accents on our dependency for appearance when identifying ourselves, having other people identify us, and having the media propose their ideas of how to be identified as individuals.
In the process of writing this, I actually had a friend come up to me, ask me how I was doing and what I was working on, to which I responded, “it’s a paper on how I ‘do gender’.” We talked about what this means, and she ended up referring me to the American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley’s idea of the looking glass self. Cooley is remembered for his thoughts, expressing “that a person’s self grows out of a person’s social interactions with others. The view of ourselves comes from the contemplation of personal qualities and impressions of how others perceive us. Actually, how we see ourselves does not come from who we really are, but rather from how we believe others see us” (Isaksen, 2013). This is how I really looked at this concept of “doing gender” and I found it accurate when noticing that people see themselves with other peoples’ views in mind.
So, that definitely had put a hold on my thoughts when interpreting my own gendered performance and how I can sum it up in one quick analysis. How do I even start when critiquing my presentation or representation of myself in a world that so often rejects things that do not come as the norm? I came across a quote from a website that offered many metaphors about gender roles, which was very helpful when forming a good illustration.
“When you grow up as a girl, it is like there are faint chalk lines traced approximately three inches around your entire body at all times, drawn by society and often religion and family and particularly other women, who somehow feel invested in how you behave, as if your actions reflect directly on all womanhood” (Thomas, 2013).
I really appreciated this quote because it touches on the mentality behind building an identity. I was able to view myself as a gendered person through the image of these faint chalk lines.
Thomas says that society, religion, family, and/or other women are all groups that could draw these faint chalk lines. In my case, I feel as if the chalk lines traced around my body are representative from all mentioned groups, some more than others. I am very consciously aware of my surrounding societal norms, and, if you ask any of my friends, that is something that I constantly bring up when expressing concerns here. I live in a house with eleven other girls who are all very different in how we carry our appearances. From this experience, I feel as if I have been able to analyze the difference in gendered performance and how it is something that varies from person to person. Because appearance is such a defining factor for society’s perception of an individual, I have unconsciously, for what seems like the last four years of college, been relating my gender with the way I dress. That is not to say, that I conform to the norms for how a girl should dress by wearing short skirts, tight tops, and everything pink.
Whether it is a skirt or my oldest pair of jeans, I dress in a way that makes me physically comfortable. However there can be a strong mental process when deciding how to dress yourself in the morning, something that I personally deal with a lot. Cooley’s concept of the looking glass self comes into effect, and I become mentally uncomfortable because I have this ridiculous claim that I am not fitting the normal ways of our society. Because I sometimes dress in clothes that may resemble a male’s apparel and appearance, every morning when I dress there is that thought that comes into my mind, “what will other people think of me?” In the morning, I am constantly reassuring with my housemates that I do not, in the societal norm, “look like a guy”. I have to say though, this class has given me a lot of insight into my appearance, and how I am dressing as me and not as a girl or a boy would. It all comes down to me being myself, and I feel like I have slowly been progressing with this encouraging thought.
One person that I look up to and hope to emulate in the things I do and how I do them is Katharine Hepburn.
Hepburn has stood as one of the most popular actresses ever not only for the films she was in, but also for her boldness and her powerhouse presence. As some would have and still do interpret this as a tomboy appeal, it actually positions her as one of the strongest women that have lasted in Hollywood. In my opinion, she is one of the greatest women I have come across in any form of media because of her opposition to the normative gender roles of the everyday actress from her day. She is famously quoted as saying, “I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to, and I’ve made enough money to support myself, and ain’t afraid of being alone.” She was an outspoken woman who was not afraid to challenge the typical gendered performance, even when she knew the backlash that would come with it. Hepburn is a prime example when shaping my identity for myself and for the outside world to see.
Everyone may perform gender differently in various groups, with particular friends, or when in front of strangers. For me, I may “do gender” differently when I am in my CRU (religious) social gatherings by feeling the need to be more modest in my speech, demeanor, and apparel. I also feel a connection of my gender identity with that of my class identity because of my lack of representing myself as someone would in my class setting. I would assume that a lot of the women on this campus are well off and somewhere on the stratification of the middle class. Unlike many women at JMU (but still similar to a lot here), I choose to not buy the label brands, and instead, find my clothes from consignment and thrift stores where they will come as cheaper. Therefore, my tendency to buy second hand and hold on to things for way too long, my class identity may seem reversed when come face-to-face with me.
This class has taught me a lot about the influence of a society’s norms on that of an individual’s representation of self. From society’s point of view, one gender is usually the touchstone, the normal, the dominant, and the other is different, deviant, and subordinate. In Western society, “man” is A, “woman” is Not-A (Lorber). We live in this unconsciously aware patriarchal society that thrusts these hyper-masculine images of males and things that they want. That is why, to “do gender”, I am expected to wear high heels and put on low cut shirts to be considered as performing femininity. However, I will not let the faint chalk lines traced around my body limit me to what I can and cannot wear. I will dress as I please, wear things that make me comfortable (being a skirt and nice shoes or pants and my torn-up TOMS), and “do gender” as I see fit.
Bricca, J. (Director), Buzzell, M. (Director), & Massie, E. (Director) (2001). What a girl wants [Web].
Isaksen, J. V. (27, May 2013). The looking glass self: How our self-image is shaped by society. Retrieved from http://www.popularsocialscience.com/2013/05/27/the-looking-glass-self-how-our-self-image-is-shaped-by-society/
Lorber, J. (n.d.). The social construction of gender. 113-118.
Thomas, M. E. (2013). Confessions of a sociopath: A life spent hiding in plain sight. New York, NY: Crown Publishers.