'Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.'- Angela Carter

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A gender journal.


My course at university is basically focused on gender and all of its encompassing issues due to the modules (classes) I've chosen to study. I've always been interested in gender and how it relates to society, the portrayal of it in literature and how it functions in my every day life. I'd never actually stopped to think how it impacts on my every day life and the issues that are raised through this. My lecturer for my Gender and Culture and Introduction requested that we keep a gender journal for the week and it has opened my eyes to the stereotypes which surround us daily. I thought I'd share it with you guys :) it's really interested me!

Gender Journal

Wednesday 17/10/2012
So this is my first day on the gender blog but I wasn’t particularly paying attention to any specific gender related events. Due to this I thought I’d just write about my thoughts on the day/ the role in which I play within my house. What I mean by my role within the house is that a few of my housemates affectionately refer to me as ‘Mammy Leah’. On first sight this seems like a very bizarre and slightly immature nickname to have gained in a household where all occupants are 21+. The reason for the gaining of this nickname is due to my helping them out in various domestic situations, e.g. cooking, the working of the oven, the working of the washing machine etc. Etc. Etc. Reflecting on this now, it is interesting to acknowledge that my house-mates instant reaction to my helping them with domestic activities is to refer to me as a mother. This reflects on how societal expectations have influenced us on how both sexes should act and which roles belong to which gender. My boyfriend, who also lives in the house, is referred to occasionally as ‘Dad’ (not often, only when mentioned in passing) which gives our house what could be called a stable family home. It’s easy to assume that on first thought it is obvious that he would get the occasional nickname of Dad seeming as he is in a relationship with what is the ‘mother’ of the house. Not only does this reflect the ingrained notion of what parents are/ what they do/ their household role, but it also displays societies view of what is the ‘norm’ within a family.
With divorce being much more common in comparison to the Victorian age for example, my household automatically went for the ‘norm’: you are the partner of the mother, therefore you must be father. This is interesting as in today’s society ‘Mum’s partner’ could be a boyfriend; it doesn’t necessarily have to have a familial relation to the children. This may seem slightly off topic to what I originally started this post with but these are just the thoughts that passed through my mind as I was pondering it.

Thursday 18/10/2012
This evening we went to the pub quiz in our local, The Rhyddings. As I was buying my drink (pint of berry Bulmers, please!) I began to think of the categories which drinks fall into, that certain drinks are very much gender-specific. A feminine alcoholic drink for instance would be vodka and coke or a glass of wine, whereas masculine drinks are pints, and lots of them! I’m not one for vodka/ spirit based drinks and wine is a rare occasion so I quite often go for pints. The initial reaction tends to be ‘that’s a very manly drink you have there!’ or a sarcastic retort of ‘nice pint’. Yes, yes it is, thank you. Having listened and asked male friends about their perceptions on women who drink pints the general assumptions tend to be that she is a lesbian or a manly woman (the same thing happens with football, just a thought since football and pints go hand in hand!). I can assure you that I am neither of these. It is amazing to see how a drink can change people’s perceptions just because of what is associated with said drink. If you drink wine you are clearly a lady, love all things fluffy and are considered incredibly feminine. If you bring over a pint, you are clearly unfeminine, a ‘total dude’ and dislike everything to do with your sex. OK, this may be slightly over-exaggerated but you get my point.


Friday 19/10/2012

Today I was watching an episode of Come Dine With Me where I was once again confronted with a stereotypical notion of the masculine sex. One of the males participating in the programme was attempting to cook the dessert which was a mousse. The voice over continuously mocked him with things such as, ‘mummy’s boy’ due to the fact that he still lived at home – it however left out that he had to move back in due to finances, but that’s a whole different matter. As the contestant was mixing his mousse, he referred to the technique as to being similar to that of mixing cement. Here, I found it interesting how the, what would be assumed to be female role is turned into something which would be considered masculine, that is, building. He refers to how he is used to that technique which displays his unease in the female space that is the kitchen. Cue the voice over again referring to how he needs his ‘mummy’ to assist him in his cooking. It was interesting to see how natural it is to assume the gender roles within any situation, how the voice over automatically referred to his mother rather than father as the one which would provide assistance. This is a particularly thought provoking one especially considering that the most successful chefs which I can think of are males (this may be my ignorance with regards to female chefs). The word in itself, ‘chef’, seems masculine. It seems to give off an air of authority and power which are, even today in the twenty-first century, are considered to be masculine traits to hold. It was interesting to see that even your general day time TV programmes can give an insight into gender and people’s perceptions of it.


Saturday 20/10/2012
I came across two different things today which made me think and question the gender binaries which are now natural to us. The first one was the use of the washing machine. A few days ago, one of the males in the house used the washing machine but it resulted in a fair bit of water on the floor! Prior to this, the three of us female had used this washing machine without any ‘accidents’ occurring, and our automatic response was to laugh and proceed to mock our two male housemates (the other had managed to not drain his clothes a few days earlier). Our laughing and feeling of ‘superiority’ seems to have derived from the exact notion that most women hate to be associated with that of a ‘woman’s place is in the kitchen’. In this instance it seemed that we used this to our advantage in order to ridicule the opposite sex as it was the ‘normal’ thing to assume that males and domesticity do not go hand in hand. It made me think of the hypocrisy of the sexes with regards to the gender argument; women are happy to laugh/ ridicule males at a task which is gender specific to the female sex but when males make this assumption – generally in a humorous way – the general reaction is that of scandal. How dare they assume that our place is situated within domesticity and nothing else? It was an interesting thought to ponder.
The second thing was my first encounter with a gender specific synopsis of a novel encountered on the site, Net Galley. The very first sentence of the synopsis immediately rejects any female reader:
‘Description
*Recommended for boys 12 to 16 years of age’
Naturally, this shocked me. I was astounded that a description of a book would alienate half of the potential readership in a sentence. I proceeded to read the description of the novel out of curiosity, what was it that made this novel so specifically trained at a male audience?

