Lorber, Martin and Morris

Luis Ramos:

I find Karin A. Martin’s Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools to be very insightful and touching because in a way, it took me back to my preschool days and sort of made me rethink whether or not this curriculum that is often talked about in the reading was already implemented during my time. Yes, it was. But in a way, I violated those gendered norms by resisting to being gendered. My body moved differently from how a “normal” boy’s body was supposed to move. The reading touches up on gendered characteristics that basically identify the difference in body movements between a boy and girl. Boys are often associated with relaxed behavior: crawling on the floor, yelling, or even running around, and are encouraged/allowed to pursue that type of behavior while girls must be more formal. Boys are meant to be much noisier. They must be loud when expressing their fun or enthusiasm, while girls are forced and constrained to a much softer, quieter voice. When it comes to instructions, boys are less attentive to them compared to girls, and are often directed to stop doing something. In my case, I wasn’t that kind of boy. I was the boy that didn’t mind playing dress-up. I was the boy that preferred to read, color, or cut out pictures rather than play blocks or superhero with the other boys. I was the boy that often tagged along with the girls, since a young age, because my choice of activities resembled theirs most of the time. In a way, I blame this gendered construction on my mom and sister, since they definitely impacted my cognitive learning through socialization as most of my days were spent with them, until my dad arrived from work late at night. Despite that, I still identity as “male” and “man” because it’s what physically and socially defines me now.

Morris’ Tuck in That Shirt examined the relationship between race, gender, and class within the urban school system, specifically at Matthews Middle School.  The concept of the dress code at Matthews Middle School reminded me so much of my own school experience.  I attended a charter school with somewhat of a strict dress code policy. On Mondays, students were forced to wear a blue, long-sleeve, buttoned up shirt, referred to as the “professional” shirt that each and every single one of us hated wearing, especially at the beginning of a school week. Apart from that, we also had to wear a tucked in blue or gold collar shirt (if you were a middle school student) or a blue, gold or white collar shirt (if you were a high school student)  with either khaki or navy blue pants, skirt, or shorts. On Fridays, they were more lenient of our dress code, allowing us to wear jeans and any college-gear, since my school was very big on college readiness. In a way, the interplay that Morris talks about in his article was not visible within my own experience. I wasn’t able to witness students receiving different treatment from teachers. We were all treated similarly, at most points. I guess because we were all from a low socio-economic status, 99% Hispanic or Latino, and basically conformed to this lifestyle that was implemented by the school, there was no need to be treated any differently. Yes we had our differences, but we were all working together to achieve the same goals, graduating from high school and getting accepted into college being the main goal.

Believing is Seeing by Judith Lorber is also an interesting read, especially because it provides the reader with reasoning on why gender is a social construction. When we think about gender or sex, people often associate it to this idea of existent categories: men and women or male and female. Plus, it’s always believed that the two are differentiated biologically when in fact, they are also noted differently through social institutions. Hormones, genes, and genitalia just point of the obvious as to what sex you are, but gender-wise, it takes more than the obvious to figure out what one is. I like how Lorber explains that labeling is based on many other things. One can’t be completely man or completely woman. The boundaries must always be justified.  I dislike that when it comes to seeing who is better at this or that, women are generally referred to as inferior or subordinate.  I generally think that men and women are able to do the same things if intended to, but unfortunately, society doesn’t think so, and therefore there’s this preconception that one category is better than the other.

As for this weekend, I thought it would be a great idea to attempt shaving my legs as a way to reverse gender norms, BUT when I mentioned the idea to my friends, I was given weird faces, some clearly depicting disgust and repugnance to such an idea. Shaving your legs is often associated with women, although there is no entirely practical need for such thing, other than it being an appearance issue to partake in beauty. Anyhow, I’m glad I didn’t shave my legs. I don’t think hairy legs define masculinity, but they sure do have some benefit to our lives. They help protect us from the cold.

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7 thoughts on “Lorber, Martin and Morris

  1. Patrick G. Landes

    What is interesting about masculinity is that it is largely defined by what it is not. Notice that NOT shaving your legs, or NOT putting on makeup, or NOT acting like a girl are things males do to preserve masculinity. So indeed, I think shaving your legs would have been a practice experiencing what masculinity is not. I put on makeup–some eyeliner, blush, and lipstick–on and went about my day. Those who responded verbally to me usually beat around the bush when what was in their mind goes something like this: “Why is this roughly heteronormative guy going around with makeup on?” I got asked if I was really indeed wearing makeup, but also got compliments about how the eyeliner brought out my eyes and how nice my lipstick looked (this may have been slightly sarcastic). My eyeliner was often referred to as “guy-liner” an implication that it isn’t normative for males to wear eyeliner. I felt more observed because I was out of the norm for myself but also because I put something on that other people, particularly women, notice.

