My grade school only offered sign-ups for volleyball to girls. I never asked why, but I think my sixth grade self recognized the incongruence between male and female opportunities already.
I also remember my eighth grade homeroom teacher saying that he had to treat the boys better because they were used to being treated inferiorly by their female teachers. This comment pissed me off, for lack of a better term. At the time, I didn’t know how to reply or why it made me so mad. But, now I know that the comment was based on a laundry list of gendered assumptions.
- Women have been the primary teachers throughout male’s grade-school years. Women tend to and should work with children.
- Each gender must automatically favor its own gender. Female teachers could not have treated male students equally because males and females are always working against each other.
- Grade school teachers coddle female students disproportionately, while leaving male students to fend for themselves.
Perhaps some of these are true. But, to combat these stereotypes, I became a self-dubbed bachelorette.
Just typing that phrase feels funny. No one uses bachelorette to refer to an unmarried woman unless it’s during her bachelorette party. Usually, the phrases single, cat lady, spinster, old maid, etc. refer to a woman who hasn’t married by her fifties. An unmarried bachelor in his fifties conjures an image of an independent, handsome man drinking a beer in a cool loft overlooking a busy city street, not a frumpy, lonely woman knitting her cats’ sweaters on a Friday night.
In high school and college, I may have cussed my way out of typical femininity, but it landed me directly in the masculinity box. I didn’t all of a sudden earn the respect of all chauvinistic men or break all the constraints of gender roles for men and women by downplaying all my feminine traits.
I still work through the dichotomous gender roles set up in society. To change our gender roles, gender must be seen as the continuum that it is instead of two distinct categories. I’ll leave you with a quote from Sue Grafton, a contemporary author of detective novels. She says,
“Ego, as implied, is the public aspect of our personality, the carefully constructed persona, or mask, we present to the world as the ‘truth’ about us. The Shadow is our unconscious, the Dark Side—the dangerous, largely unacknowledged cauldron of ‘unacceptable’ feelings and reactions that we’d prefer not to look at in ourselves and certainly hope to keep hidden from others.”
Have we changed anything besides the mask that society wears? Has prejudice merely become our hidden dark side?