In a world where there is more than just black and white, where there is a third side to every story, and where there is a lie beneath each truth. Specifically, when it comes to gender there are more than just what it means to be male or female. Looking back many decades ago, such topic about gender did not raise any awareness because men and women knew their roles and what was expected of them. However, in this generation it has become a concept that we cannot neglect. Since early 19th century until now women’s roles began to gradually change like being able to vote, get a job, and go to school. These changes are what the society is not yet used to because it is against the norm. In other words, the roles of women today is not strictly being housewives or submissive. Similarly, men do not always have to be the provider or dominant. Nonetheless, in today’s generation there is more than just simply being categorized as male or female. There are bisexual, lesbian, homosexual, and transgender. So what roles do we expect from people that fall under these categories? With that being said, my questions were answered in the class GENDERS. Not only did I discover that many people like my classmates are sensitive and respectful to the gender issue but I can also relate my own experience to another female regarding expectation of a woman.
To hear my classmates’ opinion about different sexualities in our first GENDERS activity gives me faith in a more accepting and open minded society. For one, everyone was participating in the activity. This shows that they were willing to learn and share their views on such a sensitive topic. Two, we all seem to be in sync on how we feel about the complexity of sexuality today. Despite the norm or how socially constructed we are, we have a generation that is open to change, a generation that does not see only black or white, but also seeks to explore the existence of the grey area. According to the drawing from each group indicate that we all are well aware of the different categories of sexuality. Even though as individuals we might have different ways of measuring or categorizing sexuality, what is important is that we are mindful of our actions and what is happening around us. This is the kind of attitude we all have as future of the society. For example, if we see a guy dress or act feminine, we do not look down on him for being different because he does not conform to how a man is supposed to act. Instead, we try to recognize his intelligence and friendliness. However we cannot say that the socially constructed roles of male and female will switch today or tomorrow. Since these norms have been long accepted, it will take a lifetime for such dramatic change. This is a concept that will change over time as long as we learn to accept it and analyse with an open mind.
To further explore the gender issue, I chose to interview my mother about her role as a daughter and sister when she was younger. As a result, her answers seem to match what we all know as the socially constructed society. Born and raised in an Asian family is tough especially for the previous generations. The fact that my mother’s family were considered middle class did not deprive her of her duties and restrictions as a woman. “My main focus was to study,” she says proudly. Receiving education was the only one liberating aspect of her teenage life because she gets to experience the world outside of home, where her only goal is to study. It was also her only opportunity to hang out with friends. During that time, women’s roles were already improving except for their duties at home. I told her that back in the days, women were expected to stay home and do chores. I asked if she was supposed to do any of those. She answered, “yes, after I came home from school I had to cook and clean and help take care of my siblings, it was something I did without questioning.” What caught my attention was when she mentioned that she conformed to her role as a female without questioning. This suggests that her role as a daughter and sister was something normal, natural, almost like second nature. She knew what she had to do and she knew how to meet those expectations. Then, I asked if she was given the same opportunity to go out and play like her younger brothers. She replied, “no, I barely get to go out because if something bad happens or if I come home pregnant, it gives a bad reputation to the family.” I continued to ask what happens if her brothers go out and happen to get into fights or steal things, wouldn’t that also give the family a bad reputation. All she did was shrug her shoulders as a response, and then later answered, “but back then no one in her family did such bad things.” So, I could kind of sense that she herself was not quite sure how to answer my second question since it was something that men and women were expected to conform to without questioning. Knowing that she did not get to freely enjoy playing outside with her friends like her brothers and instead had to stay home and do chores. I asked her if she ever thought about rebelling against her parents, she denied, “even if I couldn’t go out all the time but I made sure I make my parents proud of my good grades in school so they would be more lenient when I ask to hang out with friends.” I can see that her parents were strict and had expectations in her like doing well in school and also practice to become a housewife like doing chores and taking care of her siblings. So there were limits to what she could do like hang out with friends only on weekends whereas her brothers can play outside anytime. However what was important was that she did not rebel even if she feels sad and confused sometimes. It was the familiarity of the idea that as a female she has certain things she must do without questioning.
When it finally came to me, my parents are more lenient because they understand the circumstance of today’s generation where we must interact and socialize. One similar experience I have with my mom as a child is that I can’t always go out all the time. My parents also hold the belief that if something bad happens to me it will bring a bad reputation to the family. I am also expected to be able to do house chores without questioning. These are the things that they instil in me so I have become used to it and don’t even question anymore. At times I feel like rebelling but deep down I know that this is something that will always go hand in hand with being a woman. That is why I mentioned earlier that it would take a life time to change such roles, but it will gradually change if people are open minded to it.
Gender, Sex and the 21st Century
“Falling” in love is a sort of a rite of passage in adolescence so almost always every adolescent in the world has experienced “love.” However, love seems complicated in cyberspace owing to the latter’s virtual nature.
What better song to capture this experience than The Only Exception by Paramore? The song talks about pining for someone who is not real or for someone whose existence is only “real” in cyberspace. But what happens to love if it is mediated by the impersonal internet or computer? Is love any less real in this situation?
2012 has been an incredible year for Malala, a 15-year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban group while she was aboard a school bus. Because she was and still is a fighter, she survived the assault. But what is even more remarkable is her story and why she was targeted by the Pakistani Taliban. This story earned her a nomination spot in the 2012 Time Magazine Person of the Year and just recently, a prize from Simone de Beauvoir Foundation.
In their introductory piece, Time writes: “At first, the Pakistani girl blogged anonymously about her desire to go to school without fear in a part of the country where the Taliban had once imposed strict Shari’a law. Then, with the surprising encouragement of her devout Muslim father, Malala Yousafzai wrote in her own name and revealed her face to the world, a symbol of young women around the world seeking empowerment. She became the subject of a documentary and a celebrity of sorts in the world of nonprofit organizations. Who knew that such prominence would put her life at risk? On Oct. 9, 2012, Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus, sought her out and shot her in the head. Eventually airlifted to a hospital in Britain, she survived her severe wounds. In the meantime, Malala, now 15, has become an inspiration not only in her native Pakistan — where the culture wars over women’s rights and religious diversity have taken many violent turns — but all around the globe. Malala is now a first name that hundreds of thousands of people know. But in a way, hers is an even more moving story, because the saga is not just of a brave young girl but also of a father willing to risk local opprobrium to raise his daughter — not a son — as a proud example for the world. It is among the tenderest of stories in the world of conservative Islam.”
Congratulations, Malala! As my former INTFILO student and now the editor-in-chief of the Lasallian, Patrick Ong, says, “People have always frowned on activism. thank you Malala for showing that activism is more than just teenage angst. I hope Lasallians could learn from her.”
photo credit: Time Magazine, accessed January 13, 2012.