Blog 9: Masculinity as Homophobia

In his essay “Masculinity as Homophobia,” Michael Kimmel argues that homophobia is perpetuated by men’s fear of being seen as unmanly or feminine. Kimmel first discusses what he perceives to be the real definition of the word “homophobia.” He argues that this word has nothing to do with sexual orientation (the fear of gay people or the fear of being perceived as gay); rather, it is a fear of being perceived as unmanly, especially by other men. This fear starts at a very young age, when little boys are scared of being seen as or called a “sissy” at the playground. Later on, during adolescence and adulthood, this fear persists and dictates the way men behave because every mannerism, such as the way they walk or talk, could be interpreted as a sign of their lack of virility.

Another point that Kimmel discusses is that of power. To be a man means that you have to be more powerful than women as well as other men. In the feminist view, men, as a group, have all the power, in both the public and private spheres, whereas women, as a group, are powerless. The feminist point of view clashes with men’s actual experience: since a young age, men are taught that they are entitled to power, yet they do not feel powerful. This feeling of powerlessness, as Kimmel argues, is due to the fact that only a tiny fraction of men benefit from the construct of masculinity, meaning white heterosexual middle-class men. These men practice the politics of exclusion by considering anyone who does not fall under these categories as “unmanly.” They are threatened by other men and try to exclude as many of them from the definition of “manhood.” Therefore, men discriminate the majority of men on the basis of race, class, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation in order to elevate themselves and feel somewhat powerful. It is the politics of exclusion that helps us understand how the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia emerge and persist.

Kimmel’s arguments, in terms of both the fear of being seen as unmanly and the quest for power, can be exemplified by the case of Donald Trump. In fact, ever since a young age, when he went to a military academy, Trump never wanted to be seen as weak. Therefore, he gladly got into fights at school in order to demonstrate to other boys his strength and power. As he got older, he continued embracing the playboy mentality of his teenage years by dating and marrying models, whom he used as evidence of his virility. Not only does Trump seemingly have a fear of being emasculated, but he also has a strong quest for power. First, it started as a competition with his father. Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was a successful businessman, and Donald desperately tried to surpass him. Then, once he surpassed him and became a multi-millionaire himself, Trump still wanted more power. However, in the business world, Trump was seen as a terrible businessman, especially by bankers, and was therefore criticized. Moreover, socially, the old money elite never saw Trump as one of them and never accepted him. Therefore, as a response to all the criticism he received from people around him and the media, he sought the biggest sign of power anyone could have by becoming the president of the United States.

On his quest for power, Donald Trump put down many groups of people in order to elevate himself. For instance, he believed that men are better than women. However, he did employ women to work for him because he believed that since women are inferior, a good woman is better than ten good men since she will work much harder to prove herself. Not only is Donald Trump sexist, but he is also racist as demonstrated by the fact that he and his father were accused of discriminating against Black people when hiring. Donald Trump is a perfect example of the type of masculinity that Kimmel discusses in his essay, the type of man who is so afraid of being seen as unmanly that he goes out of his way to prove his manliness most often by putting down others.

Blog 9: Group Project Reflection

When we were given the task of creating a campaign to raise awareness about a specific issue relating to sexual violence, my team and I, Covfefe Memes, decided to focus on sexual misconduct perpetrated by professors against students. We decided to focus on this specific issue because we noticed that there is a serious lack of awareness and research on this type of sexual violence. In fact, while doing my research, I could not find a single awareness campaign that focused on this type of abuse. Moreover, I was unable to find statistics or large-scale studies that investigated the occurrence of professors’ sexual misconduct towards students as it seems to be an area of sexual violence that is often neglected. Therefore, because of the general lack of awareness about this issue, my team and I knew that a campaign about it is heavily needed.

In terms of research, since we unfortunately could not find statistics, we focused on individual accounts of sexual violence by professors. For instance, I found out that recently there have been five professors at McGill’s Faculty of Arts who have been accused of sexual misconduct by students, yet the university is not doing anything to address these complaints (Rukavina, 2018, para. 2). Some of the professors’ inappropriate behaviours included: “holding office hours in bars, […] routinely sleeping with students who are in their classes, [and] being in abusive relationships with students they’re supervising” (para. 3). The most shocking and infuriating part of this story is that even though the administrators know about the accusations, they do not act on them by sanctioning and disciplining the professors in question, and they even discourage victims from filing complaints (paras. 5, 9). Because of accounts such as this one, our group wanted to help victims come forward and join other victims in order to facilitate action against such abusive professors.

