Gender Binaries

Self in Relation

Gender stories


Part 1 Normal Narratives of Gender

In reading the blog posts from the class on gender two really stood out to me. Meyan Piok writes from his experience growing up in Sudan, Raphael Gigante writes about growing up in the Philippines, and I write from my perspective as a Canadian.  As we explore the stories we will see that gender binaries are not just a Canadian, North American or white narrative. The prejudice + power = an ism, in this case sexism, equation is played out in any society when one group is dominant over another (Finally Feminism 101).  The normal narrative of gender is that male and female have specific roles to play in the home, at work and in society in general.  Males are usually seen as the ones who go out to work, and do the labourious jobs around the home.  Women in this narrative are seen as homemakers, do the indoor work, cooking, cleaning and look after the children.  We see in these two stories, as well as my own. that our parents or friends who are older than us, that these binaries are ingrained into their thinking. “I will never wear a skirt! As a male and head of this family, I don’t want to see you washing the dishes or doing household chores.” My own account of being relegated to the kitchen to cook during the garage build because I was a girl.  Meyan’s account of his pastor returning to Sudan and being shooed out of the kitchen not only by men but also by the women when the pastor tried cook himself a meal, lend proof that these gender roles are still alive, well and part of the thinking of older generations.   The gender binaries do not only play out in societal and familial jobs but also in emotional ways as well. “[O]ur group of friends we would tease each other when we say each other get scared or cry” (Piok) speaks to the narrative of being manly.  In my story I speak of the fact that my dad’s first born was a girl and how he was very disappointed in that.  That narrative of a first born should be a boy was a very old notion that has carried on in some families

In these stories of normal narratives, we see instances of ideological incongruencies (Solomon, Portelli, Daniel and Campbell, July 2005).   We believe that when women step outside of the normal role that she is no longer fitting into the stereotypical role of house wife, mother and caregiver.  The reality is that most women, even though they have outside jobs, take care of the majority of the housework and are usually the ones that take the time off from their jobs when kids are sick.  Raphael states in his story that even though his mother went out to work to keep the family financially she was also responsible for training the children to help her with household duties as well. Western society has made great strides in trying to do away with the traditional gender roles but it still has a long way to go.  Other countries, such as, Sudan have even further to go in combating sexism and the gender binaries evidenced in Meyan’s final statement “ … [in]divorce the women would be sent away and the kids would stay with the father. Everything in the household is considered as belonging to the man.”

Part 2 Disrupting the narrative

“Our identities, our thoughts, and our beliefs can’t always be sorted easily into two categories. In the world we live in, we set up two distinct categories — man and woman — that everyone must choose between. But that doesn’t actually reflect the full diversity of the human experience.” ( What does it mean to be non-binary?) This statement reflects the nature of Maizie’s story Being Me. I chose Maizie’s story on gender to disrupt the normal narrative of gender roles because I found the story to be so opposite of what I play out as woman. I consider myself a tomboy and love a good game of football. Like Maizie I was always the one out playing with the boys when it came to sports.  I unlike Maizie drew the line at the getting your hands dirty type of things like hunting and fishing.  I have known a couple of other women who hunt but none speak about it with the pride that comes across from Maizie.  I found that there was a level of comfort in the way the Maizie told the story.  It resonated with me that she didn’t feel the need to be something she wasn’t but was comfortable with her choices to pursue “traditional male pass times” in a woman’s body.  While I enjoyed playing rough sports with the boys when I was younger, and could hammer a nail with the best of them, my motivation wasn’t to be me but to prove that I as girl could be as good as any boy and be worthy of my dad’s love.

I notice when we try to disrupt the normal narrative of gender, society is more willing to accept women stepping in the male dominated realms rather than when a man tries to step in the feminine side. This is a theme that is evident through all four of the gender stories referenced for this piece.  I don’t mean that it is easy for women to break into for example professional male dominated sport or male dominated jobs but that when a women challenges something that is traditionally male oriented, society is not as resistant to this unlike when a male chooses more traditional feminine leanings.  Women are often given the tools and are often encouraged to partake in things like hunting or fishing for example.  Maizie’s parents encouraged her love of hunting at a young age by giving her, her own gun.  However, when males tend disrupt the male gender role and take on more typically feminine roles they are looked down on.  Men who are interested in the more traditional female pastimes such as sewing, knitting, or quilting for example are subject to much more negative scrutiny than a woman who is taking up hunting and fishing.  Men are more likely to be labeled as queer or gay when their interests are not masculine in nature.  Parents of little boys are less likely to supply knitting needles or a sewing machine for their son.  Men, who choose to stay at home with their children are considered less ambitious, less manly for their choice

Gender binaries exist in every culture.  In Sudan, we have seen that these binaries are as opposite as you can get.  In western societies there is a bit more of a graying of the binaries.  Women work, have almost equal rights in divorces, are accepted into the male dominated jobs, and can pursue traditional male activities without too much difficulty in the western world. Men though have a bit of tougher time bending these binaries but it still is done and accepted eventually.


Class stories

Class readings

Solomon, Portelli, Daniel & Campbell. (2006). The discourse of denial: how white teacher candidates construct race, racism and ‘white privilege’. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 8(2), 147-169.

What does it mean to be non-binary?


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