Comm 370 – Week 2

2 Feb

To begin the week off, I’m going to refer to a strange occurence that happened to me.  Last week while I was volunteering at The Grand Cinema, I was working the concessions stand.  I typically don’t work the cash register, but the person who was working it that night had walked away.  For the Grand Members, we offer them one free small popcorn if they show us their membership card.  Now, when I work the stand, I make it a habit of checking it.  Luckily, it will usually show up on their receipt so they don’t have to flash it again.  Nevertheless, I felt really awkward when a black woman came up and asked for her free member popcorn.  After I asked, she fumbled through her purse to pull it out again, but then I realized it said so on the receipt.  It made me feel strange because I imagined that she probably gets asked all the time to show a little bit of extra proof.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong and just following a basic rule (which, most times, the other volunteers don’t follow and base their decisions on the word of the patron), but I felt empathy for this woman who had to go extra out of her way just to prove that she deserves a member popcorn.

I have often grappled with gender during my time as a Comm major.  But, once again, it was highly reinforced that gender is such a large social institution that constructs our lives.  It’s strange, startling, and mildly upsetting how overarching it is.  Gender affects our lives every day through how we dress and interact with others.  I often find myself thinking about what I would do in that situation in which my child has ambiguous genitalia.  I settle on the fact that I have no right to choose for them how to live their lives in either category.  Which is fairly interesting because I’m relying on gender norms to suggest that there are only two genders.  I recognize that it’s more so on a continuum, but, in the end, to me there is boy or girl.  Nevertheless, I would allow my child to occupy that third space if they so choosed.  I just worry about whether they would be accepted and how difficult their lives may be with their peers.  High school already is hell, but what about when you have to fake being either gender in order to be accepted?

It’s fascinating that we push people in the direction of there being an ultimate masculinity and ultimate femininity.  Lorber’s example of the Marine Corps forcing women to wear make-up and take classes in being feminine is so startling.  I believe that it is masculinity that is afraid of seeing itself as the other sort of in line with Bhaba’s idea that the oppressor becomes afraid when they see themselves in the oppressed.

Sexuality is fairly interesting to me because I grew up in a fairly easy-going household.  My parents (who are together) did not really talk to me about sex.  Hell, my dad kind of encouraged it.  But, I’m grateful that they understood to let me figure it out for myself.  They didn’t force me in any sort of direction and they accepted me for it.  Sure, there were those awkward points in which they stressed to use protection (which is key!) and to make sure that I can handle the responsibility of sexual activity, but they respected me and knew I would make the right decision.

The idea of Masculinity as Homophobia by Kimmel really stood out for me.  I liked how he laid down the three types of early masculinity: the Genteel Patriarch who owns land (the George Washington example was great); the Heroic Artisan who is a self-made man; and Marketplace Manhood which disrupts the previous two.  The disruption of current masculinities to make them obsolete and weak is key.  It really shows how things can change in society.  In capitalism the Genteel Patriarch becomes feminized and ineffective while the Heroic Artisan becomes a wage slave.

Then, there’s the whole idea of what makes up masculinity.  I found Kimmel’s point that “within the dominant culture, the masculinity that defines white, middle class, early middle-aged, heterosexual men is the masculinity that sets the standards for other men, against which other men are measured and, more often than not, found wanting” (84).  Masculinity becomes defined by those that enforce hegemony.  Masculinity becomes a group of men trying to prove that they are tough so that they can gain acceptance and respect.  That is the unfortunate undercurrent of society where only that type of masculinity is expressed and anything that stretches the norm violates the society’s rules.  Kimmel’s main point of masculinity as homophobia rings clearly it is “the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, that we are not real men” (87).  When there are so many different people competing with their masculinities, the worst thing that can happen is for your masculinity to be less than someone else.  This competition promotes homophobia, and shame for those who are gay or have a different type of masculinity.

Marilyn Frye’s metaphor for oppression being like a bird cage is so key and prevalent to understanding how oppression works.  Each wire in the bird cage alone is weak.  It is narrow and usually a colorful shade of metal.  But then, upon pulling back, the wires lead to more wires and thus create a cage.  The bird is trapped by a handful of wires, and the cage becomes a piece of ornamental furniture.  Oppression is dressed up for us, covered and masked so it can work subtly but strongly.

Johnson’s expression of patriarchy also rings clear.  Masculinity defines society within its own terms.  Therefore, women must live up to those terms on their own in order to succeed.  But (and this is a giant but) they cannot fully adopt the role of a man because then they are seen as a threat and become ostracized by their peers.  Women must then navigate the system in order to survive, but the system is inherently flawed because it takes women into consideration merely through their sexual characteristics and reproductive capabilities.  It is an uphill struggle for women to prove themselves because white men control society and enforce rule whether in political positions or in the media.

It still surprises me that sodomy and anti-gay laws still exist or have only recently been overruled.  They are so restrictive and represent the forceful nature of the government into the private lifestyles of the people.  Along the same continuity of anti-gay laws, I cannot fully understand why gay marriage isn’t acceptable.  Even the term “gay marriage” sets it apart and makes it sound insidious.  Why can’t marriage be marriage and meant for you and the person you love to prove it and join together.  marriage is, in effect, a christian tradition, but it has become so outdated and behind the times as to suggest that it needs revamping.  With such a high divorce rate, things must be done to better the relationships between people whether straight, gay, or anything in-between.  That is what we have lost sight of.

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