I’ve been thinking about gender recently. On Tuesday I saw Cinema Politica’s screening of Regretters, a film about two men who had sex changes, then years later switched back. It was a fascinating conversation on and contemplation of what role gender means and how important it is, what role it plays in our lives, how it makes us who we are, and how we can mess with it. On Wednesday in Research Methods I watched a documentary called The Codes of Gender that show the differences in how men and women are typically portrayed in advertisements and what these messages these signals convey about what it means to be feminine or masculine. The film was very powerful because of how keenly it picked out cues in images and how clearly it translated and revealed the strong messages therein.
What most struck me in both of these pieces were how directly they spoke to me and the behaviours I have. They made it painfully obvious that much of what is my personality is moulded by the gender roles I grew up in. It is the reason I find it cute to point my toes in when I’m sitting down; the reason I find it difficult to charge in full for the work I do; the reason I find it difficult to assert my boundaries when someone makes me uncomfortable unless they go clearly beyond the pale.
Upon hearing the arguments expressed in the second film, I made mental notes as to the things I wanted to avoid or refuse to do: I want to look people in the eyes, I want to be alert and attentive to my surroundings, I want to wear shoes that don’t make me vulnerable, I don’t want to position myself in ways that are contorted and destabilizing. According to these codes, I don’t want to be feminine.
But I am a woman and to hear myself say that hurts; it’s a negation of myself. Rather, what I’d like to do is push femininity to encompass something else. I want for femininity to include strength and capability, and be able to be beautiful without being sexualized (note, this doesn’t mean feminine has to be beautiful; I’m just saying I would like to see its aesthetic not rely on crude sex appeal).
At any rate, now I checked out Erving Goffman’s Gender Advertisements to read over break and I’m contemplating taking martial arts classes.