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September 24, 2008

Masculinity and Power

I’d like to discuss Michael Kimmel’s article “Masculinity as Homophobia,? especially the portion titled “Power and Powerlessness in the Lives of Men.? (144)

What caught me off guard, yet gave me that ah-ha moment, was when I read, “…the feminist critique of masculinity often falls on deaf ears with men. When confronted with the analysis that men have all the power, many men react incredulously. ‘What do you mean, men have all the power?’ they ask. ‘What are you talking about? My wife bosses me around. My kids boss me around. My boss bosses me around. I have no power at all! I’m completely powerless!’? (145)

Kimmel explains men’s disbelief in their reigning power as the essence of masculinity: men are so consistently focused on gaining power that they often feel powerless. This is what keeps them motivated to seek out power and prevent them from wanting to be seen as weak. Women’s greatest fear is rape whereas men fear being laughed at (142).

In regards to gender equality, I think we’re approaching the time in which the focus on the clear ability of women to participate as equals needs to be switched to the focus on the masculinity crisis. Women can’t go any farther until this issue is addressed. It is a roadblock for all humanity. So many people suffer for ego-stroking’s sake.

To turn the subject a bit, I have a question to which there may or may not be an answer. In thinking of the social constructions of gender roles, in that there is nothing essential to “man? or “woman? to the social scientist, are those who identify themselves as women capable of possessing masculinity as Kimmel defines it?

In the Freudian view, boys are attached and desire their mothers but eventually, they will reject this relationship and emulate their fathers (136). In order to do this, they reject anything that resembles their mothers’ activities (rejecting femininity). I suspect this process isn’t exclusively for boys, and I could easily imagine a young girl going through a similar transformation.

As a young woman, I think I have experienced masculinity. I have had strived for power, and I have had huge anxieties of appearing weak. I have shamefully put others down in order to feel powerful. Where did this come from? Perhaps these activities are merely a result of my strive to participate in a man’s world?

Social Class

The economic gap between blacks and whites has increased in such a way that blacks have less buying power,lower level of education, high infant mortality rate and joblessness. In addition, there is differences in the level of occupation, family background and personal/household. Property Insittuitions dictate the production, review and implementation of economic policies leading to unequal conditions for progress and this prevents equal oppurtunities.
The author discusses how disparities in terms of access to education, housing, financial considerations and wealth accumulation have led to economic gap. My social class has an influence on my lifesty in which I try to be as fair and colorblind as possible.
The challenge of race and class has continued being an issue in today's world and this is evidenced by the heavy economic dependence that the blacks exert on the whites. The racial differences in socioeconomic achievement that have persisted in the post-civil rights era have impacted our perceptions of the poor in that they continue being trapped in that viscious cycle of having less or no assets; living from paycheck to paycheck, being trapped in less beneficial jobs and neighbourhoods that do not offer any room for progress. In todays society, those who rank high economically, often adopt different lifestyles to emphasize their position and power, having the characteristics of a particular ethnic/racial group can also determine one's class status in today's society.

September 25, 2008

Intelligence and a Constructed Reality

I was really interested in William Roy’s writings on Intelligence and how it is not real, it was created. Roy discusses how tests were created to prove that intelligence exists. The tests were formulated in a way that would lead to a measurement of something that was later called intelligence. What is so amazing is that so much of our society now revolves around this idea. One thing that stands out in my mind is the ACT/SAT exams. These exams are supposed to measure your intelligence and give colleges and universities an idea of how well you would perform at their institution. In my mind these tests are completely ridiculous. They test a person’s book smarts over the course of four hours on one day. I do not understand how anyone would feel that is an accurate measure of how well someone performs academically.

I also really enjoyed reading about how societies construct reality. The idea that, “’things’ exist in nature and that people name them when they discover or decide to use them? (Roy 12). Roy uses colors as an example. Many societies only have one or two words that describe or name colors. For someone in an Anglo-European society, this is a difficult concept to wrap your mind around considering we have hundreds of different colors in our vocabulary. But is that because we created the idea of those colors? Do they really exist? Roy also poses an interesting question, “do categories dictate ‘what’ we see or only ‘how’ we see things?? (Roy 12). He follows by stating that the answer is probably both.

