The dominant narrative that I found in reading the blog posts of my peers on their gender related stories, was one based on the overarching dominant traits encompassing all physical, emotional, and psychological characteristics affiliated with girls and women. There are often many presumptions made based on what we (women) can and cannot do because of our gender. I was shown this dominant narrative through the blogs as a result of the descriptive words used that seem commonplace in the authors writing with “girly” elements like in Kelsey Hintz’s blog about her time in cheerleading that describe womanhood within certain parameters and with some specific conditions. These feminine characteristics are being defined in certain ways under a particular rubric of guidelines based on how women are (and are supposed to be) seen. This includes activities like cheerleading (Hintz) or the fact that we need other equipment like specific basketballs made for girls (Zacharias) to suffice for our skill defecates in certain sports as said in Caitlin Zacharias’ blog post about gender.
I can relate to these stories because I feel that as women, the assumptions of our gender negate our abilities and aspirations. In Caitlin’s story about her basketball match, she was ranked to compete against her male peers just like I was – in a way that we both thought was fair and attainable based on our abilities. Caitlin challenged her coach and the boys to prove that she and her teammate could be a valuable part of the team but rather than using her skillset to their advantage they doubted her based only on the fact that she was a girl. When I won student body president in my high school a teacher told me that “It’s a good thing I’m cute” which made me feel that my winning the election was determined not by my ability but on my appearance and general “cute” demeanor. This dominant discourse is relative to my life not only because of this statement made in that one experience but because I have recognized that these subtle verbal and non-verbal contributions to the discourse begin to speak to my subcounscious, telling me that “it’s only because I am cute” or that “I can’t because I am a girl”. These definitions and expectations have had a lasting impact on my life.
In Kelsey’s post she speaks about how when she was in cheerleading one of the focuses was tying your hair a certain way and using, “hair products of every kind (to) slick and spray on until the bow sits high and shiny marking them as one of the team” (Hintze). This is a demonstration of how the athleticism and energy that goes into this sport is only part it, the other being that the girls were able to match the cute, ponytail wearing expectation for the team’s performance and “the stereotypes attached to the sport I was a part of altered the way I was seen by other people” (Hintze). It is important not to discount the women that enjoy these aspects of the experience but I do think that it is fundamentally important that we recognize the abilities of women, young and old, before we assess their appearance before it becomes something that follows them throughout their life. Similar negative prophecies were spoken into Sharon’s life when she explains through her blog about race when a relative told her that ” ‘you can’t marry a black man!’ ” (Lewis). These types of things spoken into people at a young age follow us and make us question different aspects of who we are and who we are supposed to be.
A blog post that I found that operated as a challenge to this normative narrative was Katelyn Pippus’ post about gender titled SUV. Katelyn’s story about how her father sees the women in his life as SUV’s was a perfect metaphor to demonstrate both men’s perception of women and also our own (women’s) perception of ourselves and other women. Katelyn’s post differs from the ones I mentioned in the above paragraphs because someone saw her, and she saw herself, in ways other than her physical appearance. The fact that Katelyn saw herself to be represented as a cherry red Ferrari definitely wasn’t wrong, but it was interesting to hear that her father thought about the various inner and outer traits that made Katelyn and the other females in her family who they were. In Katelyn’s story part of her father’s answer described that he thought all the women, “know how to work hard and well” (Pippus).
As said in Wayne Martino’s chapter on ‘Undoing’ Gender and Disrupting Hegemonic Masculinity it is the hope that students both male and female will begin, ” ‘learning to recognize the constitutive force of the images and metaphors through which sex-gender is taken up as their own, and to make choices about refusing the discursive practices and structures that disempower them or that constitute them in ways that they do not want’ “Martino, W. (2012). If males and females begin to take up their feelings about gender by defining themselves first on who they are intellectually, emotionally and based on what makes them happy then we can begin to progress towards having happier men and women that are comfortable with defining themselves as male or female based on their own perceptions of it rather than a preconceived gradient forced upon them from the other gender.
I was relieved to read Katelyn’s blog post about gender because it helped me to see that there were people in her life that saw her, and potentially other women in ways not purely based on how they look in physical terms. Although a feminine appearance is a very valid way to be seen as a women, I think it is valuable to define ourselves as women in different ways.
This story helped me to see that in my own life, I am the one that can define and change how I operate within my gender. When Katelyn said that she saw herself as a cherry red Ferrari it was an innocent and playful comment but alluded that in instinct, she mentioned the car that she maybe thought was the most beautiful. I felt happy for Katelyn when she recognized her dad admiring various traits about her that delved deeper than skin level. My question throughout this process is: Why do we feel like we constantly have to prove our abilities? Why can’t our “girliness” come together in all aspects, uniting physical ability or potential and hobbies or lifestyle preferences with the desires to look and dress however we want? I am hopeful for the congruency of these two ways of seeing gender and I am excited to be able to see and tell the many women of my life of their exquisite interior.