Journal Entry #1 – Monday, May 30th
Today, my friends and I celebrated Memorial Day by going to the river for the day. My group of friends is a pretty even mix of boys and girls, and we are all very similar and different in many ways. This past week and weekend highlighted some difference between my guy friends and my girl friends for me. Through out the week, I listened to two of my girl friends obsess over how Memorial Day meant the first day of “bikini season”. For my two friends, this meant spending the week or so leading up to Memorial Day exercising and eating healthy in preparation for putting a bikini on for the day. However, I never heard one of my guy friends say they needed to spend extra time at the gym in preparation for our Monday plans. In addition, before leaving my house to go to the river that day, two of my girl friends asked me if their bathing suits looked good on them, but none of my guy friends asked me this question. Although this difference wasn’t incredibly noticeable, it definitely showed me one way in which some of my guy friends and girl friends think differently.
I have a few thoughts on this difference that I noticed between my guy friends and girl friends. I do think that my girl friends are more concerned with image than my guy friends, and I do not exclude myself from this. However, maybe all of these things that my girl friends said to me came up in conversations between my guy friends. For example, maybe some of my guy friends were concerned about getting in shape for the summer or concerned with how they looked on Memorial Day, but they only expressed these thoughts to other guys. I can’t assume that only girls have body image thoughts just because I only heard it firsthand from girls that week. Overall, I think body image is a topic that comes up with women a lot more frequently, but I do not think this topic should be ignored in the context of men.
Journal Entry #2 – Tuesday, May 31st
Today, I studied all afternoon in a local Starbucks. I love studying at Starbucks because there are constantly people of all ages, races and genders interacting and coming in and out of the store. However, I’ve never thought of Starbucks as a place to people watch with particular attention to gender roles. This week’s unit, and knowing that I would be reflecting on my experiences with gender throughout the week, made me more aware of how the interactions going on around me relate to gender.
One “gendered experience” that I observed today occurred when a mother of three came into Starbucks. It was midafternoon, and I assumed the mother had just finished picking up her children from camp or afternoon activities. So, the mother and her children walked in, and I noticed the differences between her children. The son, who appeared younger than the daughter, was wearing sweaty athletic clothing. His light blue shorts were stained with mud and grass. On his feet, he wore sneakers that were definitely worn in. The daughter appeared much differently to me. I watched her walk behind her mother, and she was wearing (an adorable) leotard and tutu. She had sneakers on her feet as well. Her hair was pulled back from her face in a ponytail. Last, I noticed the mother was holding an infant. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch a glimpse of how the infant was dressed, because he/she was pressed against his/her mother’s chest. I can’t draw any observations on how the mother dressed her infant, but I definitely noticed an observable difference between the son and daughter.
I don’t base this observation on the appearance of the children, but more on the activities they had probably engaged in throughout the day. It appeared the son had just finished up sports camp or a sports team practice and the daughter had just left dance lessons. I found the childrens’ appearances to be very “normal”, and probably comparable to what my brother and I looked like during a summer day when we were of similar ages. However, I started to think about how I would react if the situation were reversed. If I watched the same family walk in, but the son appeared to be returning from dance practice and the daughter seemed to have just finished up sports practice, how would I react? I think I would spend more time looking at the family and pondering the children’s appearances. This certainly has a lot to do with gender roles and gendering in society. In addition, I started to think about the situation in regards to the mother. Did the mom enroll her daughter in dance lessons and her son in sports? Or, did she ask her children what they wanted to do/wear that day? I don’t know the answer to this, but it is interesting to ponder where these roles originate.
Journal Entry #3 – Wednesday, June 1st
I go to the gym every day, but I’ve found myself hesitating from doing certain exercises based on who is around, if I think people are watching me, and how crowded the gym is. Today, I had finished up running, and I wanted to do strengthening exercises in the weight room. However, I peaked into the weight room and noticed something I dread…not a single female was in the weight room. I know this has stopped me from entering the weight room before, but not today.
I thought about it for a second. Does it really matter if there aren’t any other girls in there? Is there a reason why I shouldn’t feel comfortable doing what everyone else in there is doing, even if they are all guys? No, there really isn’t a reason why I should fear entering the weight room and completing my planned workout surrounded my males. So, I kept walking straight into the weight room, and I picked up the weights I wanted without hesitating. Honestly, once I started working out I was in my own world, and I didn’t even notice who was around me. I’m proud that today I faced a gendered experience and didn’t let it divert me from doing what I really wanted to do.
I’ve talked about this with some of my friends. Majority of my female friends love working out as much as I do, but I’ve heard each one of them admit they’re afraid of entering the weight room, in the fear that all of the men in there will judge them. I think it is common for females to feel intimidated in the weight room. I know the situation intimidates me, and I’ve definitely had the thought that the men surrounding me will think I don’t know what I’m doing. Sure, maybe it’s more common to see men in the weight room, but that doesn’t mean that women can’t or shouldn’t lift weights. I love mixing up my workout routine, and I’m happy that today I didn’t turn around and leave the weight room just because I had the idea that it’s not normal for me to be in there. So, I guess you could say I broke through a gender norm today. I plan to continue lifting, and I know I’ll feel more and more comfortable, even if there aren’t any other females around me.