While researching my group’s topic, I found a very interesting website called Geocognition Research Laboratory, which had a page called “The Academic Sexual Misconduct and Violations of Relationship Policies Database” (Geocognition Research Laboratory, 2018). This page, which was written as a WordPress blog post, included a spreadsheet database of over 700 cases of sexual misconduct by professors. The database was very detailed; it included information such as the name of the faculty member, the year that the sexual misconduct occurred, the official position of the faculty member, and the final outcome of the complaint. I found that this database was very much in line with my group’s idea of increasing awareness faculty abuse of power by creating a specific website dedicated to that goal.

My team’s campaign consisted of posters that illustrated examples of sexual misconduct by professors, such as holding office hours in bars and making suggestive comments about a student’s appearance, which were inspired by the examples of inappropriate behaviours we found while doing research. We decided to make the scenarios in our posters cartoonish and non-gendered in order to both attract students’ attention and be as inclusive as possible. The posters, which would be displayed all around university campuses, would include a link at the bottom, which would lead students to the Rate My Creeper forum we invented, which is a platform where students can anonymously voice their concerns about certain professors who act or have acted inappropriately. Similar to the existing database that I found, the platform we created would be dedicated to the issue of faculty members’ sexual misconduct, yet it would differ by being more forum-based. The goal of our platform was to both warn other students of potentially abusive professors as well as to allow students who have had similar experiences with a given professor to come together and file a collective complaint which would potentially have more impact. My team and I chose posters as a campaign strategy because we believed that students, who have to walk all over campus, would inevitably see at least one of our eye-catching posters and decide to look at it. Moreover, since we wanted to promote as much concrete action as we could, we decided to create the platform which would not only increase awareness but also, hopefully, lead to positive change in professor-student relationships.

Working on developing this awareness campaign was a very rewarding experience for me. In fact, I liked how the members of my group and I kept building on each other’s ideas. For instance, at the beginning, after discussing the issue of sexual assault on campus, we came up with the idea of addressing specifically the abuse perpetrated by professors. This eventually led to the idea of not only increasing awareness about it since it is a neglected issue, but also creating a tool that would allow concrete change, which resulted in the Rate My Creeper website. I found our brainstorming sessions very fruitful because they led to a media campaign we were all very proud of. Although my group and I ultimately created a campaign we were very satisfied with, we started the project with some creative disagreements. We had difficulty agreeing on the issue we would address, the audience of the campaign and even the media strategy we would use. However, through persistent brainstorming, exchanges of ideas and compromises, we were able to agree on all these aspects and develop our campaign. Looking back on this experience, I think that the fact that we had disagreements was a good thing: it allowed the members of my group and I to come up with even more ideas in order to satisfy everyone and it reminded me of the importance of compromises. In addition, I think that our disagreements are a testament to our passion to create the most impactful and original campaign we could.

Overall, I am very happy with Covfefe Memes’ campaign. I think that it would be very successful at combating instances of sexual misconduct perpetrated by professors. In fact, because our campaign includes two media – both posters and the online platform – I think that the chances of it getting noticed are very high. By placing the posters all over universities, I believe that students will inevitably see them. Moreover, I think that the posters will also threaten abusive professors and hopefully prevent them from acting inappropriately. With respect to the platform, I believe that its originality (as a forum dedicated to reporting cases of sexual misconduct) yet familiarity (since it is based on the design of the very popular Rate My Professor website) will encourage students who want to disclose their experience to use it. By concentrating all the discussions on this platform and making them visible, I believe that students will be able to organize collectively to file complaints and prevent faculty abuses of power from continuing, which is the ultimate goal.

References

Geocognition Research Laboratory. (2018). The Academic Sexual Misconduct and Violations of Relationship Policies Database [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://geocognitionresearchlaboratory.com/2018/08/20/the-academic-sexual-misconduct-database/

Rukavina, S. (2018, April 4). After Concordia, McGill faces its own #metoo moment. CBC. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca

Blog 8: Group Project Research

The issue my team and I want to address in our project is that of faculty abuse of power (sexual violence) in high school, college, and university. The goal of our campaign would be to help victims of this sort of violence come forward, given that it is even harder for them to do so because of the power relations between students and professors.  

