So here’s my question…

Inside Every Shadowy Woman is...
Are you like that because you are a woman/man or because you are you?

I run into this question in my life with some regularity. Perhaps the crowds I run with, perhaps the twisted upbringing I’ve had, perhaps I’m just stubborn and think if I keep running into it I’ll eventually knock it down. Whatever the reason, I seem to run into it every year or so.

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  • December 8, 2006 at 1:16 pm
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    [this is good] I have a frighteningly long response to this in my head. If I were drunk, I’d try to post it all. But, sadly, I am not drinking at the moment. Instead, I am in a classroom watching graduate students struggle through the last in-class assessment of the term.

    Here are my two tentative, unfinished thoughts about gender roles  – one of my favourite topics.

    a) Socialization is huge. True, it seems obvious that we are socialized into different gender roles, but even that has huge variance.

    Here is a sweeping generalization to chew on (because I know you like chewing …) : women are socialized to recognize their own value as being tied up in who they are. Am I pretty enough? “Good” enough? Giving, caring, nurturing enough? Smart enough? Sexy enough? 

    Conversely, men recognize their own value in what they can do or achieve – action, skills, performance. Their value seems to be tied up in what they can do, how well they can perform, what they feel they are expected to produce.

    Consequently, when women feel undervalued, we are driven to change the very essence of who we are. Surgery, for example, to alter the offending skin and bones. Diets … exercise … to physically change.

    When men feel undervalued, they work harder, attempt to achieve more. More money, bigger promotions. (More stress…)

    A sweeping generalization, of course. I know lots of men obsessed with “who” they are … and many high-achieving, skills-focussed women. I think it would be fair to say that these two groups have made a decision, or given themselves permission, to challenge the existing gender role strictures.

    What is weird for me, as I was thinking about your particular question, is that I feel I was inversely socialized. I was raised to try again, to do better, to try everything, to take risks. Every sports team, musical instrument, school project … what was important was how well I could perform, how fast I could learn. Not how any of this reflected on “who” I am. How I “present” to the world, physically or emotionally, as a human being, is of secondary importance to me. I’ve had to learn to make it important simply in order to have any friends at all!

    b) If I were queen of everything (as I often assume I am), I would decree that everyone should read this book. Yes, it is oversimplified, perhaps slightly outdated. But the bottom line is that we – collectively in Western society – have been trained to see the world through one lens and that lens was shaped by white men in power. Religious and political power, for the most part. There are innumerable other ways to view the world … and innumerable other ways to structure a society. We can’t see them from within this place, or we view these other structures (i.e. lack of hierarchy, consensus, less rigid conformation to time, etc.) as foreign or odd. That is, until you make a choice to step away and see the structure that we are actually living in. And how it is killing us and our planet. And it all begins with gender roles. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thus endeth my dissertation on gender roles … ๐Ÿ™‚ … for now …

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