‘Will Hunter’s had a rough few months. He just survived the battle of his life. He learned the devil was his father. And his newly demonic best friend Rudy is trapped under glass until Will can find a way to bring him back from the dark side. All Will wants is to lay low for a while with Natalie, the girl he loves, and focus on saving his friend.

But Will never seems to get what he wants.

In Seattle, Will encounters a dangerous new breed of female demon, faster and more deadly than anything he’s ever faced, and a mysterious, striking girl who arrives just in time to save his life. Natalie doesn’t trust her, but Will is drawn to her in a way he doesn’t fully understand. Is she a powerful new ally? Or will her secrets destroy him and everything he cares about?

As the devil’s minions work to reassemble their leader’s body piece by piece, Will must once again become the New Kid to prevent the Dark Lord from rising—this time for good.’
Having read the description, I still remain confounded as to why this is specifically for males (well, recommended, but still) as it seems like a pretty open book. I would have been slightly more understanding if it had been a book about masses of violence, guns, war etc. which in itself is a gender stereotype. I’m sure there are plenty of women which would enjoy reading that genre also! I have attached the picture of the novels cover. It contains both a male and female character which again leads me to question this decision on the author/publishers behalf. The only thing I did pick out which was gender specific to males was the fact that the female figure has to be ‘rescued’. I can see how this would appeal more to a masculine reader as I would imagine that a female reader would rather read about a stronger female figure. Well, I would. There is nothing worse than a weak female figure, Bella anyone? Why are females always the ones which are captured? I think I’m going slightly off topic now so I’m going to stop this blog post here.
Sunday 21/10/2012
This morning I was struck by an ingrained gender notion within a mere hour of being awake. Downstairs, two of my housemates, one male and one female, were playing on the xbox games console on a game called ForzaForza is a car racing game which already suggests masculinity. Driving, cars and console games are all associated with the male gender, but having thought of it I am not entirely sure as to why. There are many running jokes which insist that women are ‘bad drivers’ and are rubbish at console games. This is what leads me to my gender based observations for today. My male housemate only agreed to play the racing game against the female member rather than the other male due to, in his words, ‘having more of a chance of winning’. This was a clear light-hearted dig at the female housemate but it was interesting to see the immediate reaction. Why are women considered to have an inability to press buttons repeatedly in order to complete a game? Why do males assume that they are the superior when it comes to anything car related? It is a pet peeve of mine to hear women’s driving slandered on the basis of their gender, I don’t understand the association. Women are equally as competent as men, and it is interesting to see how these gender notions of the role of man and role of women are still in place to an extent even now. Needless to say, my female housemate won that race...

Monday 22/10/2012
Today I attended my regular archery session at the university. Since it is the beginning of term we are running our usual beginners course where we slowly get them adjusted to how it feels and teach them the technique in order to shoot well. This is my third year as a member of the club and every year we are confronted with the same issues a couple of weeks into the course. The male members of the groups are adamant that they are strong enough to use a heavier bow. With my gender goggles on, I was instantly questioning this decision of theirs. The instant assumption is that if you are using a sixteen pound bow for instance, and Joe Bloggs is using an eighteen, it seems that they feel that they have something to prove. The advice that was given to them at the beginning of the course, that of the increase in the weight being nothing to do with strength, the lower weights are to get members used to the technique, goes flying out the window! In their eagerness to appear ‘masculine’ and ‘strong’ they are willing to throw away a chance at doing really well at a sport. Thinking back on it now it is amazing that I had never questioned this; I have made the offhand comment of ‘just wants to look strong’ but never really thought about it. What is it that makes males feel that they have to prove something? Do they find it degrading if a female is stronger? Is this an unacceptable interruption of what would be the gender ‘norm’? It is difficult to try and drill into the members that low poundage is excellent for a beginner. The gender stereotypes which have been drilled into them by society are an almost unbreakable barrier to attempt to get past in order to help them.
Sport is generally a masculine associated activity to participate in and every year the male to female ratio is always large. Without a doubt, archery is considered a masculine sport. At least it was, with thanks to films and books such as The Hunger Games and the Olympics, there has been an increase in the amount of females which join. Are women intimidated by the sport? Archery is usually associated with hunting (which I entirely disagree with!) which is once again associated with males. Perhaps this is the reason? Women are also unable to shoot the furthest distance in a competition, which in part is a strength issue, but I entirely disagree with the rule. If a woman would like to shoot a male round, she should be able to and her score should also be included in the competitions results. It is ridiculous that even sport has segregation between the sexes in the twenty-first century. Women are not a weaker sex or in any way unable to contribute to the same extent as a male. It has been an interesting and frustrating thought to ponder, but I guess the majority of gender issues are?  

xxx

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