Gender Roles: The Building Blocks of American Society
Gender Roles: The Building Blocks of American Society
Ever since I could remember most of what I learned about being a male came from a series of components, majority include my parents, family, television, school, toys, the media, and peers. Gender expectations were embedded within me by society and I had no clue of what was happening. When I was young it was expected of me to play with toys that suited males i.e. batman, spiderman, superman, watch television shows that encompassed male behavior, I even had to perpetuate dominance over my male counterparts as a means of sustaining my masculinity. This was all taught to me by the constructs of masculinity developed by society. I can recall many instances in which my stepfather would punish me if I stayed inside on on Saturday/Sunday mornings because in his time period, boys were expected to be outside performing manual labor while the woman were expected to cook and clean. It is the roles of American society that have plagued the notion of dominant and subordinate gender roles of male and female.
I learned to perpetuate masculinity without even understanding what masculinity or femininity even meant, it was taught to me as a natural way of being, something that I never questioned because I simply thought it was the correct way of living, and even though it did not quite make sense to act tough or to act male, I still followed everything I was taught. All my life I acted the way I was expected to act, as a Hispanic male, I had to stay within the confines of my ethnicity and gender. Males where not expected to be emotional or to have feelings. Within a family that honors male dominance and power that males can perpetuate, none of my uncles show any signs of weakness or vulnerability, as it is taboo for the men in my family to show any sign of softness. I however, always had problems with living my life in this order and having to perpetuate male behavior. I can recall one instance where I wrapped my hair in a towel after a shower because I saw my mother always doing it and I wanted to as well, it was not until my mom caught me, when she instantly put me in place and told me to never do that again.
She specified that if my dad witnessed what I had done I would never see the light of day. Ever since I could remember, the ways in which I performed my gender role was not necessarily performed the way society constructed it. I never performed what was expected of me, most of the time I would sit on the side of my house crying after being yelled at by my stepfather for not being boyish enough for him. I always had my mind on being who I thought I should be i.e. free and able to explore as I wanted, and not what people told me to be. All my life, I have witnessed male family members and their inability to console or give proper advice to anyone because there was always an ego bias due to their lack of feeling and emotion.
My father is a prime example, no matter what he discussed with me as a child it always related to male dominance and woman subordination and the idea of the other. I come from a family with ego gratification issues, most of my uncles including my father suffer from perpetuating masculinity and male dominance, and they thrive off of not showing an ounce of weakness or vulnerability. Within the confines of my family it is actually frowned upon to express feeling or even express care of love towards anyone, it is a sad fact, but it is the learned male dominant/ female subordinate roles that have convoluted American society to act in this specific manner. Nonetheless, it is a sad feat of American life.
If I suddenly woke and I was female my life would change dramatically, the result would impact my whole center of being substantially. Not only would the mechanics of my body entirely change, my entire conception of self would as well. I could no longer go to the bathroom the same, use masculinity as a crutch to get ahead in society, my entire notion of self and the makeup of who I am as a person, and as a dramaturgical actor would be in chaos. The building blocks that I was founded upon would completely rearrange, everything I have learned my whole life would be flipped. I would no longer see myself in the same light, as I now have to relearn what it means to begin living a life that I have no real first hand experience within. My entire life revolves around my conception of myself as a male, my educational level, my acquired dominance in society from just being a male, my role as a man, and my privilege in society.
This change would alter my conception of what it means to be a human entirely. As our entire lives are shaped by gender expectations and societies ideas of what it means to be a male and female. It would be a tough change nonetheless. My gender performance would have to be re-built from the ground up. I would have to learn to act like a female, to make my way in the world as a female, I would lose certain privileges that come along with being male such as job opportunities, respect, power, and would have to completely relearn gender roles within a female body. For some, this would be the worst possible outcome that could ever happen to a male, not only because of everything that comes along with being a male, but also everything that comes along with being a female. Females are stigmatized for their femininity, their roles as woman in society, their sexual partners, the clothes that they wear, the way that they look, there are so many things that woman have to deal with that many men simply do not understand.
This would be an eye opener, everything I have learned and got away with, as a male such as freely exploring my manhood and eating disgustingly, would be redefined. In society woman are held to the highest degree of observance and are forced to stay within the lines of femininity. Everywhere you look, on billboards, magazine covers, newspapers, and tabloids there is the romanticized version of what it means to be a woman and the standard that they are held up to is simply unreachable. No one can measure up to societies standard of what it means to be a woman, they are constantly broken down and told they are not pretty, they are not desirable, they are not what they should be, they are promiscuous, and if a guy does the same things he is not scrutinized for his actions. My entire life as a woman would be a new understanding, an entire new journey and experience. Learning what it means to be stigmatized and talked down upon if I decided to be who I was as a man, but as a woman. I would no longer be able to shove food down my throat, act vulgar, run around with my shirt off, jog around at nighttime because of the fear of being raped, or abducted.
It would totally reshape everything I was taught and defined as in society. Even though acting masculine or acting feminine is a social construct, it has consumed me everyday, I have always filled that masculine role that society has brought me up within and even though everything about myself is wrapped up within my gender specific role as a Hispanic male, becoming a female would totally change my gender experience. I would be reborn, forced to learn everything about myself as a female, and what it means to be a female and act like a female in society. Nonetheless, it would completely reshape my views and ideas about gender.