Tough Guise

Tough Guise is a documentary that draws attention to societal pressures placed on males to be a “real man”. It’s not only women feeling the pressure of societal expectations as far as appearance, attitude, beliefs, etc. Men feel the pressure too and they feel it strongly. What exactly is a real men? Men are taught by society to be domineering, controlling, violent, immovable, stern, emotionless- and the list continues. If men do not adhere to these expectations, they risk ridicule and slander, being called very derogatory names.

Image

Unfortunately, this tough guise does come to affect women. Women are encouraged to lose weight and slip into the background while men are encouraged to become built and take up as much space as possible. Tough Guise expresses that this encouragement of men to take up space is in response to the threat of women coming into formerly male domains such as the professional workplace, etc. Everywhere a male looks he sees idols depicted as gun slinging, violent, tough, “respected”, built, heartless, etc. If a male is sensitive, he must hide it. If a male is insightful, caring, or embodies any other seemingly “feminine” aspect to his personality, he must hide these aspects as well and compensate- morphing himself more into the concept of “male” that has become the norm.

Image

A way to compensate for lack of muscular size and physical breadth is through guns. The documentary illustrates that over the years, guns have become larger in the media both in prevalence and actual size. Guns are seen as a “great equalizer”between a man who is not physically large and one who is. Guns have made their way into videogames, shows, music videos, etc. and boys/men are exposed to these images of violence constantly. They are taught that in order to gain respect you must be violent- that fear earns respect over being a respectable person through other qualities of one’s personality.

Image

It is no doubt that men experience much anxiety in trying to maintain this tough guise. They constantly feel they have something to prove in public- they must walk, talk, respond, and act in certain ways to ensure that their manliness is both acknowledged and unquestionable. Unfortunately, this tough guise has promoted a bit of misogyny through the media and figures such as comedians as well. Ever famous Limbaugh is one such example of a misogynistic influence that was bred of this patriarchal fixation on masculinity. If men can put down women, their dominance (at least in their minds) cannot be threatened and they can continue to believe and feel that they are the head of society.

What can we do about this tough guise phenomenon? Encourage men to be themselves. Place more real and positive male role models in the media. Draw attention to the males who commit crimes rather than to the victims of these crimes. Stop playing up violence as something “cool” to be emulated. Place real male bodies in magazines. Encourage equal treatment of women. This tough guise is a dangerous thing to perpetuate and no doubt damaging to individual males who find themselves lost in internal conflict when who they are does not match what they are expected to be, not to mention damaging to the women or men that find themselves victims of those playing out the societally fabricated role of the “real man”.

Heteronormativity

Heteronormativity is “the body of lifestyle norms that holds that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It asserts that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. Consequently, a “heteronormative” view is one that involves alignment of biological sex, sexuality, gender identity and gender roles.” (Wikipedia)

Image

I chose the above picture to illustrate this heteronormativity and its prevalence in society as it depicts a wedded lesbian couple, one displaying the role of groom and the other as bride. Why are they not both in dresses or both in tuxes? They feel pressured by the heteronormativity in society, perhaps, and due to compulsory heterosexuality have chosen to dress in this manner for their big day.

Image

Heteronormativity stresses such norms in society that a woman must be feminine and attracted to men. She must marry a man and have a monogamous relationship which ends with children. A man must be masculine and attracted to women. He must marry a woman and have a monogamous relationship which also ends in children. See the problem with this picture? All other variations that exist in the world are excluded and thus have no way to fit into society at all. Homosexual couples, transgender individuals, those of various gender identification and sexual orientation find themselves forced out of this model and subsequently find themselves forcing themselves into it which no doubt is stressful and confusion-inducing. Heteronormativity is a huge problem! It stresses that if you deviate from the norm, there is no place for you. This simply shouldn’t be the case. 

There are masculine women and feminine men, homosexual, pansexual, polyamorous, asexual, etc. sexually oriented individuals, and the list goes on and on. This wonderful and unique array of people make up our world and it is just outrageous to expect and enforce that all fit into one socially defined box called “heteronormativity.”

Image

Medicalization

Medicalization is “the process by which human conditions and problems come to be defined and treated as medical conditions, and thus become the subject of medical study, diagnosis, prevention, or treatment.” (Wikipedia) Today, pregnancy is really a natural process that has been taken into the hands of the medical world and made into a condition.

http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/952881/dangerous-birth-is-childbirth-becoming-over-medicalized

^The above link references what the documentary The Business of Being Born was aiming to get across as far as the overuse of Cesarian section in childbirth. 1 out of 3 children are delivered this way when it’s actually only about 5% of births that truly need this sort of intervention. I thought this particular article laid out the information presented in the film in a nice, quick fashion so that’s why it has been included in this blog post.