Journal Entry #4 – Thursday, June 2nd
This evening, my boyfriend and I went out to dinner. When I got back to my apartment, my roommate asked me how dinner was. I told her where we went, what we ate and how the evening was. After a few minutes of us talking about it, she asked me if he paid for the meal. I’ve been asked this question before by a few of my friends, and I always have the same response. I’ve never really thought about this question in depth, but I can now see how it is an example of a gender role.
I answered my roommate’s question with the fact that no, he did not pay for the meal, and we split the cost of the meal. This is the truth; usually my boyfriend and I split the cost of a meal, unless he specifically states he wants to pay because it is a special occasion. I’ve never thought much about this because I find it to be a respectful, fair way to enjoy a meal together. However, I wanted to see if my roommate felt the same way, so I asked. After asking her if she thinks he should pay, she told me that yes, she thinks that is the way it should be. This honestly surprised me. I respect my roommate’s opinion, and I didn’t want to argue with her about it, but it really made me think. Why is it expected that the man pays for every meal? I really don’t see that as fair, and I wouldn’t feel right making my boyfriend pay for every meal we share together.
As I stated earlier, I’ve been asked this question before. I think that everyone who asks this question, as with many other questions related to gender roles, is entitled to an opinion or preference. My roommate’s opinion that my boyfriend should have paid for my meal did not make me question my own opinion or feel concerned that I paid for half of the meal that evening. I believe her opinion goes back to gender roles, and ideas of what the man “should” do in a relationship. However, I see relationships as equal, and I don’t think there is a certain defined role either person in a relationship needs to fulfill in order for the relationship to succeed.
Journal Entry #5 – Friday, June 3rd
Today, I was talking to one of my roommates about her upcoming trip to Las Vegas. She is about to go to celebrate her cousin’s 21st birthday, and she started to tell me about how she spent her 21st birthday in Las Vegas. I’ve heard her stories about Las Vegas before, but I’ve never heard her talk about one theme of the trip…free drinks.
My roommate began by telling me that traveling out to Las Vegas is very expensive, but she remembers that she barely paid for any drinks once she was there. She started to tell me that if you’re “basically just a decent, young looking girl” you’ll never have to buy your own drinks when you are out. She also told me she met a group of older men at a club that invited her and her friends to their VIP section, where they enjoyed free drinks the rest of the night. As my roommate told me about her previous trip to Vegas, I couldn’t help but notice that what she was saying reflected social gender roles.
While I’m all for free things, I was kind of thrown off guard by these comments. I didn’t want to argue with her, but I did ponder her recall of Las Vegas for a little bit after the conversation. Why is it that I commonly hear about girls receiving free drinks at bars, but I never really hear men saying the same? Do women go into a night out expecting that a man will buy them a drink? Do men prepare for the night thinking they will buy a woman a drink that night? I’ve never thought about this in detail, but they are interesting questions to ponder. From my perspective, I think it is a nice gesture to offer to buy someone a drink. However, I think anyone of any gender can do so, and I don’t expect it to only be men that are buying women drinks.
Gender Reflection – The Positive and Negative Representations of Women in Media
One media representation about women that I have always loved is “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty”. Many times, the only beauty advertisements we see show tall, thin, seemingly “perfect” women dancing around half naked. However, in my opinion, this is not an accurate depiction of beauty. Instead, I believe various body shapes, heights, skin colors, hairstyles, etc. are beautiful. This idea is the central theme of the Dove campaign. “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” does an excellent job at using women of many different sizes and body types in the media. I believe this is a huge step toward increasing the self-confidence of women, especially those who do not look like the “typical” beauty product model. My belief that womanly beauty comes in all shapes and sizes is similar to the overall theme in the YouTube Video “On Intersectionality in Feminism and Pizza” by Smoothiefreak. In this video, Akilah drew a hilarious comparison between different pizzas and intersectionality. According to Akilah’s ideas, different types of pizzas with different toppings should all be talked about and respected, even if these pizzas are living in a world of hamburgers (Smoothiefreak 2015). In my opinion, much as different types of pizzas should be respected and enjoyed, all different types of women should be considered beautiful. I wish this were something that more women, such as my friends mentioned in my first journal entry, accepted. As I mentioned before, I also love to lift weights at the gym, and I should not be ashamed of the appearance of my arm muscles, as toned, strong women are beautiful too.
However, not all media representations of women are positive. I came across a BuzzFeed article titled “13 of the Most Sexiest Beer Ads of All Time”, which I referenced below and encourage you to look over. I was appalled by some of these advertisements, and I see them as the complete opposite of the positive representations Dove achieved. The use of “sexy women” and parallels between women and beer consumption in the media are ways that I believe gender roles and gender binary are maintained. This negative media is an example of “doing gender”, an idea outlined in Zimmerman and West’s article “Doing Gender”. Even in the introduction of this article, the authors explained gender as “…A routine accomplishment embedded in every day interaction”, and many times the media is responsible for this (West and Zimmerman 1987: 1). The media is powerful and influential, and it has the ability to embed ideas of what women (and men) should be like in society. I believe media should use this power to create beautiful, accurate representations of women, such as the women in Dove’s campaign, and dismiss the negative, exploitative representations of women, such as those portrayed in numerous beer advertisements.
Smoothiefreak. 2015. “On Intersectionality in Feminism and Pizza.” YouTube website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgK3NFvGp58)
West, Candace, and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender & Society 1(2):125-51.