One of the ways my team and I would like to raise awareness about the issue and show victims that they are not alone is by creating an online platform where students can voice their concerns about teachers to warn other students. While doing research I found a website with a similar idea, Geocognition Research Laboratory. The website has a specific page called “The Academic Sexual Misconduct and Violations of Relationship Policies Database,” which contains a list of over 700 cases of sexual misconduct by professors. I think that a website such as this is very useful because it compiles all the cases where professors have been found guilty of sexual misconduct and it allows students to be more informed. The only shortcoming of this website in my opinion is that it only includes cases where the defendant was found guilty of a sexual crime. Therefore, the website does not include cases that were dismissed for lack of proof (which often happens when dealing with sexual assault), or incidents that have not been reported to the police or university by the victim out of fear. This is why our team proposes a somewhat more radical type of platform where students would be able to express themselves about interactions with certain teachers without having gone through the formal procedure of reporting such cases. 

Another issue my team and I should perhaps consider is the issue of seemingly consensual relationships between professors and students. In December 2017, An act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions, also known as Bill 151, was passed. This bill requires all higher education institutions to adopt policy regarding sexual violence by September 1st, 2019, which also includes policy on “intimate, amorous or sexual relationships that may develop between students and persons having an influence over their academic progress” (National Assembly, 2017, p. 2). With the approach of the implementation of such policy in every higher education institution, it is important to sensitive students about what they might perceive as consensual relationships with professors. Because of the relationship of power between professors and students – professors assign grades, they write letters of recommendation, and overall, they have a lot of power when it comes to a student’s future – sexual relationships between students and professors are not actually consensual. I think that my team and I might want to consider this issue when designing our campaign in order to sensitize students about these relationships. 

Unfortunately, I was not able to find an awareness campaign that focused solely on the issue of sexual violence perpetrated by faculty members. I think that the lack of awareness about such an important topic is proof that the campaign my team and I want to present is essential. 

Link to the Geocognition Research Laboratory website with cases of sexual misconduct by professors: 
https://geocognitionresearchlaboratory.com/2018/08/20/the-academic-sexual-misconduct-database/  

Blog 7: Effective Campaigns against Sexual Violence

The first campaign I find very effective is the “Where Do You Stand?” campaign by Men Can Stop Rape, an organization that seeks to end the culture of violence, specifically violence against women. I think this campaign is very effective because it shifts the responsibility of prevention away from women: instead of showing prevention and self-defense techniques women can use, the “Where Do You Stand?” campaign demonstrates ways that men can stop the assault or harassment of women. I think that the strength of this campaign is that it provides concrete examples of what men can do or say to prevent sexual violence. Moreover, the advertisements mention specific names (e.g., Nicole, Chris, Kate, etc.) which makes them more real: the advertisements do not appear generic, they appear personal. 

Another campaign I find effective is the “It’s On Us” campaign created by Barack Obama to prevent sexual violence against both women and men on college campuses. The goal of this campaign is to encourage people to stand up and intervene when they witness sexual violence or potential sexual violence. I think that this campaign is effective, especially in college campuses, because many of the public service announcements issued by this campaign are narrated by celebrity spokespeople whom many students look up to. In addition, the videos that are not narrated by celebrities are still relatable to students because of their format, such as the text-message video.

The third effective campaign I found is the Salvation Army’s 2015 campaign against domestic violence in South Africa. The advertisement is based on “The Dress,” a viral Internet debate about the colors of a dress in a particular photograph: people were debating whether the dress in question was gold and white, or black and blue. The Salvation Army’s advertisement is effective because it uses an element of popular culture that, at the time, was highly debated to convey its message. Another effective element is the use of a shocking image: the model in the advertisement is highly bruised and beaten, which does not go unnoticed. Even though this campaign addresses domestic violence instead of sexual violence, I think that the ideas behind it successfully convey the message and are applicable to future sexual assault campaigns.

Blog 6: International Women’s Week – Sophie Labelle

I think that the key message in Sophie Labelle’s presentation is that there should be proper representation of marginalized people in the media. In fact, during her talk, she discussed LGBTQ representation in movies, TV shows and books. She pointed out the fact that when the media portrays characters who are part of the LGBTQ community, the characters’ sexuality or gender identity becomes the focal point of who they are, as if they have no personality. Moreover, depictions of members of the LGBTQ community are often negative or dramatic: they tend to only showcase the hardships associated with this identity, such as coming out to an unsupportive family. Sophie Labelle, for her part, believes that there should be more positive or even neutral depictions of LGBTQ, especially transgender people: people’s gender identity should be presented as just another part of who they are, as opposed to a defining trait. Therefore, she creates comics where the characters, who happen to be transgender, lead normal lives and participate in normal activities.

