I’m delving into something a little out of my comfort zone here, so bear with me.
I always sign up for one “fun” class per semester, trying to take full advantage of my liberal arts education here at Wheaton College. The Communications department has been of particular interest to me, both for the variety of interesting classes and the applicability of the skills learned in them. This semester, I chose a class simply called “Gender”. Each week we cover different facets of the ‘gender issue’. We’ve examined the history of gender studies, memorized facts about 23 different groups associated with the Women’s Rights Movement, discussed gender identity and how we are imprinted with certain frameworks as children. We even read the latest breaking news story about the child, Storm, who is being raised ‘genderless’. It is truly fascinating to see how gender penetrates everything from psychology to language to physical behavior.
I’ve tried to keep myself at a distance from this deluge of information. I have no desire to get caught up in the whirlwind of the feminist movement, but I also do not want to be manipulated by the media. After just one month of Gender class, I find myself being more cognizant of the stereotyping and fixed mindsets. The topic of class today was gender in media. At one point, we were going systematically through the most popular network television shows and listing out how the characters either fulfilled or overcame particular gender roles. For example, we realized that on “Dancing With the Stars” the women were always scantily clad (no matter the body type) and were judged solely on their skills and appearance on the dance floor. Men on the show, however, seemed to be able to get away with two left feet, as long as their personality charmed the audience. An interesting double-standard.
My personal ‘light bulb’ moment, though, came when someone brought up the show “Revenge”. I have been an avid fan of this new show over the past few months and love the strong, female lead character, Emily. “Oh good! She’s breaking gender roles by playing an aggressive female instead of the victim,” I thought. Seconds later, though, another piece fell into place. While the show is driven by Emily’s vendetta against the rich folks in the Hamptons, there are often times when her strategic plan seems to fall apart. Without fail, she turns to males to help her out of sticky situations (Nolan, Jack, her samurai guru). The role of protector and wise authority is continually left to men.
Will I quit watching the show? Of course not! But it is incredibly interesting (and sometimes disconcerting) to filter out the messages that the media infuses into every program.
One issue brought up in our textbook really stayed with me. A study was conducted that attempted to discern the role that the internet played for each gender. It found that men were more likely to use it as an instrument to conduct affairs and get things done. They were more likely to upload videos and send short, succinct messages to their peers. Women, however, used online resources as a tool for building relationships. Women participated more in social networks, online forums, and in the blogosphere. Not only were they more actively engaged with people online, they were also looking for feedback. The author claims they were “actually working out what they thought and wanted to do in the process of blogging or chatting online. In other words, social media were platforms for them to actively construct identities and get response from others” (Wood, 264).
So is that what I’m doing right now? Am I in the process of being whittled down to my true self as my blog-audience critiques my thoughts and travel tales? I suppose to some degree it is true. I’ve considered this blog an outlet, and something of a honing mechanism, for my writing. But, it’s not a diary; I’m not spilling my darkest secrets. I am sharing things that I find interesting, in hopes that others will agree and engage in a particular topic with me. Thus, I hope that I manage to forgo the “active construction of identity” that my textbook attributes to female bloggers. My blog is not me, just a wild tangent of my mind.
I do think this blog post proves some of the gender stereotyping correct, though. The word “succinct” is rarely on the tip of my tongue. I’ll leave that role for the men.