The normative narrative that I chose to pursue is one that I’ve struggled with for most of my life. The narrative is that women are supposed to look a certain way, and this in turn affects how they should behave. This narrative is seen in my post, What’s Wrong with Pink? where a classmate of mine was punished for wearing pants that were deemed too sexual for school, all because they had the word “Pink” on the butt. This episode implies that my classmate’s fashion choice affected the learning of those around her, even if her clothing was not revealing or overtly sexualized.
Not only does this narrative make women into objects of desire, it also puts the blame on women for the behavior and even thoughts of men. In Dixie’s post Never Bothered Me Again, there was a boy bothering her at recess, and the teachers told her that it was because he liked her. The boy was getting away with bad behavior, while Dixie was essentially told she had to be okay with that treatment because she was a girl, and he liked her. Dixie eventually took things into her own hands, and the boy never bothered her again, but the teacher on recess duty should have acknowledged his bad behavior and addressed it instead placing the blame back on Dixie.
In addition to the dehumanizing nature of making women objects of desire, there is an economic impact of the beauty expectations placed on women. In my blog post New Kicks, I encounter a classmate that has so many shoes that they don’t fit in her closet. Although I’m sure she didn’t think she was dressing to impress, I think we can safely agree that the beauty and clothing industry makes millions of dollars a year selling the idea of looking a certain way. In Jocelyn’s First Day of School tutorial, she talks about her morning routine and the many different products that are used in order to become “stunning as possible,” although she did not talk about the cost of those products, one can guess that it is not cheap to enhance beauty. Although I didn’t write about makeup in my self-stories, it is something that I do wear and it impacts my life. When I wear lipstick to school, I have an acquaintance that tells me every time that “I like your lipstick, you look nice today,” and he only says that when I wear makeup. I also had a roommate in college that worked in a doctor’s office. She told me once that she had to wear makeup because then her boss was less likely to blame women wearing makeup in the office than those who didn’t.
Although we experience this narrative in our everyday lives, some women I know have taken things into their own hands or did not buy into the narrative when they were younger. Nikki mentions in her story Barefoot Tomboy that the things that she was doing when she was little were just things she enjoyed doing. She didn’t think she was acting like a boy or not like a girl. Dixie took it upon herself to stop the boy from bothering her, even after her dad said she might get in trouble. Her teacher even told her how to behave, that “girls don’t hit and it wasn’t lady-like [for me] to hit him. Both Nikki and Dixie were accused of not being “lady-like” or acting like girls/women and that their behavior overshadowed their identity. Does it really make one less a girl to enjoy running and playing outside? How much is our behavior judged on how much it reflects the norms of womanhood?
Dixie’s narrative really made me think about how much childhood impacts later adulthood. According to Sensoy and DiAngelo, it is estimated that 10 million women are victims of assault by their partners each year, and that violence extends into murder as a woman is killed by her partner every 6 days (105). This type of violence against women is perpetuated by the myth that boys hit girls they like. Not only are girls and women valued for their looks, they are also encountering violence at an alarming rate.
As an educator, Dixie’s narrative is one that I see often, and I try to address the behavior of the boy. It is difficult in a society where the normative narratives for boys and men include the idea of the strong (physically and emotionally) man and where women are valued for their looks, or their culinary skills. I hear quite often in the conversation of my friends, neighbours, and acquaintances that “boys will be boys,” I have been guilty of saying that very thing myself.
DiAngelo, Robin and Ozlem Sensoy. Is Everyone Really Equal? New York: Teachers College Press, 2017.