A lot of what we are discussing in class is the result of ‘reification’, which Roy defines as the process where someone’s ideas, speculations or theories are turned into facts and become integrated into the everyday. The example he gives is the construction and conception of the week. This idea of reification was something I had never heard of before, but it makes a lot of sense, especially with the subject of this class. As we have read and discussed, race, class, gender and sexuality are all essentially the result of someone’s theory slowly integrating itself into reality. Once something is given a name it feels real to us and we are able to add value to what essentially is an abstract idea. Roy writes, “Racism was developed to help legitimate North American slavery…?(Roy 21). But as we can see, once the idea of racism was placed in our vocabulary it became real, and the idea of racism is still prevalent in our society, and is acting in ways other than to justify slavery.

If anything these readings have lead me to be more critical on some of the everyday aspects of our society that I have been just accepting. These readings have opened up a lot of windows. They have answered questions for me but have also brought new questions to mind.

September 26, 2008

Change...How?

Before taking this class, I had never explored race, class, gender, and sexuality so deeply. I had never considered how and why these divisions and classifications came about. As Ore talks about in her book, my assumptions were based on the principle that human behavior is "natural" or predetermined by genetic, biological, or physiological mechanisms and thus not subject to change. Being half black and half white, being a woman, and being bi-sexual is just who I am. Or is it? I considered these titles and descritptions of myself as my identity. However, Ore has helped me to understand how these titles have been a basis for unfair treatment in our society. I am classified as black and treated as such, even though my skin is only a couple shades darker than a white person's. White people look at me and don't see that I am not simply black, I am also white. A girl that lives in my building asked me if the hair on my head was all mine. I told her yes, and she said, "yeah right, black girls can't grow hair." I was completely dumbfounded. First, she had just got through talking to my mother who is clearly white, yet she still sees me as strickly black. Second, her comment was so racist. Are people in this world really that dumb? I don't like the fact that people don't see me for what I am; people see me for what society says I am.

I understand that race, class, gender, and sexuality are social constructions and therefore changeable; however, I don't see how such systems can be changed. Before these terms were coined, people in ancient society were not divided my race, gender, class, or sexuality, but they were divideded according to religion, status, and even language. It seems that it is human nature to differentiate one group of people from another. I guess the problem is not that people are categorized as different, but how the differences are used to justify unqual treatment amongst people in the same society.

Ore and the other authors in the book talk a lot about how these systems of inequality were created, but they haven't explicitly explained how they can be transformed into systems of equality. I honestly don't see how it is possible. I believe race and gender are so deeply rooted in our minds, in our institutions, and in our lives that it will take atleast couple hundred years to reverse peoples understanding of the terms. Not only that, I like being different; I don't like the unequal treatment I receive as a "black woman," but I must admit, I am very proud of who and what I am.

I know that the first step in changing such systems is acknowledging that they exist, but I feel like books like Ore's are "preaching to the choir." People who believe they are better than or more valuable than someone else stricly because of their race, class, gender or sexuality are truly ignorant. Reading a book or hearing personl testimonials is not going to change a person's thinking if they truly believe they are superior, no matter how moving the stories are.

Social class

There was one part of yesterday's video "People LIke Us" that really stood out for me, it was the segment on African Americans in the middle class. I thought it was a great segment but at the same time it really frustrated me. It was frustrating to hear some of the comments that African Americans received for being in the middle class or upper class, comments like "boogie" or "washed up." What are comments like those suppose to be saying. Are they saying that African Americans or pretending to be someone that their not? Do African Americans not belong to the middle and upper classes? Are those classes strictly reserved for whites? Our society should be at the point where we congratulate African Americans for making the advances that they have made. Instead, we criticize them for it. Comments like "Boogie" or "washed up" imply that African Americans have forgotten where they've come from or their roots. I don't think that is the case for African Americans in upper classes.

