After Diana starts a fight to defend her brother in Girlfight, she’s told, “guess you never learned how to be a lady”. This line resonated in my mind, and not just because comments like these are instrumental in reinforcing gender roles. The comment struck me because it sounded so much like the “be a lady” comments I constantly heard growing up and never thought twice about.
“Sit like a lady.” “Don’t position your legs like that, you’re a lady!” “What kind of a lady are you, you room is impossibly messy!” These were all comments I received when I was younger. And the only thought that ran through my mind after hearing one of those was “Too bad, I guess I’m not a lady.” Now that I think about it, what does being a lady have to do with anything? Having good posture and being organized are traits that we should all strive for, not just females.
Here’s a personal anecdote for why sexism is so hard to reverse. Before I came to college, I didn’t mind gender roles because I grew up in a household where they were constantly practiced. For example, I was doted on as a child because I was girl and needed to be cared for while my brother received much less tenderness because he was a boy and needed to learn to be tough. It was only after arriving to college and taking a few Women and Gender Studies classes that I started unlearning my truths.
Like me, there are many others who grew up around gender bias to the extent that sexism is second nature to them. Consequently, in order to reach a gender-equal society, there’s a lot of unlearning of truths that needs to happen.
To all of you who are wondering: Yes, I still sit slouched and with my legs jutting out. And yes, my room is still impossibly messy.