Reading Gendered Objects Gender is not something that we are born with. Gender is something that we learn. We create it and recreate it out of interaction with other people, out of our social lives. We start “learning” it from other people from the very first day and eventually we just “do” it without even thinking about it. Gender signs are familiar parts of our daily life that we even do not notice them unless they are unusual or different. Gender construction starts at birth with assignment to a sex category based on what ourgenitalia look like.
Then we get a name corresponding to our gender and then our parents dress us in boys or girls colors, usually pink or blue. People treat us differently, even when we are babies and when we do not talk and show gender signs. They would smile and be nice to a little girl,telling her that she is so pretty and little, while on the other hand, they would be telling a boy that he is a big, strong boy. Even then we face different reactions and different treatment from people in our surrounding. It becomes even more obvious when we start going to school.
Teachers do a lot of sex segregation. Boys and girls do not sit together in the classrooms and dinning rooms, and they play different games. Boys who play with girls get called really demeaningnames and vice versa. This happens because we all have our gender roles and responsibilities that we learn and if one does it wrong, he or she will usually not be accepted in society. Schools, parents, and mass media guide young people into gender roles. Gender is represented in the way we walk, talk, dress, and even eat.
In some cultures women are supposed to show only moving of their lips when they chew food, while men have to do it more “manly” by showing the movements of the whole mouth. Clothing has a big role in defining gender. Not to mention that there are pieces of clothes that only women can wear, but also if a woman decides to wear “men’s clothes” for business occasion for example, she wants to say that she wants to be treated the way men are treated. If clothing can not show a lot, we use hair, make up, and jewelry as gender signs.
Women Marines are required to wear make up, and they also have to take classes in make up, hair care, poise, and etiquette. For society, gender means difference. Later on,we face more and more of gender stereotyping, even in the language. When people get married, a woman gets her husband’s last name and becomes part of man. Pronoun usage is very important when it comes to different personally attributes and career inspirations. For example we usually think of women when we say “a secretary” and we think of men when we say “a doctor”.
In practice, women are called names that represent their sexual desirability to men (fox, chick) while men are defined in terms of their sexual prowess (dude, stud). Because gender is a process, there is a lot of room for change. Sometimes we do not accept the gender role that we were assigned. That case is very common nowadays. Some people are born as intersexuals andsometimes doctors decide about their gender at birth, instead of them. Many times the decision happens to be wrong which goes with the fact that gender is something that we learn, and construct by interacting with our society.
It is not only people who are gendered. Many non-human objects went through the constructing gender process,too. What I find very interesting is that sports are gendered. There are sports that are usually played only by men, such as football, water polo, baseball, etc; and sports that are considered girly;such are synchronized swimming, ballet, some types of gymnastics, etc. Volleyball is considered as men’s and women’s sport, yet it is still gendered. The first and most obvious difference is in uniforms. Women wear short and tight bottoms and tight tops, while men wear long and baggy bottoms and tops.
Women wear long socks and headbands. The rules, the ball, and the size of the courtare the same but there are still many differences in the way the game is played. The height of the net is different. It is much higher for men in all categories because they jump much higher, and they are much stronger than women. Men’s volleyball is based on showing the strength and power of men. The points do not last too long because players base their game on the perfect attack so the opposite team can not “dig” the ball and keep it in play.
They do not use a lot of tactic; it is mostly just about the power. Women’s volleyball is about quickness and intelligence. Women tend to show the power, too,but they concentrate more on how to trick the opponent. The points last much longer and they are more exciting. Girls have many actions that men can not play because they exceed fast body movements. Men who play volleyball are usually very tall, not able to move as fast and control their movements like women.
Since there is a difference in body types among men and women and there is a lot of “diving” in volleyball, players are taught fundamentals differently based on their sex. There are some movements that women can not do because of their upper body anatomy. Volleyball includes a lot of cheering on the court. After every point that they win, players come to the middle of the court and “celebrate” it for couple seconds. That is when players show their emotions. Men express their emotions during that time by being very loud, and hitting their teammates back.
If something goes wrong during the game, men are more likely to get in a fight and call each other demeaningnames. Women express their emotions by smiling and being loud too, but not as loud as their male colleagues. In case that something goes wrong during the game, women usually do not fight on the court. They support and try to help each other. Even the game attendance differs for both genders. Males have a lot more people on their games. Coaching volleyball is not the same, too. Coaches who coach men are more severe and they do not care about their players feelings.
Coaches who coach women have to take care of what language they use when they talk to their players, especially during the games. Women are much more emotional, especially on the court, and bad language can cause a bad reaction and therefore a bad performance. In my opinion volleyball should not be gendered. It is the same sport for both sexes. These small differences are not even noticeable in the most of the cases. People who play volleyball do a large number of the same movements, they score the same way and feel the same excitement.
People who watch volleyball do not necessarily notice the height of the net or the way that the coach is talking to his or her players. It is pretty much the same thing that people see when they watch either women’s or men’s volleyball. It is all about the game of volleyball, and the game is the same in both cases. Gendering has gone too far in terms of non-human objects, and this is definitely one of the prime examples. Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier, and Leila J. Rupp. Feminist Frontiers. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.