After listening to Sophie Labelle’s talk, I gained a much better understanding of what it means to be “assigned” a gender at birth. I never really thought of what transgender people must feel like being in body that is different from their gender identity; this presentation made me more conscious of the realities transgender people have to live through. Moreover, I understood the importance of having adequate representation of marginalized people, meaning representations that are more positive to counteract the negative ones that we so often see. After talking to a few students, I realized that they too gained a deeper appreciation for adequate representation. They also enjoyed the presentation for its lighthearted tone and Sophie Labelle’s sarcasm and humour.

After doing some research on her, I found out that Sophie Labelle is very active in the transgender rights movement. For instance, she was a strong supporter of Bill C-16, which protects gender expression and gender identity in the Canadian law. Because of her staunch activism and the publication of her comics, she has received numerous death threats and had to temporarily shut down her social media accounts. I think it is truly inspirational how despite the negative backlash she received and continues to receive, she continues her work as an activist and author.

I would recommend this presentation to my friends because although it was not meant to be educational as Sophie Labelle said, I still learned from it. Moreover, I appreciated her wit and humour, which I think many of my peers would also enjoy.

Blog 5: Gender Equity in Aboriginal Cultures

As stated in the reading, Aboriginal communities were very diverse, and their diversity also extended to gender relations. However, all the societies had something in common: they were all egalitarian, meaning that they valued the roles of both men and women. In general, men’s roles were to hunt large prey, fish, and engage in warfare. Women, for their part, were in charge of trapping smaller prey, gathering berries, preparing food and clothes, and taking care of the children. Despite the fact that the tasks in the communities were separated according to gender, Aboriginals recognized that the roles were complementary and equally important. Other roles in Aboriginal communities, such as the important role of shaman, could be undertaken by either men or women, which demonstrates the egalitarianism of Aboriginals. With respect to leadership roles, most high positions, such as being member of the tribal council among the Iroquois, were reserved for men, but the men were chosen by women. In other communities, such as in Haida societies, women could even become chiefs.

Women were greatly respected in Aboriginal communities, given that they are the ones who bring in new life. This respect was reflected in the way descent functioned in many of these communities. In fact, many societies were matrilineal, meaning that descent was passed through the female line, as well as matrilocal, meaning that the husband was the one who moved to live with his wife. Aboriginals also recognized that gender is not binary: they recognized and accepted those whose gender identity did not correspond with their sex. In fact, they created a category of people called “two-spirit” to refer to those who had both feminine and masculine features.

In contrast to Aboriginals, Europeans had patriarchal views of gender relations: they believed that a wife is subordinate to her husband and that she must always obey him. Moreover, as European societies were very materialistic as well as being patriarchal, property was controlled by the husband. Just like in the Aboriginal communities, there was some variation in gender relations among Europeans, especially according to wealth: those belonging to the bottom of the social hierarchy were usually more egalitarian than those at the top. For instance, in “habitant” families, wives had some authority in the house and was respected, given their essential roles in terms of survival. However, among the elites, women of high rank were seen as inferior to the men of the same rank.

Looking at gender relations from a more contemporary view, we can see that despite the fact that we have made improvements in terms of equality between the genders, we are still far from the standards in Aboriginal communities. In fact, the recent political scandal involving Prime Minister Trudeau, SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould exemplifies that. Jody Wilson-Raybould, who used to be the attorney general of Canada, was demoted to minister of Veteran Affairs after she refused to set an out-of-court settlement with respect to the criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin. This example demonstrates the level of disrespect that women – even women in power who simply do their job – are subject to in our society. As an Aboriginal woman from the We Wai Kai Nation, Jody Wilson-Raybould also serves as Hiligaxste, meaning that she is in charge of correcting the chief’s path. It is interesting how in both of her roles – attorney general and Hiligaxste – she is required to make sure that rules are followed, yet in her role as an attorney general, she is punished for doing just that.

Although her presentation did not specifically address gender relations, Diane Labelle discussed other values that are important to Indigenous communities, specifically those relating to education. In fact, she mentioned that in Aboriginal traditions, learning is done holistically, meaning that different topics and subjects are taught simultaneously, and education is not constrained to a specific schedule. Moreover, students learn through concrete, real-life, examples: in her presentation, Diane Labelle gave the example of the students who decided to build and take care of a chicken coop. By doing so, they simultaneously learned mathematics, biology, marketing, etc. In contrast, in our Western society, academic disciplines are separated, and students have a harder time making connections between theory and real world. Therefore, Aboriginal traditions and values should perhaps be incorporated into the current Western system in order to promote success.

