Writing The Self Analysis – Gender

Part 1

In the following three stories, including my own, ill be writing how the girls featured in them were thought of as inadequate or lesser than by males. “As gender socialization influences every aspect of our perceptions both of ourselves and others” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2012, Pg. 60)  we’ll see how these women’s acts brought on discrimination and oppression. The girls in these stories were not performing their genders as society would deem appropriate, and were chastised for doing so. These stories all portray the normative narrative that women are the weaker sex.

In my own story I was put down for being one of two girls in a male dominated hockey game. My skill set and physical ability were made to feel inadequate compared to my male counterparts. In Dylan’s story  the same normal narrative as my own showed  in that the girl on his football team was made to feel weaker than her male team mates when the opposing teams coached vocalized that “they didn’t want to play against her because they felt they weren’t allowed to play as hard.” (Dylan). This infuriated me as Dylan had said earlier “It was because of her our running back already had ninety yards rushing by the end of the first half.” (Dylan). She was obviously outperforming her male opposition yet was still made to feel as if her gender was a limiting factor, in that her skill level was not the reason for her success but that the boys were afraid to hurt her. I related to this girl as I too know from my own experience how it feels to have an opposing team question your ability and make assumptions about you because of your gender. h In Drew’s story her and her friends where made to feel weaker when she didn’t make a hockey team despite being a better play than others who did because the coach didn’t think she could handle basketball and hockey at the same time. However,  many of the boys who made it were playing basketball too. Drews story reminded me of my own story in that she felt anger at the unfairness of the decision. She expressed “The sadness I felt from not making the team turned into anger.” (Drew). I believe this anger was triggered by the same issue for both of us in that the unfairness in both situations was caused because of our gender and the falsehood that we were they weaker gender.

The following stories prove that we live in a patriarchal society or a society that acts on “The belief in the inherent superiority of men and male norms and the organization of society based on this belief”  (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2012, Pg. 103). This is where the normal narrative of women being the weaker sex grows from. The following stories prove that women are indeed not weaker than man but oppressed in a society that believes this to be true. This normal narrative is kept alive by many people looking at the anecdotal evidence rather than examining patterns as anecdotal evidence is “superficial, limited to interpretation, and not generalizable” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2012, Pg. 11). In all three of the stories even though intense emotion was felt no one spoke out against the unfairness. This is most likely due to the common rebuttals we knew we would most likely face from our male opposition. A common rebuttal heard when standing up for women is invalidating claims of oppression as oversensitivity. As each of us where the minorities in the situation we hesitated to show our emotion in fear of being told something a long the lines of “girls are so sensitive, I was joking”.

Part 2

A story that stood out to me in how disruptive it was to the normative narrative of females being the weaker sex was Amber’s story. She wrote about her powerful experience with her new born son. The story was set in the hospital just after Amber had given birth to her son, focusing on a powerful moment where she described the joy and pride she felt for her new born. One part of her story that highlighted this emotion was where she wrote “Being a mother and raising a child of my own; such a stereotypical role as a female, but one I was beyond proud to fulfill in every aspect.” (Amber). The normative narrative is disrupted as Amber had arguably just done the most powerful thing a human body can perform; birth. There’s no arguing that there is any sort of weakness in giving birth. No one, unlike in the other stories made Amber feel less than for her role of being female; in fact they seemed to make her feel more prideful. Her husband showed much of the same Joy and pride that she felt too as she wrote “His pride and love for his son showed very clearly in his eyes. I watched the two of them together, they both seemed so comfortable.” (Amber). He did not make Amber feel inadequate for her role in their child’s birth but seemed to show nothing but happiness for their new child.

I chose to interrupt this normative narrative because its one, as a woman I experience almost everyday and have a strong reaction to. I have recently learned “Rather than allow these emotions to block our growth, we can use them as entry points into greater self knowledge and content knowledge.” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2012, Pg. 14). This has helped me to understand that “How we think about groups of people determines how we act toward them; discrimination occurs when we act on our prejudices.” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2012, Pg. 54). The action of these prejudices is where the discrimination placed on women about being the weaker sex comes from, not that their actually weaker.

Often stories faced with this type of gender discrimination have a way of silencing and disrupting the normative narrative. When we examine the patterns of women’s success, we see there’s no less weak than man. However, females are the oppressed genders and “to oppress is to hold down – to press- and deny a social group full access and potential in a given society” (DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2012, Pg. 61). When information is presented though such as a women giving birth or a women being an excellent running back its undeniable that this upsets the normative narrative that women are weaker than men.

