“Our socialization shapes our below-the-surface ideas about groups of people. These ideas are the result of myriad institutional forces. Among the most powerful forces are media and popular culture” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, pg 79). Nowadays, some social media influence us that a certain gender (either male or female) should align with the appropriate gender characteristic without other exceptions. Not only from social media, but we are also still receiving information about stereotypical gender normative narrative in daily life. To explain my gender normative narrative story in a better way, I choose two stories from my classmates Emily Richards and Nikki Reynolds. The reason I choose their stories is we are all judged by people who thought our behaviours do not fit in society, and the ways we behave like disrupt social norms. These three stories show the dominant gender narrative that people have to perform gender characteristics as their genders at birth. We are all the victims under normative gender expression.
Nikki’s story “Barefoot Tomboy” gives the idea that a girl plays with boys and act like a boy are not acceptable by her auntie. In the story, her auntie says: “ ‘You’re quite the Tomboy Nikki you can sure keep up with the boys. You play rough and aren’t afraid of anything…’ ”(Reynolds) Nikki’s auntie does not want Nikki to compete with boys. In other words, Nikki does not show any appropriate gender characteristic associates with her gender, then her auntie feels like it is inappropriate for a girl to act like a boy. If her aunt accepts Nikki plays and acts like a boy, then she would not tell Nikki that Nikki is a tomboy. Nikki also states that “I never thought about the things we did as being ‘boy’ activities we just did what we enjoyed doing” (Reynolds). In a child perspective, playing with other kids is a very natural social behaviour because they have not influenced by gender normative narrative yet; if people tell a child how he or she should behave like and let the child align with stereotypical gender characteristics, then this child will realize how he or she different than the opposite gender, he or she may or may not perform in his or her desired normative gender characteristics in society. Under the oppression of gender normative narrative, the external information influence us more than our internal dialogue.
Similarly as Nikki, in Emily’s story, she is treated differently by the cashier due to the cashier’s gender stereotype. Emily’s mother asks the cashier to get a sports toy for Emily but Emily ends up getting a necklace and her little brother ends up getting a sports toy. Emily wants to change her necklace to a sports toy. Referring to the cashier in Macdonald’s, Emily says: “…a boy wouldn’t want a necklace and I shouldn’t want a sports toy” (Richards). It is a gender stereotype that a girl should not want a sports toy. Society influences us that girls prefer feminine objects rather than masculine objects. Everyone should have freedom in choosing what they like and saying what they do not like. For example, Emily’s mum is very understandable in the story, she respects her daughter’s request and she asks the cashier to switch Emily’s necklace to a sports toy. Throughout the help from her mother, Emily finally gets the toy that she desires.
In my story “Get Out of the Water”, the woman tells me to stop swimming in the pool because I do not act like a girl. I feel what she says is offensive towards my gender identity because I see some boys swimming in the pool as well, why does she decide to stop me rather than stopping them? The behaviour of a girl swimming in a public pool with her soggy hair and wet clothes againsts the woman’s stereotype of female’s social image. The way that she tells me to get out of the pool applies oppression on me, which makes me feel like if I do not follow what she said, then I would be considered as “abnormal”. All three stories demonstrated that not following the social gender normative narrative makes people feel odd even though the person who is doing it does not feel unusual.
After reading Danielle’s third self-story Mud Tracks, I realize that her story is different than the stories above because she does not accept gender binary, which disrupts the normative narrative of appropriate gender characteristics. Danielle’s story repels gender oppression towards women. She challenges the normative narrative of gender by showing her hobbies, such as plashing in the mud, watching WWE on television and having a short haircut. These activities are considered as masculine in the normative narrative, but she disrupts the normative narrative by doing the activities which are not considered as feminine hobbies. After she gains more experience and she realizes that “My childhood doubts about how I should act as a girl changed in one instant, and I realized that I can still wear a dress and leave mud tracks with my heels” (Hedin).
Furthermore, she states “Gender is not one or two things; it can be as many things as you want it to be” (Hedin). From her boyfriend, she learns that male and female are not the only two genders, there are also genderqueers and other genders in the world. Gender binary does not play a role in Danielle’s perception anymore. Also, the authors of Is Everyone Really Equal? state that “Hegemony refers to the control of the ideology of a society. The dominant group maintains power by imposing their ideology on everyone” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, pg50). The quote explains that most of the people apply their normative narrative on everyone so that the majority (people who support normative narrative) can maintain the dominant power rather than letting minority (people who are out of normative narrative range) to rule the society. According to Danielle’s story, she sees all of her female friends love to “experiment with their mother’s makeup, have their hair tied up into pigtails” while she loves to “splashing around in the mud”(Hedin). It is obvious that her female friends are the dominant group and Danielle is the minority group, therefore Danielle’s behaviour disrupts the gender normative narrative. And by disrupting the gender normative narrative, we learned to treat gender diversity as an acceptable thing in our daily life.
Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2012). Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education. New York, United States of America: Teachers College Press.