i) Normative Narratives- Pressure to Be Feminine
When deciding which topic to choose from between gender and race, I concluded on gender as it is something that I am aware of everyday of my life. Unfortunately, race was not something I consciously spent time thinking about because I have been privileged due to my skin colour. When it comes to being born a female, I didn’t always conform to the stereotypes assigned to me. But I have definitely spent more time fitting into the stereotype than not. For example, in my blog, “My First Crush” I discuss feeling the need to be more feminine as a means of having someone from the opposite sex being attracted to me. “Before I would make my way to their house, I would check myself out in the mirror. Combed? Check. Fitted clothes? Check. Nail polish? Check.” I went from never wearing nail polish to suddenly wearing nail polish, I went from not caring about what my hair looked like to making sure it was combed and not one strand out of place. I didn’t necessarily learn these things from my family, however, the media was good at portraying females as looking a particular way. In the following two stories, each of us discuss how we have been guided by society in some shape or form to present ourselves as females a certain way in order to be accepted by the rest of society. Chapter 7 of “Is Everyone Really Equal” states, “Corporate-produced popular culture has become a more pervasive institution in our lives through multiple points of entry such as advertising, sponsored curriculum in schools, and mass media. For example, corporate-produced toys amplify rigid gender roles, socializing girls into femininity (nurturing, caring, and beauty play)” (Sensoy and DiAngelo 2017 pg. 108)
In Esther’s blog, “Girly-Girl Lessons” she and her friends look for another female who they believe has mastered what it is to be a female. Esther talks about how the older friend Brianna shows them that in order to be feminine, they must dress in heels and learn how to walk in them, no matter how ridiculous they feel and look in them. The other narrative in Esther’s story is that Esther and her friends made sure they had the approval of Brianna to make sure they were girly enough. This is a very common occurrence among females. We will make sure we have the approval of others before we deem ourselves good enough. This includes when Brianna tells the girls “We shouldn’t let anyone see us out of character.” We all know a female who feels they can’t leave the house without their hair and make-up done. The pressure to look and behave a certain way is a pressure that has been put on the female population.
In Yuyi’s blog, “Get Out of the Water” she talks about how she was also pressured to make sure she is not out of character. “I wiped my eyes and I saw a woman was looking at me. She was surprised and yelled to the crowd loudly: “Who’s girl is that?” She looked at me and said: “You are all wet, get out of the water quickly!” I was confused, I did not know what was going on. Suddenly, a boy came in front of me. I assumed he was the son of that woman because nobody else looked at me except her and the boy. He said: “Can you understand Chinese? Where are you from?” I felt awkward to answer this question. I opened my mouth but did not know what to say. That woman pointed at me and talked to another person. She successfully made more people notice me, a girl with soggy clothes and hair standing in the pool. I felt ashamed and quickly ran away.” This narrative proves itself when Yuyi jumps in the water fully clothed. Because she had done this, she is quickly reprimanded because a female is not supposed to be in public looking unpresentable.
ii) Disrupting the Normative Narrative
In Nikki’s blog, “Barefoot Tomboy” she states, “My wild not brushed hair flowing in the wind standing on the swings going higher and higher and higher. The race is on to see who can go jump the furthest. Chris is going faster than me, Derrick is too! I gotta pump harder! “Nikki don’t you think you should slow down?” My auntie yells from beside the swing set. Ignoring my auntie I push harder.” Regardless that Nikki is a female and that her aunt is trying to perpetuate that a female should present herself as more delicate by not doing what the boys are doing, she ignores it. Nikki decides that no matter what, she is doing what she is enjoys. She didn’t think about whether or not she looks different than the boys. What is more important to Nikki is that she can not only do what they are doing, but she can do it even better. And she proves herself. She lets her hair roam freely in the wind and she beats one of her cousins when they jump off the swings and land in the sand.
In order to move away from the pressures of femininity, we must first be aware of the avenues in which they are being promoted. Being feminine is neither right or wrong, however, it should not be put upon any single person in orderfor them to feel approved by others. Being aware is the first step to understand that the gender binary is a social construct that is meant to favor one person over another. The pressure of femininity is not just for men, but also a hierarchy amongst women to deem who is more physically attractive. Although society is becoming more aware of the social construct, we must each daily make a choice to have the courageous conversation that open up these discussions to make this become less of a normative narrative. In the TED Talk: Ending Gender by Scott Turner Schofield, Scott talks about disrupting the normative narrative that gender should not define any human being, and Scott is living in his true self, but his identity is not found in his gender, that they are just words. That if we all identity as others, that we are all others, so no one is marginalized.
Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2017). Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education. New York, United States of America: Teachers College Press.