Reality Check

I was in downtown Saskatoon on an overcast fall day. Ombre leaves swirled around my feet as I walked along the grey cracked sidewalk towards the mall. The smell of exhaust and the garbage filled streets were ever present in the chilly air. My dad walked beside me, his broad tall figure protecting me from most of the winds cold bite. Our spirits were high as we walked due to the passing of my ninth birthday just days before. We were on our annual birthday shopping trip. My excitement rose the closer we got to the mall. I was envisioning the new ripped jeans, runners and other apparel that would soon be mine to show off to my friends when I got back to school.

We turned a corner near a tall graffitied grey brick building and received some relief from the wind. I noticed a pile of tattered black blankets clustered against the base of the building some distance away. I thought how horrible it was that someone would just leave their old blankets on the street rather than disposing of them properly. As we walked closer though the blankets began to take an oblong shape as if somethings were wrapped up inside. All of a sudden, a tanned weathered hand reached through an opening and exposed an elderly wrinkled face. My dad instinctively grabbed my elbow and pulled me towards him, the man surprising the both of us.

Upon realizing we were in no danger my dad loosened his tight grip on my elbow. The man on the street reached for a red solo cup beside him that clanked with the sound of loose change and held it towards us. With glossed over brown eyes he desperately looked towards us and asked “anything to spare?” in a weak cracked voice. My dad stopped and dug into his jean pocket for his wallet. He pulled out a ten-dollar bill and placed it the man’s cup with a smile and a friendly nod. The man grinned, and reviled a near toothless gummy smile behind the greying whiskers on his top lip. He said “thank you” in a slightly stronger more cheerful voice and we carried on towards the mall.

I was confused about the scene I had just witnessed. I asked my dad why that man was laying on the street and why he had just given him money. He responded saying that the man was homeless. “what does that mean? He doesn’t have a home?” I asked, shocked that this could even be a possibility. My dad stopped and said “yes. Sometimes people aren’t as fortunate as us and find themselves in hard situations, like not having a home. Its unfair and sad but its unfortunately reality.”. This perplexed me, my mind could not contemplate how one could not have a home. Questions raced through my mind about how this could be possible. How would you shower? What happened if you got really cold?

The novelty and excitement of the shopping trip faded after this. The clothes I tried on were nice but I could not stop thinking about the homeless man. I had a tinge of guilt every time my dad swiped his credit card for a new purchase. I knew I really didn’t need these clothes; my closet was jammed packed as it was.

We left the mall earlier than usual. We walked back to our vehicle the same way we had come. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped a couple degrees. I walked briskly, trying to keep up to my dad’s long strides. We turned the corner back onto the street where the homeless man was still sitting. I tugged on my dad’s coat sleeve motioning him to stop. He looked down at me and I asked if he thought it would be ok if I gave the homeless man ten dollars of my own. He smiled and said of course it would be. He grabbed my hand and walked towards the man. I shyly smiled at the man who grinned back, I held up the ten-dollar bill of my own and bent down to drop it in his red solo cup. His face glowed and his eyes crinkled almost closed he smiled so big. I smiled back and we continued on our way.

Reading Response #2

The Reading Whiteness is a racial construct. Its time to take it apart furthered my understanding that white identity is tied up in structural and systematic racism. Our identities are all very much shaped by race largely due to the years of grooming the European ego has received and the inequality suffered by black slaves and indigenous people of colonized countries. White people have grown to subconsciously expect the advantages of white privilege such as a lower chance of living in poverty, among many others. All these advantages make white people the control group, which as Denise Balkissoon points out is why where uncomfortable with the word “white”. She points out that these unearned benefits are where the uncomfortableness stems from, thus white privilege is largely avoided rather than dealt with. This only increases structural and systematic racism. Evidence of this racism is very evident on a day to day basis and becomes even more evident when brought to light. Examples of this can be seen in Canada’s whole political system which is built around powerful white people with few people of colour represented. Also In major corporations its always almost a given that CEO’s and powerful people at the top will be white. To educate society of white privilege and work towards removing it would be to forfeit the advantages of white privilege and loose the identity of being the control group, thus it stays. Even though as individuals most white people claim to be not racist with the exception of a few bad apples, as a society we very much are due to the unwillingness to address and remove white privilege. Not being racist as an individual does not make one innocent of our racist society, as all white people are actively reaping the benefits of it and contributing to its growth by not acknowledging it. This in turn proves that the “bad apples” we blame racism on are actually a small part of the problem when looking at the big picture of structural and systematic racism.

