Martin, Lorber, & Morris

Emma Houser:

Growing up, our experiences in our schools and communities very rarely encouraged us to question the behaviors of boys and girls. It wasn’t until I came to college that I really began to understand the effect that gender, race, and class have on the way we behave and the ways in which we are treated by those around us. Last semester I read Martin’s article, Becoming a Gendered Body, for the first time. As I read the article I was surprised by how obvious the effect of each behavior was, but how infrequently it is actually noticed or acknowledged. Thinking back I can remember the ways boys and girls were treated throughout my educational career. The boys in my classes we always considered to be “disruptive and loud”, they were frequently reprimanded, but they very rarely received any real instructions about how to behave, as Martin describes. It is not only the teachers’ responses to students, but also the way in which boys and girls are encouraged to behave and act from a young age.

Starting at a young age, my female friends became obsessed with the color pink and with wearing dresses because they had learned that these were the things that represented femininity in our society. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the negative impact that these behaviors can have on young boys and girls. After reading this article I began to understand the ways in which masculine and feminine dress and behaviors limited girls and boys’ success. Girls are encouraged to act in a very confined manner and they are taught to behave in more socially acceptable ways. Morris and Martin both discuss the fact that female students are frequently told to “act like young ladies.” What does this statement mean? They are encouraging female students to be “slow, controlled, and quiet”. Historically, these characteristics have been viewed as stereotypically feminine and ladylike, but what Morris also mentions is that this kind of behavior can actually keep the girls and young women from experiencing success in the classroom setting. These actions push girls towards low-paying, more domestic jobs. Similarly, boys are rarely given instructions to improve their negative, disruptive behaviors. As one can see in Morris’s article, these stereotypes about gender are perpetuated throughout different classes and racial backgrounds.

Tuck In That Shirt also examines the effect that race and class have on the ways in which students are treated and the success they experience. Regardless of students’ actual backgrounds and skills, teachers make assumptions about the students based on their appearance. Once Morris pointed out the differences between the ways in which African American, Latino, Asian America, and White students were treated it was so plain and simple to see, yet few people actually recognize that it’s happening. An African American or Latino boy is scolded for getting up to get a tissue, but an Asian American or White boy can do the same thing without even gaining the attention of the teacher. Although this seems to be a rather harmless example, something as simple as this reinforces harmful stereotypes about the race, class, and gender in our society. African American and Latino boys especially are taught that they are bad kids, they aren’t encouraged to do their work, and as a result they are less driven to succeed.

Similarly, Lorber’s article discusses the success that men and women experience based on stereotypically feminine and masculine attributes. One of the things that she focuses on is this issue as it relates to sports. I remember being surprised a few years ago by the differences between the filming quality of men’s and women’s sports on television. It’s seems as if nobody cares about women’s sports and they always receive “secondary status” to men’s sports. When I turn on the tv I can easily find a men’s hockey, football, baseball, soccer game, or basketball game, but it is so much more difficult to find a women’s game of any sport. Further, all major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup, all involve men.  This focus on men’s sports is an example of the ways in which masculinity and femininity are regarded in our society. Men are expected to be stronger, faster, and more intense than women, meaning that their games are much more exciting to watch. Women are not expected to excel in these areas, so the emphasis is put on their artistic abilities and small bodies. Similarly, Lorber discusses this idea as it relates to technology. Women are secondary to men when it comes to their spatial and mathematical abilities, so they are not encouraged to pursue work in more skill based, high-paying careers.

Success in our society is highly dependent on one’s appearance related to gender, class, and race. It is easy to ignore the ways in which individuals are funneled into certain paths, but we have to start questioning the paths we’re encouraged to take and recognize that one’s success shouldn’t be predetermined based on the way they look or where they come from.


6 thoughts on “Martin, Lorber, & Morris

  1. I think it’s really interesting how blinded we can be to the inequality between men and women even if it’s right in front of our eyes. I think it could be because we can become somewhat numb to the differences when they’re there all our lives with no response up until you sit in a class to zoom in on it. I was aware of the fact that the Superbowl, World Series, Stanley Cup etc. were all played by men but I never even thought about it as a single sex getting to play these sports on TV with massive rewards. I looked at them as sporting events and nothing else. I didn’t even think about the fact that women don’t have an equivalent because I’ve always known them as male sports games. Whether that is just me not paying attention, or societies push to make us believe that is what is meant to be the “norm” I’m not sure.
    -Sophie Furman

  2. Sarah Wills

    Just as Emma stated, growing up as a “gendered body”, it is hard to notice why you act the way that you do. After reading Martin’s article, it really exposed how it is almost impossible to escape becoming a gendered body. She observed how teachers treated preschool children differently based on their gender. Even the way that the students dressed, based on gender, limited their activities. For example, the girls that wore dresses were not able to participate in certain activities because it wouldn’t be appropriate to behave in such a way while wearing a dress. Additionally, Martin stated that girls who wore tights were often fussing with them because they are uncomfortable. This just shows how girls are not able to participate in the same activities as the boys simply based on what they are wearing.

  3. Gina Pol

    It is interesting to know that the norms associated with our gender usually go unnoticed through our day to day activities. I remember when I was in kindergarden and we were given prizes based on good behavior. The boys were given the options like toy cars or balls, while girls were given options like dolls or colorful pens. Martin’s “Becoming a Gendered Body” was able to shed light on some of the hidden curriculum that occurred during a child’s time in pre-school. These hidden curriculums along with certain parental decision can control how one’s gender is shaped as they get older.

  4. Sophie Sharps

    As Emma mentioned, I think the most amazing thing about all three readings is how seemingly obvious these ideas are once you read them, but how disguised and hidden they are in our society. We are a society that does not like to talk about things, but rather we prefer to assume; this has incredibly detrimental consequences for how we perceive ourselves and one another, versus who we actually are. In one of my classes yesterday, we were asked to list all of the social groups we could think of, and then think of the binaries attached to this group. While we may not like to discuss class or sexuality or even family structure, it takes us no time at all to come up with the binaries, because they have been so engrained into our minds throughout our entire lives. Morris’ quotation to “act like young ladies” frustrates me, as does the term “lady” (which has its own historical and cultural implications). As Emma mentioned, these gendered disciplines can easily be carried out in the long-run, and these articles make sense of why men often have more practice making powerful decisions and displaying dominance, because growing up they have been allowed to decide what play means to them and have not been confined to certain activities.

  5. Karen Dayanna Cardona

    Emma I really like the idea that you captured both from Morris and Martin of girls constantly being told to “act like young ladies”. This is something that i feel most girls are often told at home and at school, which are the principal basic standards of learning that a child has as growing up. As children we look up to our parents and our teachers , we are told that they are the ones who are always right and for that we must follow and respect every decision they make. I think that by placing such specific rules for the genders we prohibit and stop children from fully developing their decision making skills, we try to brand them into becoming so alike to others that we prohibit them from truly exploring who they are or who they really want to be. In my opinion we are all so different so the idea of ‘acting like young ladies’ becomes completely problematic since each your girls goes through different events and experiences that completely shape future events in her life.

  6. Zoe Halpert

    Emma talks about how for a girl to act appropriately means to be quiet, slow, and not make a lot of movement. Society idealizes girls who don’t take up a lot of space. This relates to everything from body size to comportment. While guys tend to sit with their legs spread out and taking up a lot of space, girls are expected to sit with their legs crossed or together and taking up as little space as possible. Similarly, when boys are loud and boisterous, they are just being boys. Girls, on the other hand, are expected to be quiet and gentle.

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