Sunday, June 20, 2010

What is a woman?

Sex and gender has been socially constructed in my life in uncountable ways. I grew up with an older brother who was allowed to be a little bit sloppier than myself, always mowed the lawn, but was also blamed for many of my hissy fits to be honest. I am a daddy’s girl and therefore, to this day, my father has a few more wrinkles on his face when I don’t call him the second I get back from a road trip. The way I am treated in public is different from my brother’s experiences as well. For example, he told me I should go to a certain place to get my oil changed because he goes there regularly without being overly hassled about getting taken advantage of. When I came in there, the employees probably assumed that since I am female, I don’t know anything about cars, which I don’t but I know many who do. So, even though I specifically asked for a regular oil change, they kept hasseling me about how I need this and those extra things on top of it. Those employees tried some of their flirting skills in order to make money as well. This kind of attitude men have toward women further leads to feelings of worthlessness and inferiority in women.
It seems like just about everything in society mimics appropriate (stereotypical) ways for men and women to behave. Movies depict male characters as heroic, tough, aggressive creatures and women as sexual, passive people that men can lean on or walk over. Music, especially today’s, is overtly sexual and degrading to women. Parents also pass down these attitudes on to their children by making an effort to educate girls more on manners, giving gendered toys, etc. Learned gender roles are ingrained in our culture with such deep roots that people don’t even think about it by passing it off as just a part of their personality.
Gender is also seen in the way men and women move their bodies. Because of a combination of women’s inferiority to men and the culture of how women and men should look, distinguishable differences arise in body language. Women are told nowadays that they should be model thin and therefore women are more self conscious. When sitting down, women tend to cross their legs and they walk with small and less relaxed movements. Women are not supposed to take up too much space body wise as well as in society. Men, in contrast can usually be seen seated with their legs spread out and walk with big, confident movements. This is an example of how male feelings of dominance and power finds its in the more subtle things seen in life. What is interesting is that these differences in body movements are widespread among males and females, regardless of whether the man is poor and jobless or the woman is in a high place of authority.

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