I’m a senior archaeology major with plans to go to law school next year for human rights. I somehow managed to get to my last year without having taken either a Gender and Sexuality or English course- two things I love dearly. Now I suddenly find myself enrolled in three!
I come from the South, where traditional gender roles are still very much in place. Fortunately, I have a mother who despised these roles and made it her mission in life to keep me from feeling “gendered” for as long as possible. I only fully realized this on Wednesday as we were sharing our stories. She dressed me in every color, including blue, and sometimes people thought I was a boy because of this. I played with dolls, but also with trains and cars, and mostly in the dirt (archaeology comes as such a shock now, right?). I was never a “lady” in any traditional sense of the word.
I’m very interested in the perception of gender, and how people chose to alter themselves to conform to one particular side or another. I’ve always loved Marlene Dietrich, and I’ve been watching a lot of her movies lately. One thing always seems to come up: she plays very feminine and traditionally attractive women, but there’s something deeper lurking that makes you think that she resents it all. Probably because she, in fact, did. The way she secretly works a lesbian kiss into Morocco, or stages an uprising of Western wives in Destry Rides Again are uncommon things that she intentionally did to preserve her sense of self. How do we chose to alter ourselves for others? And how do we still retain our own sense of self against society? Additionally, in contemporary society, gender divides with respect to technology are becoming more and more blurred. In the future, how will society define our gender if it’s completely acceptable for women to build supercomputers and men to straighten their hair and be stay-at-home parents? These are the things I ask when I wake up in the middle of the night and scribble illegibly on my notes. I hope I read them correctly, and if not, I’ll just have more questions later.