It is absolutely appalling. I actually had no idea about any of what goes on in a delivery room prior to seeing this film in class! There is no way I want to have a baby in the hospital now. I was shocked at how much easier (for lack of a better term) the labor was for both child and mother – mothers weren’t screaming and babies weren’t shocked by antiseptic environments in home birthing scenarios. I had absolutely no idea how much the doctors at hospitals didn’t care about the woman in labor. We’ll give her medication that slows down her labor process, tell her the labor is taking too long, then tell her to have a C-section. Uhm excuse me, what?! Sorry my baby was taking up too much of your precious time making its way out of my body? Its abhorred!

Honestly, its true that pregnancy is shown to be a terrifying experience in mainstream media and I do agree that this is what pushes us toward the hospitals in the first place. If more mainstream media showed positive home birthing experiences, I’m sure mortality rates would fall, midwives would increase in popularity, and birth could be less scary and in the hands of those it really belongs within- the mothers, not the doctors.

It’s crazy to think that society can literally take a natural process, medicalize it, profit from it, and continue to get away with it despite it not being in the best interest of the party involved. How has it escaped me that the US has a ridiculously high mother and infant mortality rate? The same way it has escaped a majority of us. It’s kept under wraps and we’re only told to go to the hospital when we’re pregnant, we’re never told about other options.

I vote we de-medicalize the birthing process, taking it from the hands of those who want it to be as expensive and quick as possible and placing it in the hands of those who actually care about the woman and child involved.

Social Construction of Gender

Social construction of gender is the idea that “society and culture create gender roles, and that these roles are what is generally considered ideal or appropriate behaviour for a person of that specific gender.” (Wikipedia)

A good baseline example of this social construction of gender would be the blue and pink hats/blankets that newborn babies are given in the hospital when they are born- blue for boys and pink for girls.

The particular video I’ve included with this video does, I think, a very good job in illustrating this social construction of gender. Society has an idea of how different genders should speak, think, what characteristics each respective gender should embody, and the list goes on. If someone deviates from the norm, they are ridiculed and told to “get back in line” with societal gender expectations. The video shows how human qualities are sectioned off by gender and polarized- one gender embodies certain characteristics and the other does in kind, they do not blend or mix.

I remember being a little girl, I had to wear frilly dresses and bows in my hair. I faced a lot of backlash as I grew older and had an interest in math and sports and less so much with what would be considered “girls” interests (ie dresses and dolls). There’s a lot more to a person than their gender. Or, let me rephrase, a person’s gender does not dictate who they are. We are all unique with our own personalities, likes, dislikes, etc. It is so silly to me that there should be such a strong societal divide concerning what makes a girl and what makes a boy. Are we not all human? We should be accepted as we are. We should stop telling girls they’re not girls and boys they’re not boys if they identify that way and just happen to deviate from what’s accepted. I don’t personally view myself any less female because I like to wear pants and be outside all the time. That’s just me.

The Feminization of Poverty

The feminization of poverty is “the phenomenon in which women experience poverty at rates that are disproportionately high in comparison to men.” In fact, women make up 70% of all those living in poverty in the world.

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~abbat22l/classweb/feminizationofpoverty/causes.html (This link takes you to where the above definition came from as well as it completely lays out the feminization of poverty, why it takes place, and where.)

Taken from the aformentioned link, four key reasons for the feminization of poverty as identified by the United Nations Development Fund for Women are:

“1. The temporal dimension. Women are often primarily responsible for childcare and household duties—tasks for which they receive no pay. Women living in developing nations may also be relied upon to participate in exhausting physical and/or agricultural labor to help support the livelihoods of their families and villages. Having so many other responsibilities, these women have less time to devote to paid employment, and consequently earn a smaller income, even though they are effectively doing more work than their male counterparts.

2. The spatial dimension. When employment is sare, women may have to migrate to other areas to find work temporarily. If a woman has children, however, she may be unable to pursue a job that takes her far from her family.

3. The employment segmentation dimension. Being naturally classified as caretakers, women have often been corralled into specific lines of work, such as teaching, caring for children and the elderly, domestic servitude, and factory work such as textile production. These kinds of jobs lack stability, security and a higher income.

