Follow up entry: differing activities based on gender

| 6 Comments

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While reading Doing Gender and Bornstein's Gender Outlaw, I got to thinking about how unfair it is that we as a society label certain activities as masculine or feminine. In particular, it is not fair to look at transsexuals as carrying on the traits of the gender they used to be. For instance, Kate Bornstein mentions that Renee Richards was a successful tennis player who achieved success quicker than other female tennis players such as Billie Jean. However, her achievements were quickly discredited at the fact that she used to be a male, thought to be stronger, faster, and better than women. Bornstein also mentions that some people believe in the idea of "male energy," where a transsexual female has been socialized as a male with privilege in previous years and can never be a "true woman." It seems to me that Renee Richards encountered this criticism.

Tennis was traditionally thought to be a female sport, but why? What makes a sport, a band instrument, a piece of clothing either masculine or feminine? Certainly we don't have some sort of instinct that tells us "this is masculine and this is feminine." It is because we have been raised, taught to expect two dichotomized genders, each characterized by certain traits. Anything that is seen as manly is characterized by strength, large size, violence, domination, power. This includes contact sports, jobs that involve strength, jobs that involve superiority, clothing that makes men look bigger and stronger, musical instruments that are loud and large. Feminine things are supposed to be delicate, sweet, motherly, caring, small, unobtrusive, etc. This means letting the men do all the dominating and violence while women take care of them, look pretty, take care of children, and provide pleasure. There is a boundary that should not be crossed and the expectancy that one is born a man/woman and always a man/woman.

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So some questions arise: Where do transsexuals fit into dichotomized activities/expectations? Why are women still expected to do their homemaking responsibilities even though many of them work just as hard as males? Why do men continue to hold dominance over women?

6 Comments

I think because there are some differences between sexes, such as physically and personality differences, etc. These differences require each sex to play a separate role in a social life. Cause woman maybe much weaker than man in body strong and emotion, they are more suited much more to the roles as care-taker, such as wife and mother and homemaker. On the other hand, man maybe more suit for the performance of duties and protective environment of the home. So they maybe do better in job like policeman and politics where serious responsibilities must be taken on. Maybe in some level we can say that ‘Men are to be providers, but women and children are ‘dependents’.

That's what a lot of people argue. Maybe you are right about men being physically stronger than women in general, but that doesn't mean women can't be a police officer or a construction worker. Woman are capable of working up their strength and being stronger than some men. As far as positions of power go, such as being involved in politics or being the CEO of a company, women are just as capable as men. On the other hand, men are just as capable as women of taking care of children, doing the laundry, cooking meals, etc. My main question was, why is it that women are still expected to do all of this? In my family, traditional roles seem to be switched around. My mom is a CFO of a company, a position that is usually held by men, and my dad is a nurse, a position that is usually held by women. My mom usually works longer shifts than my dad, so my dad does most of the cooking and laundry. I know from my personal experience that roles can easily be reversed. If I ever live with a man, I don't want to be expected to do all the housework. In my opinion, it's something that should be looked at as something that needs to get done and should be done by whoever has time to do it or is more capable of doing it on an individual basis.

I see your point about women being just as capable as men, but I'm gonna be honest, who actually wants to or can make that happen? A woman would literally have to dedicate almost every waking moment to building herself into that. Logically, let's examine how busy we are already.

Yup.

So as women, we're resigned to being the sex that is physically less strong. I know that doesn't make you happy, but hey, it doesn't thrill me either.

Personally, I don't want to be the person in a relationship expected to do the cooking and cleaning either, especially just because I'm a woman. Luckily, in today's society, it is more acceptable for women to have more power in the workforce, not just leaving them in the kitchen or the bedroom.

Women being "just as capable as men" isn't something we have to work for. We (and by we I mean all people who identify as something other than male) are already as capable as men. It's not something we have to strive for or something we have to prove, despite the sexism and gender oppression that is so commonplace in our society. Being "just as capable as men" isn't something we need to dedicate every waking moment to... it's something we're born with. Men are not innately more capable than women. Women are not innately more capable than men. Women traditionally have had to do more to prove that they are as capable, but just because we've had to fight against discrimination doesn't mean we've had to fight to become capable.

What do you mean about women having to take every waking moment to be as capable as men? I don't mean women being exactly the same as men, but I mean being able to be the boss if she wants, not being payed less than men, having more of a voice. It's not something that's impossible to imagine, especially looking at how far women have come in the last century. I think it's unrealistic to imagine that we could drop the idea of what is masculine and what is feminine and make our society one where gender isn't assigned and everyone is completely equal, but we could definitely learn to involve men and women equally within different occupations and appreciate what each has to bring to the table.

Sorry Kate, my comment wasn't directed at you. I think I must have been writing my response at the same time as you posted. I definitely agree with what you said though.

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