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.