Unlearning the Truths

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.

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2 thoughts on “Unlearning the Truths

  1. Jenny, thanks for your honesty in posting this! I love your statement about “unlearning these truths.” Prior to this semester, I had never taken a course dealing with Women’s and Gender Studies, and I agree that it can be initially shocking to reflect back on childhood experiences. I too have been told to “sit like a lady” and to keep my room clean because I’m a girl; meanwhile, my brother is hardly criticized for slouching.

    I also loved your line: “Having good posture and being organized are traits that we should all strive for, not just females.” Why are women held to a higher standard than men? Why is it more socially acceptable for men to have bad posture? Why don’t men get criticized just as often as women do?

  2. I think you bring up an interesting concept, this idea of unlearning things that we have been taught throughout our childhood because we realize that these are manifestations of gender biases or racist ideals. This idea of unlearning is extremely difficult because our homes are generally our first introductions to real life ideologies and they shape the way we think. The difficulty comes in rejecting the ideologies held by most members of our family and making the conscious decision to raise our children differently. But even in raising our children “differently” we can’t help but to still perpetuate ideologies that might be detrimental to other groups.

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