Is my gender a disadvantage?

What I gathered from this weeks readings, as well as our class discussion and years of exposure to popular media, was the extreme notion that people are all different. I know this might come as a big to surprise to everyone (and all sarcasm aside, I think it actually does surprise some), but unless we are planning to write 7 billion new laws to give or deny permission for the controversial choices of each unique individual, some concessions are going to have to be made.

There is no cookie cutter outline for gender or sexuality that is going to satisfy America. We have men and women and every possibility in between. The gender we assume is not always the case and for many, that can be scary. We assign gender roles that detract from the true nature of certain individuals and we critique those who cross gender lines. In some cases, we react differently toward individuals of opposite genders even as they pursue the same acts. As an example, let’s examine the point introduced by Schwartz and Rutter about the variance in socially acceptable acts and tendencies across genders. Boys and girls are traditionally assigned to blue and pink things at a young age. While there seems to be little harm in that, societal pressures increase as children reach puberty. In middle school, you don’t see many boys wearing pink shirts or girls that play football. Girls that still play rough with the boys are met with a disapproving look by their mothers and often proudly take on the title of “tomboys.” As puberty ends, men take on a new role of the aggressor, the pursuant who is expected to be bold and forward; women are expected to resist and retain an exterior innocence.

This is all well and good, if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. I find assertive guys attractive and I’ll admit that looking back, I am embarrassed by the tomboy I chose to be before I learned how to dress like a girl.

The problem, however, is that this viewpoint escalates. It can destroy the lives of those who do not meet the standards we now expect of adults. There is a double standard for men and women in regard to sexual behavior. Men are socially expected to be aggressive and extreme in sexual acts while women who are expected to be loyal and respectable. This has recently been an issue in the pop culture media as people express outrage in the “Trampire vs. Chris Brown” debate. Essentially, Kristen Stewart was trashed by fans and the media for her infidelity in her relationship with co-star Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolitan’s hottest guy of the year; around the same time, Chris Brown’s newest album was released and more media attention was given to his continued success despite being convicted of assaulting his equally famous girlfriend three years prior.

The point is not that either of these actions deserve our attention. I simply wish to point out the disparity in social opinion as the general public trashed the female offender and still praises the male.

While on the topic of judging actions with a gender-bias, I wish to explain my opinion on a comment made in class on Tuesday. Briefly after discussing varying sexuality, the frequent occurrence of female/female public displays while “partying” in our generation and environment was mentioned. While I find the physical interaction of all sexualities acceptable, the question that arose related to the motivation behind this form of PDA. At Emory, like every where else, we have people that range from 1 to 6 on the Kinsey scale identifying as homosexual, heterosexual or varying levels of bisexual. In recognition of the rights of these individuals, I fully support equal acceptance of PDA from all couples. I think it’s an expression of desire and confidence in a relationship and personally enjoy the feeling of openly displaying my relationship. In class, however, Dr. Troka posed the question, “does it matter if they’re lesbian or straight?” Most people said no without pause. I disagree. I honestly believe there is a fundamental problem created by encouraging female displays for the entertainment of men.

It’s often said that the sexuality of women is much more fluid than that of men. While statistically this is supported by the research that was surmised during the 1990’s, I think the effects of social culture reinforces this mentality. Straight men, and perhaps some women, are threatened by the idea of male/male intimacy. Therefore, I think the strictness of identifying as either homosexual or heterosexual is a way to avoid some of the judgment that men who are attracted to men often face. The same intimacy shared by two women however, can be passed over as entertainment by men and often viewed with curiosity or alternatively disdain by other women, depending on the environment.

Many people experience societal pressure, imagined or real. As a formerly (and sometimes still) awkward person, my personal goal is to arrive at acceptance. Sexual identity is very personal and I think we owe it to each other to find a way to support every individual that enters our lives in their evolving, or fulfilled identity.

The trouble with talking is…

…You can’t always communicate your feelings.

In the first English entry of Yun Ch’i Ho’s journal, Yun acknowledges his desire to increase his understanding and proficiency in the English language. He says his “vocabulary is not as yet rich enough to explain all what I want to say. I am therefore determined to keep a Diary in English.” While his grammar and handwriting both appear to improve throughout the next few entries, a lack of understanding of the words of his peers is apparent. Within the first page Yun discusses the faith of both a white school friend, Jordan, and another young black man, Jacob. Yun defines during his discussion of faith, the problem he has with his surroundings. Jacob is extremely devout and happy, yet Yun’s white schoolmates are part of what keeps Jacob isolated and ignorant. Similarly he feels isolated by his own racial difference that keep him isolated and ignorant in many ways.

In describing the Methodist faith he has adopted, Yun describes his doubt in a society whose treatment and disregard for black people goes against what he believed was the very foundation of their religious beliefs. Just a few weeks later, Yun writes about a published Methodist missionary statement that condemns every aspect of his homeland, crushing the minimal hope he had in finding cultural acceptance in the Emory community. What’s worse, Yun goes so as far as to accept their insults and rationalize the critical view white people have of Korea. The paper said, “the missionaries would rather go hungry [in America], than be the president of Korea.”

Yun would later describe how opposed he was to removing a white woman from her privileged existence in Georgia, to a less stately home in Korea explaining that it would be an insult to her. Despite this conclusion that reached Yun much later in his life, as the time of writing his diary he was clearly hurt by the derogatory depiction of his homeland and which contributed to his lack of confidence in romancing women while at Emory. The second hand evidence published about Yun’s time at Emory suggests other influences of romantic suppression on him. This evidence stands out to me as a real blow to a man’s self esteem, especially one who is already so isolated and alone.

Due to cultural and social divides that still exist at Emory today, I have seen first hand how limiting these divisions can be. Even in an academic world where our professional networks cross all race, gender and religious barriers, there are still pronounced obstacles in social and romantic settings. There are ethnic groups that exist almost entirely independently on campus, gender equality groups that still avoid other social organizations and religious groups that recruit as competitively as Greek life.

There are still nostalgic cultural bounds that form the expectations many students face at home. Even in a place that brings Jews, Muslims and Christians together in droves, the possibility of pursuing a romantic relationship across those barriers is still questionable. Things that define our family’s past can make crossing the paths and boundaries almost impossible as it conflicts with our effort to seek our family’s approval. Even when the home we have here is open and accepting (which it certainly isn’t always) the homes that we go back to are often still isolated and underhandedly discriminatory.