Comments like the ones from above show how race still plays a large factor in today's society and class. There is still a definite racial barrier. There are many people who have a mentality that certain classes belong to certain races. Our society shouldn't be structured like this; we shouldn't be looking at race when looking at class status. However, comments like "Boogie" and "washed up" do the exact opposite. They make African Americans who belong to upper classes question whether they have forgotten who they are or if they are acting the way they should be, whatever that means. Is it really terrible for African Americans to strive for a better life for themselves and their families? Absolutely not. So, why they continue to get comments like "Boogie" and "washed up" baffles me.

October 6, 2008

Progression of 'Sexuality' & 'Gender' as Terms

While reading Tracy Ore’s articles on sexuality and gender, the terms were continuously described as socially constructed yet the writers of the articles encouraged the terms when expanding an explanation on why the either do not exist or should not exist. Looking at the terms that arose, it is hard enough to see them through a social construction but when given a periodical placement, it becomes harder to state when the mentality began. The different perspectives on how sexuality and gender have changed and developed through definitions throughout the years made me wonder why do these terms need specific definitions at all? With the world becoming more accepting of things that society has repelled against, ranging over different cultures, why can these terminologies that we currently use to label someone’s sexual orientation, gender, or personality be left as an indefinite set of possibilities?
When Judith Lorber’s essay on The Social Construction of Gender, she states that gender, as part of a process, creates the social differences that determine what we now consider to fit the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ (Ore, 114). As she continued by describing man as being A and woman being Not-A and the many other superiority to inferiority terminologies, she came used the Freudian psychoanalytic theory and Marxist feminist explanation to prove the A and Not-A usage (Ore, 115). I made a note that through these theories have been widely used through society, for that fact, they motivate those perspectives on gender and why it exists. As a structure, gender places titles on men and women, separating them at home and in the work place and giving authority to men by devaluating women (Ore, 116). Lorber continues by finally acknowledging the complexities behind giving gender, or any term for that matter, a definition because for humans “the social is the nature? (Ore, 117). I believe that for humans, society is made because of the differences that we face every day. If it were natural, why would different cultures have a greater acceptance than Americans? It is because there is a power that wants to classify, to place boundaries, and eventually, be a ruling power over all that are ‘inferior’.
In Holly Boswell’s essay, The Transgender Paradigm Shift Toward Free Expression, she says that our society has linked the transgender community into three different arenas, transsexuals, cross-dressers, and those that participate in gay drag (Ore, 127). Yet, because of contemporary times, these three components have been “too restrictive? and now they have to be liberated as transgendered people are “redefining gender? (Ore, 130). This statement shows that this terminology has to have an ever-changing existence as it is being acknowledged and thus making Boswell’s essay show that the appearance, a notion inside of biology, does not have to be labeled as odd or abnormal. Jonathan Ned Katz wrote in The Invention of Heterosexuality that from 1820-1860, heterosexuality did not exist as a term (Ore, 151). If this is true, why was it these forty years specifically that the United States chose to void this terminology? Furthermore, why did it come back after 1860 if in these forty years the United States must have learned to live/accept it in some fashion? Katz continued his essay through different epochs ranging from 1860 to 1982 to explain the distribution of heterosexuality and the growth of the term. In comparison, Katz’s essay shows correlations of how heterosexuality is not straight-laced as only between a man and a woman because it is not determined by biology but is needed to be studied through the “social and historical? in order for it to really be understood.
The extremes of these essays contrast on many levels although their purpose is usually to reach the same goal – the goal of proving that terminologies exist but should not exist because they endanger the progression of society’s approval and acceptance. That approval paves way for more terms and more research that surpasses what the words like gender, sexuality, transgender, heterosexuality, homosexuality, and the construction of these words have made in contemporary society. Gender and sexuality in today’s society view these terms are core relations to identity and in turn shape what society will perceive them as – from adolescence until adulthood.