Gloria Allred

Gloria Allred was born on July 3, 1941 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a working-class Jewish family. Since 1975, she has been a women’s rights attorney in the United States known for taking on high-profile cases. Among her most well-known cases, she has represented Nicole Simpson’s family in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, as well as 33 of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. Allred has also founded the law firm Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, which handles more women’s rights cases than any other private law firm in the United States. Not only does she represent women whose rights have been disregarded and who have been discriminated against because of their gender/sex, she also represents victims of discrimination on the basis of race, disability and membership in the LGBT community. For instance, she represented Jenna Talackova, a transgender Miss Universe Canada contestant, who was disqualified from the competition because she was born male.

I chose to talk about Gloria Allred because I share her passion for the advocacy of women’s rights. In fact, I hope to become a lawyer like her someday and focus on cases involving the protection of human rights. Moreover, coming from a Jewish background myself, I also believe in the principle of tikkun olam, which refers to the fact that human beings have the responsibility to fix the world through good deeds: we should promote positive actions, rather than negative ones if we hope to end injustice.

Although I hold the same fundamental beliefs as Gloria Allred, I believe that we are different in the way we express and defend these beliefs. In fact, dealing with highly-publicized cases, Allred is known for being very vocal while defending her clients’ rights through her media-centered strategy. She has even been called an “ambulance chaser” by her critics for using the media as a platform to condemn injustices in cases involving famous personalities. For my part, I do not use my voice as much as Gloria Allred (nor as much as I should) to condemn the injustices that I see around me. I am not as courageous as her to speak my mind, which is why I find her tenacity so admirable.

Not only do I find Gloria Allred inspirational because of all the victims she has defended, I also find the reasons that led her to become a women’s rights lawyer truly remarkable. In 1966, while on vacation in Mexico, she was raped by a physician at gunpoint and subsequently became pregnant. After discovering her pregnancy, she sought an abortion at a time when abortion was illegal. The illegal abortion was so poorly done that she almost lost her life as a result. However, what I find inspirational about her story is that she took all the pain and suffering she felt as a result of this traumatic event and turned it into something positive: she became a women’s rights lawyer and was able to defend the rights of those who had been victimized like her.

For me, an inspirational person is someone who has qualities that you admire and would like to see in yourself; it is someone who therefore motivates you to become a better version of yourself. In Gloria Allred’s case, I find her relentless determination and passion for human rights truly admirable and I hope to be as good of a lawyer as her someday.

Link to the trailer of a Netflix documentary about Gloria Allred

Blog 4: The Impact Of Emotional Labour

One of the examples brought up by the author that most resonated with me was that of childcare. In fact, in traditional heterosexual relationships, the responsibility of taking care of children mostly falls on women. When men take care of their children, they are thought of as “helping” their partner rather than doing the work they are supposed to do, since they consider childcare a female role given that women are more “nurturing.” What I find especially interesting is that most of the tasks involved in childcare are “unrelated to the biology of birthing and breastfeeding infants: bathing, feeding, and dressing, for example” (Chemaly, 2018, p. 69). Therefore, the tasks involved in childcare are ones that men could do yet choose not to – either consciously or not – because of gender stereotypes and gender roles. Instead of taking care of their children with their partner, men spend their time relaxing: “fathers engage in leisure 47 percent of the time that mothers are taking care of kids” (Chemaly, 2018, p. 68). Because men are thought of as breadwinners, their “long day at work” is compensated by relaxation at home, despite the fact that there are many chores left to be completed. What especially disadvantages women is that even though they are also exhausted after their own long day at work, they have to do chores once they get home because they are expected to.  

Another example that resonated with me is the fact that women are expected to take care of relationships, meaning “sending holiday cards and gifts to family members, arranging teachers’ presents and coaches’ retirement parties” (Chemaly, 2018, p. 73). In fact, women are the ones who are expected to maintain the entire family’s social relationships because of their “caring nature.” With respect to my own family, I definitely see that this task fell on my mother most of the time. For instance, when I was younger, my mother was always the one who took me to stores to find gifts for my friends’ birthdays, the one who wrapped my gifts, the one who called my extended family members to check up on them, and the one who wrote thank you letters and arranged gifts for my teachers. I find it very interesting how women are expected to maintain relationships for the whole family given that men are also part of these relationships; if they want to keep a connection with the other party – be they the extended family, friends – they should make the effort to keep the connection instead of delegating that task to women. 