  2. Sarah Wills

    I agree with Luis that when I was reading “Becoming a Gendered Body”, it made me reminisce on my preschool days. I can remember refusing to wear anything but a dress and jelly sandals to school everyday. I would always have my mother braid part of my hair back on the side as well. In preschool, I can remember playing games such as house or nanny with my other female friends, and typically a teacher would participate in the playing as well. These behaviors seemed to just come naturally to me. However, as Martin states, certain gendered behaviors, such as dress and play, are actually encouraged by teachers in the class room.

  3. Gina Pol

    Similar to your school and Matthews Middle School, my middle school also had a uniform dress code. I remember having to stand on a long line before I entered school for teachers to examine whether our attire fit the school’s dress code or not. Students were often pulled out of the line if they did not have a tie, were wearing sneakers, or did not tuck in their shirts. I noticed that boys were often targeted for not complying to the dress code specifically for not wearing a tie, while the girls were let in more often. Interestingly enough, the girls in my school did not wear the typical cross tie that were normally worn by girls, but we wore the “boys tie” instead. Thinking back on it, although were were permitted to wear the tie, I was upset that we called it the “boys tie”. Even in uniforms, there are specific items that are associated with girls and boys rather than a choice of what we wanted to wear.

  4. Jihmmy N. Sanchez

    Similar to Luis, I too spent most of my free time with my mother and my younger sister while I was attending pre-k and kindergaten. This was because my father also worked the majority of the day and did not get home until very late. The only difference was that although I spent most of my time with my mother and sister a lot of my behavior was considered to be typical “boy behavior”, I was always getting into trouble with either my mother or at school. I was the kid that liked to play with blocks and enjoyed recess because I could play rough with my other friends.

    As a kid a always saw my mother in the kitchen preparing dinner for when my father arrived from work, and as a the curious boy that I was I always asked my mom if I could help her with the cooking, especially when it came to making tortillas. I would see my mom prepare the maza for the tortillas and then start to form small balls of maza and flatten them with a tortilla press. This looked like a lot of fun to me, when I asked my mom if I could help her make tortillas her response to me was “No, esto no es para niños. Quieres que te ponga un bestido?” Which means, “No, this is not for boys, Do you want me to find you a dress?” I never really gave it much thought until I read BECOMING A GENDERED BODY last semester in my intro to sociology class. As a child I never asked why it wasn’t okay for me to help my mother cook, I had no idea that this was against gender norms, especially in a Mexican household where it is common for the father to be the provider of the family and the mother was the caregiver/caretaker of the household and the children.

  5. Sophie Sharps

    I really like the example you gave of yourself and how you did not necessarily fit into the the very strict, rigid gender norms laid out for you at an early age. Your experiences prove to such a great extent that there is no such thing as one way a man behaves, or even should behave. We as a society really enjoy placing everything into neat categories, and as soon as something or someone does not fit into the group in which they are “supposed to,” people become very uncomfortable. Boys who like to play dress up or girls who would rather play with trucks than dolls show the extent to which gender, masculinity, and femininity are social constructs, often reinforced and encouraged by teachers to keep everyone and everything in their proper boxes where they “belong.”

  6. Zoe Halpert

    While Luis received looks of disgust for mentioning shaving his legs, I got a look of disgust for mentioning that I DON’T shave my legs when it’s winter. Gender-appropriate behavior, on the other hand, tends to be rewarded. In high school I never wore make up, straightened my hair, or wore dresses. On the rare occasions that I did do these things, I received a lot of positive comments.

    At my school we also had spirit week every year, which included “opposite gender day.” Girls would dress as boys and boys would dress as girls. This was always seen as hilarious. Looking back, I’m horrified by the way we ridiculed dressing as the opposite gender.

  7. Karen Dayanna Cardona

    Martin’s Becoming a Gendered Body reading and Luis’s flashback analysis from when he was a child in Pre-school made me think about the way my 8 year old brother was treated in pre-k in comparison from the way i was treated in pre-k. I remember once picking up my brother from pre-k and asking the teacher how he had behaved and she answered by saying ” he was pretty normal , like the other boys jumping around and not really listening of course if it would of been a girl that would of been a bit more problematic , if you know what i mean”. No i didn’t know what she meant by that , i didn’t understand why girls needed to behave yet my brother was able to get away with miss-behaving for the simple fact that he was born a boy. This seems like unfair treatment between sexes, the fact that the inequality between biological men and women is placed at such a young age and it has become so normalized that one simply accepts it instead of questioning it was mind blowing. Who are our children supposed to learn from when their own teachers propose these kinds of behaviors and the parents simply accept them? the transition into becoming a gendered body has become so normalized that one simply sees it as a stage of development.

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