It should come as no surprise with white being the control group that whiteness is often connected to innocence in society. This innocence can be seen in evidence of the colour itself; with white being a symbol of virginity and pureness. The two concepts go very hand in hand with being equated to innocence. Whiteness can also be equated to innocence largely in court systems. A glance at prison populations shows those of colour are far more likely to face guilty verdicts, where as white people are far more likely to face not-guilty verdicts. This was the case between Gerald Stanley, a white farmer charged with the murder of a First Nation man named Colten Boushie. The case was highlighted in the media as a classic example of white privilege as Gerald Stanley was not charged with the murder despite conflicting evidence. As mentioned above white people often think of themselves as innocent when faced with dealing with the concept of racism, blaming racism on a few bad apples in society spoiling it for everyone. when in turn its actually a bad apple society as a whole, as most white people are unconsciously or consciously contributing to structural and systematic racism, making them guilty despite their beliefs. As mentioned in the article Robin DiAngelo defines white as a “construct of oppression”, which is a far cry from equating whiteness with innocence, but might be closer to the truth.

Often when having discussions or doing readings such as Whiteness is a racial construct. Its time to take it apart where white privilege as a normal narrative is disrupted I’m faced with feelings of discomfort. These feelings ranged from guilt, at realizing my own part in racism to anger at society’s blatant ignorance to it. Robin DiAngelo mentions in the Whiteness is a racial construct. Its time to take it apart article that conversations on white privilege “don’t necessarily get easier, but her audiences’ ability to listen, and to cope with unpleasantness, gradually improves.”. I found this quote to be in line with my own learning as at first it was and still is difficult to accept my part in structural and systematic racism but much of the guilt has slipped away as I realize that by learning about it I am help putting a stop to it, rather than living in ignorance.

Play Like A Girl

I was about nine or ten years old on a hockey road trip in one of the many small towns in South West Saskatchewan. Me and the only other girl on my team went through our usual pre-game routine. We headed to the boys dressing room to participate in the usual jostling and ribbing of one another. When it was time to get changed for the game we retuned to our own separate dressing room. At this point we knew there were some obvious differences between our body’s and the boys but we never felt that we didn’t belong on the same team as them just because we were different genders.

When we returned to our dressing room, which was actually resembled more of a broom closet we realized we could hear the opposing team through a rusted vent in the wall. Their ACDC blared into our dressing room as well as their voices. At first we had an easy enough time ignoring their competitive banter about our team but then a high-pitched voice cut through the joshing and ribbing next to us; “Did you guys see they had girls on their team?”. It was followed by hyaena like laughter and the same voice proclaiming “They don’t stand a chance!”.

Me and my team mate were very taken aback and angry. We had never thought of our gender as being something that limited our skills or was a burden to our team. My friend looked at me and with a face set in a stony grimace muttered “We have to win this game.”. I was so confused and angry I could only respond with a sharp nod. We sat in an angry silence until it was game time, glaring at the white brick walls that separated us from the opposing team. When it was finally game time I swung the heavy grey dressing room door open and grabbed my stick with purpose.

On our walk back to the boys dressing room to listen to the coach’s before warm up I though about how I had never noticed before this that none of the other teams in the league didn’t have girls on them. I had never really bothered to pay attention because I didn’t think It mattered. It put doubt into my mind that I belonged on the team.

We ended up winning that game. I don’t remember by how much we won that game by, but what I do remember is me and the other girl on my team, who was also my defense partner were a big part of the reason we won that night. We hardly let the puck out of the opposing teams end, fueled by the rage we felt at the opposing teams gender comment.

After the game we went back to our dressing room and changed for the long trip home. We didn’t hear any further comments from the opposing team about our gender, or at all. I no longer felt doubt about not belonging.

A Different Song and Dance

It was welcome week in first grade, which meant we got to do a lot of activities that didn’t require us to sit in our desks. One afternoon our class was called down to the gym. When we got there the whole school was sitting cross legged around the perimeter of the gyms pale purple brick walls. a large round wooden drum was placed in the center of the red lines making up the basketball court. We took our seats around the gym and excitedly visited amongst each other, showing off our new light up shoes and sharing our adventures from summer. The anticipation was building in the gym as we waited for our principle to call for our attention and announce what we were all gathered for.

A shrill whistle cut threw the laughter and chatter in the gym. Our principle made his way confidently to the middle of the floor, surveying the crowd for any misbehaviour. He announced that this afternoon we had some special guests from the neighboring Nekaneet First Nations Reserve that would be performing a pow wow. I had no idea what this was but a ripple of excitement broke through the gym.