4. The valuation dimension. In the same vein, the unpaid labor that women perform in taking care of family members and other household chores is considered of far less worth (at least economically) than positions that require formal education or training.”

I think drawing attention to the above points is both very eye opening and important. I know that I personally had never noticed that the jobs characterized as “women’s jobs” were those that were less stable and low paying (shocking I know I’m surprised I’d never caught on before this, especially in light of biological determinism and the wage gap and the like.) Women are left to raise children and do lots of work in the house, etc. that they do not get paid for. If women go on maternity leave to raise the children that the men no doubt are not going to take off of work for, they do not get paid for this missed time and also risk the chance of being demoted as well as the opportunity to gain a promotion. While in industrialized nations, there is access to daycare and programs of the like, in rural areas and agricultural communities, women cannot take jobs that require them to commute far from the family. All of these factors fall into line together to allow women to make up the aforemetioned 70% of the entire world’s population that is in poverty.

Men are more likely to be free of the responsibility of being a child’s sole caretaker and thus have the ability to be engaged in the process of attaining promotions and climbing the corporate ladder, so to speak. There is also a significantly higher chance that a woman will become a single mother rather than the other way around. 

An interesting question that comes to mind, in the case of the occupation as a teacher for example, is that if men were predominantly in such occupations as teaching, textile manufacturing, serving, etc. would these positions be more secure and higher paying? It is abhorred but I believe the answer is yes. Women are staying in poverty because society does not allow them the opportunity to not be in such a compromising position. 

Image

 

Cisgender Privilege

The term cisgender describes a type of gender identity where an individual’s experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth. (Wikipedia)

Identifying with the sex you’re assigned at birth is a privilege. You don’t have to worry about bathrooms, people addressing you with the wrong name, being refused medical treatment, etc. if you are in fact cisgender. It is easier for you to integrate into and be accepted within society.

http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/list-of-cisgender-privileges/

The above link lists such privileges that those who are cisgender have. Its a very interesting read, it makes you realize, if you are cisgendered, just how much privilege you do have in society. I for one didn’t realize the many things I take for granted as I was reading over the list.

We as a society need to get to a place where all genders, sexual orientations, races, etc. are treated and integrated the same way. There’s no reason that I as a cisgender individual should be treated any different than a transgender individual, we are both people and both valuable members of society. Gender is not a binary, gender is not the sex you’re born with, it does not determine what sexual orientation you “should” be. Being anything other than cisgender does not mean you are dysfunctional-there is nothing wrong with you. One of the points in the aforemetioned link is that those who are cisgender are not denoted within the DSM IV. Transgender people should not be there either. It is not a sickness. It is society that is making it one and making it hard for people to feel comfortable being who they are.

I think it’s important for individuals to realize the privilege they have so that they can be both aware of it and actively seek to make it so that this privilege no longer persists.

Image

Meritocracy. Where is it?

Three definitions for meritocracy, provided by dictionary.com, are:
1. an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class, privilege, or wealth.
2.a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced
3.leadership by able and talented persons.
 
Meritocracy proposes that if one works hard enough towards one’s dreams, no matter her ability, background, gender, sexual orientation, socio economic class, etc. she can achieve said dreams and be successful within her society. Anyone who has lived within society long enough without their blinders on knows that meritocracy is a utopian dream. We call it the “American Dream” here. When one thinks of this dream one thinks of perhaps an immigrant, or maybe someone from a poor neighborhood, working very hard to network, building up an empire from nothing, and becoming successful in the end. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen anywhere near as often as it seems. You see, in the media we’re constantly bombarded with such “success stories”, diamonds in the rough if you will. We’re exposed to these images so often that it almost seems as if this utopian meritocracy exists. However, these diamonds in the rough are a small minority, not the majority. 
 
There are people who fight their whole lives trying to climb out of their social situations, but the world works very hard against them and they’re never able to achieve their dreams due to discrimination, circumstance, or otherwise. This is the sad reality. In order for a meritocracy to exist, money would have to stop changing hands, promotions would be based on merit and not upon namesake/relationships, taxes would be fair, and wealth would be equally distributed. Within our capitalistic society this is the exact opposite case and the conditions needed for such a meritocracy in which one could truly climb the social ladder based solely on effort and desire is not only highly unlikely, it is a near pipe dream within this society and country in which people fend for themselves. As long as Mr. Jones has all he needs, he isn’t concerned about the injustice done to his neighbor.
 
The question is, what are we prepared to do about it?
 
Image
 
Image
 
Image