Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Musings about gender

Twice a week, I drive an hour and back to Ball State; furthermore, quite a bit of this drive is through endless-seeming Indiana-ness. I seem to latch onto one or two specific topics per drive and just dwell/introspect on them during the drive. Tonight--gender. If we haven't chatted about it lately, I'm studying literature, focusing on women/gender stereotypes as they are portrayed/changing and why. The first time that I remember being interested in this specifically was undergrad w/ Dr. American Lit/seminar/feminist perspective prof at Manchester...whose kids watch hippie kid shows that are gender nuetral and not at all mainstream. Oh, and Isabel Allende's writing, too. Wonderful stuff.

My musings tonight were a continuation of self-absorbed conversations that I have had with me before. I'm always amazed when I think of how much each of us are simply because of the stereotypes that our parents label us with because of our particular chromosomal make-up. Gender is so laden with traditions--why must boys' rooms be blue? Who said that girls' hair should be long and have pretty bows in it?

I find this both fascinating and frustrating. When thinking about my own (unborn) children, how will I approach gender with them? To what extent will we follow tradition and guide our children into a specific gender category? Not that I mind exactly, but if only parents were more aware (and maybe they are and I'm selling humanity short) of the enormous influence that they have on their children. That said, I'm all for gender. I'm all for gender delineation. I just haven't reconciled in my mind to what extent it should matter, how absolutely. Likewise, I'm all for pink and blue...but let's not forget the yellow, green and purple. There is so much more, it seems to me, that comes with the weight of your gender other than strict stereotypes.

Gender stereotypes within the home disturb to me. But in turn, why does my generation find it more acceptable to break the stereotypes? My parents perform the same gender roles as their parents. Why don't we? Why do I find it abhorrent when my mom finds it acceptable?

The crux of my rant: as much as I don't want to, I do it, too. I speak heavily gendered language with my students. Maddening hypocrisy! I continue to spend thousands of dollars to teach myself about gender stereotypes and become more and more convinced about the detriment that such stereotypes cause, and then I reinforce them with my students who are already so jaded, disparaging and wrong.

Blessed Virginia Woolf--for all of her work that is so yay-women-if-only-we-all-had-a-small-allowance-to-support-ourselves-without-needing-to-rely-on-men-so-that-we-can-do-what-we-really-want-to-do, A Room of One's Own is really not as much women-rule!! as one might think. Nevertheless, an essential text for my interests. The next step is figuring out what kernel of insight no one has cracked open yet. The voice of the acclimated minority woman? A connection between the feminine voice and the elements of music? Other?

Thanks Dr. Ings and Isabel; I owe you.

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." Voltaire

P.S...anyone have any ideas for a really cool project that I can do for a grant? $8000 or less?

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