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Cody

Prisoners of Gender

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I wrote this essay this straight from the heart in a creative writing class this week. The topic was "exploring gender boundaries" The content is all completely true and something I've never shared before with anyone previous to writing this paper. It turned out to extremely difficult to write about a lot of this. I've never really scored too highly on deep hitting topics before and was honestly pretty terrified of what kind of embarrassing things I might see written all over it when it was handed back to me. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually received one of the only A's in the class with an added little note from the professor asking for another copy to use as an example essay to future classes. I've never really posted anything up before in creative writing so I figured it was about time :)

 

I hope you enjoy it.

 

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Prisoners of Gender

By Cody Speer

I saw the managers' office door was open a crack as I reached for the handle to push it open and say hi. I heard some rough hushed voices inside, so I hesitated. "I don't know what Pam was doing hiring that little fag. We've been cutting his hours all month and making him wash dishes in the back, I don't get why he just doesn't quit already. "Did I really just hear that? I stood there frozen for ten seconds before I realized that it all made perfect sense. I turned around and quietly left after filling out some paperwork explaining why I wasn't going to be filling in for Susy's shift tomorrow, or any other day from now on for that matter.

That was my last day of my first job at a chain bakery/cafe in a small town at which I worked after school my senior year of high school. Although comments like that would be rather shocking for many people, this situation was nothing new to me. I was honestly just surprised that I hadn't picked up on it sooner. Thinking back on all the small hints, comments, and body language I'd received the past month at work I wanted to kick myself for not adding two and two together in my head. It all made sense. I was being treated poorly by most of the male supervisors and staff at work simply because they perceived me to be too feminine and had outcast me because of it. I've always felt rejected from male circles most of my life because of the way people perceive me. A lot of people would think was gay if they didn't know better. Sadly, I'd gotten used to things like this happening to me my whole life. Even though I was treated poorly by my male co-workers, I always felt I got along with my female co-workers well. It would be a shame I wouldn't be seeing them again, oh well I guess.

Sometimes I would wonder how different my life would be if I was one of them. I can't help but think how lucky women are that gender boundaries have changed so much for them and how much more free they are to pursue whatever they wish in life than they used to. Society's cultural chains on women were being ripped apart more and more every day. I looked around and saw signs of it everywhere. My mother, a grad student from UC Davis, pulled in twice the salary that my father did. My best friend Alicia, a sports-driven tomboy, was the star player of our varsity women's baseball team. Then there was myself, a scrawny feminine guy made fun of and called "fag" behind his back by other men. I find it to be unjust that women have all this positive empowerment to be "masculinized" while vice-versa in the case for men it is completely non-existent, frowned upon, and even discouraged by society. Growing up as a more feminine male I've grown increasingly jealous of many women because they are so driven for their own rights they overlook the fact that many men such as myself still feel emotionally trapped by their gender roles today.

I grew up in a very feminine environment, There was my very career driven mother I mentioned earlier, but I also had an older tomboy sister who almost always dominated me in every situation. As a child I never grew up with any "machismo" ideals normally associated with men. All of this together had given me a sense that I never fit in with the general male stereotype at all. Sometimes I would wish that I could be bigger or stronger or that I could be into things that men are "supposed" to take interest in--sports, cars, guns-- but I know that's just not who I am. However, As I mentioned before I've always gotten along with women very well and most of my friends growing up were women. I was always the kid in high school who was in all the female dominated classes--dance,choir,drama--and I thoroughly enjoyed them all. It was definitely nice to have many close friends of the opposite sex and it was never a problem for me. I even remember the humorous occasion when a macho guy on a school sports team might try to call me a fag for doing so. I would just point out the fact that I spend my school hours flirting with women in class instead of towel-whipping other naked guys in the shower, who was more of a fag? It was fairly easy to enjoy myself through high school and avoid critism. I never started having problems with my identity until after I had graduated and started working.

My first job ended up being a huge reality check for me. In the end I found that it would be close to impossible to get around in my work environment without sacrificing much of who I was. It was a place where people would call me a fag behind my back and passive aggressively pass up opportunities for me. So naturally, finding myself unemployed I sought out employment in places that might be more accepting of men such as myself. I remember applying to a few local restaurants as a host and having a few group interviews. I never got the job, but what I do remember is that in my group interviews I felt uncomfortable being the only male there and that the interviewer treated me much more harshly than everyone else simply because I was a male. I was surrounded by what seemed to be a bunch of peppy high school girls having no actual work experience or resumes while I was the only one who did. I walked away from that experience depressively thinking to myself "no boobs, no job...how grand" That was the impression I was given. What was I supposed to think now? What should I try next? All of the women there were looking at me like I was some kind of idiot for thinking I stood a chance. Whether or not that was the truth, situations like these always made me feel like I lied in limbo between two separate identities that were being asked of me.

