Monday, May 30: I work as a dockhand at a nearby lake, where my coworkers and I rent out boats to patrons. We lift kayaks and canoes all day, regardless of our sex. Today one of the patrons was bringing their own boat onto the lake, and asked my manager if any of the “strong young men” would be available to help him bring the kayaks down to our ramp. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time that someone overlooks help from myself and other females because we are not as strong or capable as our male counterparts. I am so use to it that I don’t usually dwell on this too long, although it is a bit frustrating.
Tuesday, May 31: My cousin and I were watching a Disney Channel original movie, Right on Track, a movie about a girl that competes in drag racing. Erica, the main character, is told by her male competition to “do the sport a favor and leave” because “drag racing is not for little girls.” In addition, it is hard for Erica to find a sponsor because she is a girl partaking in a predominantly male sport. I couldn’t help but relate to this, being a girl that plays sports. Although soccer and track are way more accepting of females nowadays, I know that the sports industry tends to feature male sports (more expensive ticket prices for male sporting events, TV coverage, etc).
Wednesday, June 1: My family went out to dinner to celebrate my cousin’s birthday and graduation. As usual, my dad covered the check for my entire family. Although my dad and my mom share their income, my dad proclaimed that he has always paid for my mother, even before they were married. This reinforces the idea that men have the responsibility of being the “provider” for his family, a characteristic that society had constructed for the male gender. It is considered the gentleman thing to do, and women are stereotypically not expected to pay for their own meals.
Thursday, June 2: I was working at the lake when a family with three daughters approached the dock. To my embarrassment, I was unsure whether their oldest was a boy or girl at first, since she had very short hair, one similar to one of my male coworkers. Short hair is not super uncommon, but still not the desired hair style for a majority of girls in our culture. I was hesitant to address her at first in concern that I would use an incorrect pronoun. However, I find it exciting that she would choose a cut considered “boyish,” because she is doing what makes her comfortable and unique regardless of what is expected of her gender.
Friday, June 3: Today, like many other days, I helped many couples into tandem (two person) kayaks. Many ask me who should sit in the back and in the front, to which I reply that the stronger person should be situated in the back. Almost always, the man climbs into the back immediately. I think that whether it is true that the man is the stronger of the two, upon hearing that the stronger person sits in the back, the man will always subconsciously migrate toward that direction to preserve their masculinity.
All my journal entries this week reflect on the stereotypes and treatment of women, something that I have been so use to that I sometimes don’t even notice differences in treatment when it is happening. Many of my experiences reveal how females reside under males in the gender hierarchy, they are less able, less strong, and too fragile to compete with boys. Just from this past week, I have seen first hand how much more useful men appear because there is a “higher value on masculinity than femininity” (Schilt, 2009). In contrast, I realize that women sometimes reap benefits from these standards that society has created, such as having their meals paid for, and having burdens removed from their hands. Regardless of the costs and benefits, to me it all seems unfair. It is unfair that women are not considered for tasks requiring strength, and it is unfair that men are usually expected to pay for the women all the time. As for my encounter with the girl who had short hair, I realize that it is common for people to be uncomfortable until they can successfully place those they meet into one of two gender categories, picking up on signals from their behavior and appearance (Lorber, 1994). Furthermore, I have come to realize that many of these experiences I face are unique to my culture. Having a man pay for a nice meal for me is a privilege that is more common in western culture than it is in other cultures. Having a man steer and anchor a kayak or request help from male workers seem so little and insignificant compared to the discrimination and violence that women in other cultures face. Although yes, it is still hurtful and a frustrating, I can definitely understand the importance of “intersectionality” and considering the struggles of all women.
Lorber, Judith. 1994. “‘Night to his Day’: The Social Construction of Gender.” Pp. 13-36 in Paradoxes of Gender. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Schilt, Kristen, and Laurel Westbrook. 2009. “Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: ‘Gender Normals,’ Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality.” Gender & Society 23(4):440-64.