Three elderly men with weathered skin walked into the gym carrying sticks that looked like the ends of Cattails. They all took a place around the drum and talked amongst themselves for a moment before starting to pound on the drum. This was music I’d never heard before. It sounded like the rolling of thunder at a constant beat. My heart seemed to match the drums beat and raced with it. Their voices broke in but it wasn’t the singing I was used to. There were no words only the loud high to low pitch of the singer’s voices in union.

The doors of the gym burst open and another 3 men came in. They wore leather pants and long-sleeved shirts, decoratively beaded in bright colours. Their hair was much longer than mine, worn in a long black braid falling down the center of their backs. One man’s face was painted half red and half black. Another man wore a large head piece with feathers lining it from the crown of his head down to his knees. They danced to the beat of the drum turning and spinning like birds in the sky all around the gym. Their long braids turned in union with them as they stomped the floor and jumped high stretching their arms to the roof. I was enchanted by their performance moving my eyes from one dancer only to look at another.

As I took in the amazement of the dancing and drumming I noticed that all the men performing had a similarity that I and many of the other children in the gym didn’t have. The colour of their skin was different. The deep tan colour of their skin was much darker than my own and many of the students and teachers in the gym. As I looked around though I noticed that some of my other friends had the same complexion. My friend Katlyn, who I ate lunch with everyday was one of them. I noticed that she had the same dark brown eyes and black hair as them as well.

The colour of their skin and their style of music and dancing was the only difference between me and them I could notice. I told my mom about my experience that day when I got home from school and asked her about this difference. She confirmed to me that I was right, there was a difference in the colour of our skin as they were First Nations; a different culture and race than our own one of British decent. She also confirmed that these differences didn’t matter and that the colour of someone’s skin shouldn’t make a difference to how their treated.

I’m grateful that I was able to attend a school that celebrated students  cultural differences. Students in our school were exposed and educated at a young age on this rather than ignore the differences and leave students to find out on their own, possibly in negative miss projected ways.

Small Town Saskatchewan

Its been too long since I’ve  been home last and I’m anxious to get back. I speed down the highway leading into my hometown on a sunny Fall day. The first hints of winter can be felt by the chill in the air. My excitement grows as I start to see the familiar sights leading me home. I speed by the John Deere dealer with the large bright green tractors and bailers lined up along the little white shop. The vet clinic blurs by me in a streak of grey and red leaving the musty smell of large animals and manure in the air. The grain tower is looming nearer now. The large oval Vittera sign becoming visible near the top of the grey elevator that towers over the town. A line of rusted red CPR grain carts are sitting near the base of elevator on the tracks awaiting their next delivery. As I cross the rail road tracks, the gate way to my little town, I feel completely at ease. The familiar bump of the tracks rumble under my tires as I pass over the track.

I turn onto Main Street and take in the familiar sights, sounds and smells. I stop in the middle of the bustling street for a mother and daughter to cross. We wave and smile at each other, the little girls blond pig tails bounce and gleam in the sun as she skips along beside her mom, her pink backpack sways side to side. I glance at the familiar red brick store fronts. The windows are filled with knick-knacks and antique furniture and the sun gleams off the old dark stains on the wood. As I drive past the post office I see a young man in a crisp white shirt with pearl snaps and faded blue jeans holding the door for an elderly lady with silver curls peaking out of a floral scarf tied under chin. She slowly pushes her walker step-by-step through the heavy glass door. As she looks to the man in thanks he tips his white straw hat, the brim dipping over the brow of his eye.

I take the final right turn to my home. The poplar trees line the edges of the cracked and lifted sidewalks, their long branches creating an arch over the street. The leaves are changing and the orange and yellow ombre effect has almost completely taken over any hint of the once green leaves. Nothing has changed since I’ve last left other than the season. The houses are all still the same monotone browns with rustic wagon wheels and old wooden benches adorning the yards. The petunia’s in the front yards are drooping; they didn’t fare well during the last recent frost. As I pull up to my own sandy brown home I can see my neighbor peek out his large front window and wave to welcome me home. I make my way up to our front door my feet pounding the old wood steps, the brown paint has started to peel. I can see my mom in the kitchen through the square window of the door. I can see she already has super on the stove. I’m happy she knew I’d want to eat her cooking as soon as I got home. I turn the brass doorknob and am welcomed home by the smell of a roast in the oven and my mom excitedly greeting me at the top of the stairs.

Growing up in my small little town has taught me so much. I’ve learned the true values of kindness to everyone no matter their background, the importance and gift of family, and the value of hard work among many other things. So many of these values in our community can be seen by doing a quick drive down main street. Many rural communities throughout Canada hold the same values and sense of home for people  and is an important part of Canadians identities. Maple Creek, Saskatchewan though has made me who I am and where I consider home to be.