Women, being traditionally oppressed in our society, can focus so hard on pro-female goals that they can forget about the feelings and viewpoints of many men. Although I agree with much of the idealogy of the feminist movement I always feel that the male side of the situation is left out. Feminists can push so hard for gender equality sometimes that they tromp on and leave out the viewpoints of men such as myself. Does anyone else notice an often appearing "us against them" mentality in the topic of gender inequality? Who exactly is "them?" I've been getting the impression that "them" in many cases is the male population as a whole, which just makes me feel insignificant and unimportant as a male. My mother was admired for her career, but how would my father be viewed by society if he chose to stay at home? As Katha Pollitt asks parents of young boys in her essay, "Why Boys Don't Play With Dolls, "...if their sons wanted to spend the weekend writing up their diaries, or reading. or baking, [would they] find it disturbing? Too antisocial? Too gay?" (3) This is a perfect example of the double standard of gender equality we are developing against men. Gender equality is a wonderful cause to aspire for, but when I hear statements such as "if women ruled the world there would be no war" or "women are smarter than men" gender equality is definitely not the goal in mind. It really hurts to see the finger of blame pointed at myself especially when women don't understand how many opportunities they have that men still do not. They also have difficulty realizing how harsh of a situation most men such as myself can find themselves in due to limited gender boundaries for the male population as a whole.

Gender boundaries have definitely changed immensely for women, but men are still finding themselves confined and trapped to their gender roles more than ever. What's worse is that many women do not see or acknowledge it. As Kathryn Thomas notices in her essay, "Boy Oh Boy" ...[this is] illustrated by the stereotype that men would rather be lost than deign to ask for directions (but would we even have this stereotype if we didn't also have a social norm against men admitting they need help?) (4) As men are finding more and more women doing things that are considered norms for men to do, men are being pushed more and more into masculinity because our society has a norm that in a relationship a man should be the masculine one and the woman should be the feminine one.

It's wonderful that women can engage more and more outside of the "traditional female role" in society. It's also great that women are gaining equality more and more.. However, It's not great that the majority of men are still confined to their roles, yet still see the finger of blame pointed at them for gender inequality. Gender equality is a wonderful cause, but by it's own rationing should not come at the cost of diminishing the voices and limiting the roles of men. Women, please understand that we are suffering too and keep us in mind as we work together towards, "[turning] America into a playground free of sex roles" Pollitt (1)

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Holy shit, I was just about to go have "happy time" and i stumbled upon this, I just finished the first paragraph =X. Pretty dam good, going to finish reading now =)

 

Edit: Just finished reading, and I have to say, i agree with a lot of the points you are making. Through your entire argument, you made me forget that there was another side to this argument all together. It was that thought provoking. *the other side that men get better pay then women still, and are still given better jobs* which is the usual argument that is made. But you took a step outside this normal realm and focused your argument on the day to day life of a male who just has feminine qualities. We all know that one guy that we laugh at for acting like a girl, and call him a fag, I even have one at my school, but i never actually took the time the time to think, "maybe he isen't gay", and "maybe this is what he likes to do". You have really opened up my eyes, great paper =)

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I am just going through all your old posts that I have missed in the past couple of years and I wanted to quickly comment on this one before reading the whole story. The idea of gender fluidity is something I am actually extremely interested in. There is an idea floating around called Pomosexuality, which is loosely: Post Modern Sexuality. Post Modernism is really hard to define, but loosely I think of it as deconstructionlism. Anti-labels. There is a website, PomoWorld.com, that fosters a community that I was active in until the conspiracy theorists that populate it made it too arduous to have a rational discussion. I do believe that love transcends gender. I know we would agree that sex does not dictate gender. Next time we hang out, I am going to bring this up. In the mean time I'm going to see what else is interesting that you have posted here. I'll read the whole story after that.

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Compelling paper. As a moderate feminist/equalist-- I say equalist because I do, in fact, pursue equality and not female superiority-- I have had this argument pitched to me before; that the men who wish to express sides that are traditionally considered more feminine are equally, if not more, disadvantaged because they don't have a cohesive movement like feminists do. You're not the only one I've known who's a well-rounded straight man who's tended to have more female friends-- my best friend in high school was one, and several close friends today-- but who's to say what can be done? For now, it seems like it's an individual fight, each person to their own. Society and culture are always stratified unfairly.

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I completely agree with you Cody. I feel the exact same way, and I felt that when you were writing that paper, it fit what I go through. To a lot of people, I either seem incredibly feminine, especially around females. I've had about four times as many female friends as male friends, and it often irks me to see that the sensitive guys who really actually try acting equal, or sympathetic to women are either jostled or ignored. Props to you man, one of my favorite posts, hands down.

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In AP government class, we were talking about men and women and equal rights and opportunities they are given today. Everyone talked about how women should be given more chances, but i remembered what you said, so i rose my hand and said to the class. "If a girl was to go play basketball, we would all support here, if a guy were to pick up an easy bake oven, he would be considered a homosexual" Everyone in the class started laughing, but i waited, and after the laughing stopped, i said "you laugh, but this is the kind of society we live in today" And after that the discussion moved to the point i brought up, about women being encouraged in our society today for doing manly things, and men being looked down upon for doing what we deem as *feminine*. Overall it just proves the argument you were making in your paper, and that your not alone. *of course this all didn't come out as epic, but the jist of it is there and it did happen* =)

 

 

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Great piece, Cody!

 

I agree w/a lot of what you said and you really put it in a way that seems leveled out and not really complaining about it so much as sharing your experience with this often over looked truth. I feel like I'm often branded as the anti-feminist because I see these boundaries that you are talking about placed more on men then women. This was a great post that brings some much needed attention to an otherwise invisible prejudice. Thanks for sharing. :)

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This is a great essay. I enjoy especially how seamlessly you tied your own experiences into it.

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I've pretty much always had more girl friends than guy friends, since elementary school. I made up for it by sports, but I was always much more comfterable hanging out with girls than guys. That is until I started making more guy friends that weren't douchebags.

 

 

Awesome job. Love your work.

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