Given the emotional burden that women have to carry on a daily basis, I believe that it is imperative that we work as a society to combat this gender inequality. One way we could attempt to repair this imbalance is by teaching both girls and boys about equality. Both genders should be treated equally when it comes to housework, meaning that they should both learn how to do all the chores – cleaning, doing the dishes, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, etc. – with no regard to traditional gender roles. Moreover, I also believe that gender roles and expectations get ingrained into children’s minds through the toys with which they play; for instance, girls are expected to play with dolls, whereas boys are expected to play with construction blocks. These stereotypical games teach children very early on that women (or girls) are of the caring nature, whereas men (or boys) are the ones who build and actually do some form of “work.” Therefore, I believe that, in addition to sharing chores, girls and boys should be encouraged to play with all kinds of toys, not necessarily those associated with their gender, to avoid the internalization of gender roles. If we shape children the right way when they are young by teaching them equality, then they will grow up to be more egalitarian in their future relationships. 

Bonus Blog: “Teacher Causerie: AI and Empathic Illusions”

In their panel discussion called “Teacher Causerie: AI and Empathic Illusions,” five Vanier College teachers discussed the future of empathy in the age of technological advancements and artificial intelligence. The panelists brought up the concerns on whether human beings would start feeling empathy for machines, whether artificial intelligence would affect human beings’ ability to feel empathy for others, and whether artificial intelligence could be programmed to mimic human empathy in a believable way.

With respect to the first point, one of the teachers argued that it is very likely that as artificial intelligence becomes more developed – i.e., more “human-like” – people would start attributing human traits to machines and feel empathy for them. In fact, the teacher brought up a scientific study in which subjects were shown two videos: one depicted a robot hand being smashed, and the other, a human hand being smashed. The scientists found that subjects demonstrated the same brain activity and feelings of empathy while watching either video. Therefore, human beings are able to feel empathy for non-human entities. On the other side of the issue is whether artificial intelligence would be able to reciprocate this empathy to build relationships with human beings. As another teacher on the panel mentioned, artificial intelligence might be able to build relationships with human beings but these will be asymmetrical given that artificial intelligence is and will not be able to reciprocate empathy. In fact, it is not enough for human beings to simply talk to someone or something about their problems and issues; they need the assurance that the person (or thing) listening to them understands them and is able to put themselves in the person’s shoes.

After listening to the panel’s discussion, I became very worried about the future of empathy in the age of artificial intelligence. What particularly struck me is that artificial intelligence only allows to us to form illusory relationships with it, as these relationships are one-sided: human beings can become emotionally invested in the relationship, whereas machines do not feel anything. This is especially problematic for people who are lonely and who do not have a proper support system, as is the case of many elderly. They can become attached to an entity that will never reciprocate their feelings, which will end up hurting them. Therefore, I find advancements in the field of artificial intelligence particularly worrisome.

Blog 2: The World of Gender

In the final section, “Differences and Domination: Individuals in a Gendered Society,” the authors bring up various examples of gendered institutions. For instance, they discuss the structure of the workplace as being gendered. In fact, both the “temporal” and “spatial” organizations of work require women to stay in the private sphere, meaning that they are expected to remain at home to take care of their children at the expense of having a career. Although there is nothing inherently male about going to work and earning money, the way workplaces are structured impedes on women’s ability to become professionals. In fact, because of the distance between work and home as well as the expectation of being good homemakers – that is to make sure that the house is polished and that the children are taken care of – many women are discouraged from pursuing their dream of having a career in order to conform to their gender role.
Despite being discouraged from participating in male-dominated institutions, many women defy gender expectations and take part in these fields. However, as the authors mention, in order to succeed, women have to be “like men.” This is especially true in institutions such as the military and sports, where one’s success depends on physical strength and ability. For women to be taken seriously in these institutions, they need to have a muscled physique and act tough, which are traits associated with masculinity. Women therefore have to let go of their femininity in order to strive in these institutions, for which they are then punished. The gendered construction of institutions makes it almost impossible for women to succeed: the way institutions are structured makes it difficult for women to join them in the first place, and when they do participate in them, they are punished for deviating from their ascribed gender roles. In other words, it seems that women are disadvantaged for both being women and for straying away from traditional female gender roles.
I agree with the authors’ position that institutions are gendered, but I believe that it is merely because of a social construction: in many institutions, such as school, there in nothing inherently male about the institutions that would prevent women from engaging in them. Women are just as capable as men when it comes to intellectual capacities, perseverance and independent thought. However, women have difficulty navigating within these institutions because of the patriarchy, which privileges male dominance in every field.