Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On a roll...

Thanks to my lame class schedule I have been posting blogs rather quickly. With New Year's more than a month ago I've been trying to keep up with one of my last-made resolutions, which is to write more. Be it blog or story or opinion piece, etc. As far as for what to write about, I have a few updates. This morning I had PT (we have to attend two PT sessions every week) and we ran 1.5 miles (like we usually do, though I've heard scary stories about 2-3 mile runs.) BUT we ran it as an "Indian Run." Some of you may be familiar with this form of torture (I pray not) but if you aren't let me explain. Your group (about twenty of us give or take) lines up in a line. The whole line starts running. The last person in line then sprints to the front shouting "Go!" which signals the next person to sprint all the way from the back to the very start all the while running nonstop. To add, we did this around campus which included a hurtling staircase (okay, it was only comprised of ten steps) and a long stretch of uphill terrain. After about a half mile I was stationed with the "slow line" as I couldn't keep up with the completely fit of the ROTC. Thankfully, the slow line only had four girls and a higher-up. The shorter the line, the better (for the most part at least.) I ran an Indian Run last Wednesday INDOORS, which makes a helluva difference, and I thought that was bad. Today was so tiring for me that afterwards when I hit the gym to shower and get ready for class I ended up falling asleep in the sauna. It wasn't until one of the gym employees checked on the temperature inside that I woke up to gentle shaking. Despite the employee's advice to take a breather I remained where I was, realizing that I'd only been asleep for no more than ten minutes. I leaned against the wooden boards on the top shelf, watching the Top 40 music videos from the glass door that looked out to the girl's locker room. That's when I saw her. The lady I would have a gender-role discussion with.

Now, I've been wanting to write down my opinion, or rather thoughts, on gender roles for a long time. Ever since I took a Women's Studies class actually. It's a funny thing because I had never really thought about gender roles before despite being a make-up wearing, shopper-going girl who used to be a tomboy (thank you college.) The discussion began with simple questions like "Did you just come from a workout?" (we were at a gym after all) to my explanation of ROTC to eating habits and then - all of a sudden - we got into talking about make-up. You see, I was wearing my beloved eyeliner and having told her I had ran 1.5 miles she seemed perplexed. "How is your eyeliner not down your face?" Giving her information about the amazing Stila eyeliner pot and the benefits of wearing eyeshadow, she told me that she almost never wore make-up because it would all start coming off no matter what she did or used. Then she told me "Well, actually, I never wear make-up because, you see, I used to be a tomboy. My mom sent me to a beauty school in high school to make me more of a girlie-girl and I couldn't STAND the amount of make-up that was applied - they just cake it on!" I looked at her with a feeling of "Oh my God! I used to be a tomboy and kind of still am despite my make-up!" This lead to a talk about how I used to be a mega tomboy, refusing to wear dresses, leggings, hairpins, etc, how all my friends were boys, how my favorite thing to wear was overalls and a hat with All-Stars or mountain boots, and how I treasured Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles above all else - until Pokemon came along that is. I even told her about the time my mom was so concerned about my boyish ways that she asked my doctor how to change it to which he supplied "It's normal. Don't worry, she'll change." She then told me the story of how one day after school she had come home only to find that her mother had thrown away all her jeans and tennie shoes. "C'mon, we're going shopping" she had said.

Gender stereotypes are products of society, like all stereotypes, but this one in particular is so embedded that a change in gender role is like committing social suicide. As soon as we're born (even before then) we're labeled female and male respectively. But this labeling reaches such great stereotypical heights as soon as we're born (or before that.) If parents find out they're having a boy, they paint the nursery blue, the father or mother goes out and buys their soon-to-be-born son a baseball hat or decorates his room with sport memorabilia. If parents find out they're having a girl they paint the nursery pink, the mother goes out and buys frilly blankets and the father may buy his soon-to-be-born daughter a cute, cuddly teddy bear. If it weren't for colors, bows, gender-oriented shoes, hats, etc there would be no way to tell if the baby were a boy or girl. Sometimes parents dress children in unisex clothing and when presented to you, you stumble over your words, "Oh, he-she's precious!" In fact, until puberty the difference between boys and girls outwardly is almost nonexistent if it weren't for their clothing, hairstyles and personality. As children, we're told how we should act according to our sex. If you're a girl, you're told to act sweetly, even told in kid-terms to be submissive. You have certain roles; wash the dishes, learn to do your own laundry, cook alongside mom. As a boy you have more "manly" chores like mow the lawn or wash the car. This is not to say that everyone goes through the same cycle. In fact, I've been told to wash the car multiple times and I've never cooked alongside my mom because she doesn't cook. I'm just saying that there are certain differences when it comes to boys and girls and it affects the way our lives are run. Even hairstyles are dominated by gender roles. Short hair is for boys. Long hair is for girls. Colors, too. Boys can't like pink but girls can like whatever color they choose. From a young age, we're fed these gender stereotypes based on mere sex. To say as a tomboy I wasn't patronized or insulted would be a lie. Boys would always tell me "You can't hit that ball over the fence because you're a girl!" or "You can't play football - you're a girl." But, being a rather strong child, I always managed to show them up and dominate over the mean boys until, eventually, they became my friends. Because of that, I learned a lot from them. What was fun in their book; daring the other to lick an insect or chase Mackenzie Kampa around with a snail, play Power Rangers on the play set and battle over which Pokemon was better, mix our hot lunches into gooey, disgusting creations - and then daring the other to eat it for a Poptart. They were mean, prideful, and funny. It wasn't until third grade that I started making girlfriends. They were alien creatures to me - much like boys think of girls even to this day. Their hair was always filled with colorful pins, they wore uncomfortable looking clothes and talked REALLY fast. They played house and pretended that one of them was a baby. They were WEIRD. But I made friends fast in third grade and soon I was the one playing house and being the baby. To this day, I can get along with boys better than girls, perhaps because I essentially used to be one but the difference between us is huge and daunting. For girls, it's a little less bad to be seen as a tomboy. But I've never heard of a sallygirl. Boys who act feminine are looked down upon more than anyone else. They make friends with girls - boys isolate them completely. Even in the midst of being a tomboy I still got along with the other girls in my class. But for a boy, it's almost unforgivable to paint your art project pink or purple. It only gets worse at adolescence. When all the hormones start kicking in and the boys and girls start liking one another. Because of a feminine boy's past they are taunted and teased by other boys, thinking that he's gay when he might in fact be as straight as a board. It's because of gender stereotypes that many people get hurt or even change to fit society. I know I did when I reached high school. I started wearing make-up and wearing "nice" clothes, even spritzing perfume every once in awhile because I was tired of making boy friends. I wanted a boyfriend. And I got one because I changed to fit the norm. Granted, it has its benefits knowing your sports and guy lingo as well as looking "pretty" as deemed, once again, by society. But is it really all that bad to be a tomboy or sallygirl? And why is it that society has made these roles for men and women?


  1. Wow that sounds like you found a kindred spirit.
    EXCITINGGG! you always meet the most interesting people, Grace G.

  2. She was a sweet lady. And, surprising, though not often, I do. =)