What are gender norms? And how do they relate to this assignment?
Gender norms are social norms defining acceptable and appropriate actions for women and men in a given group or society. They are embedded in formal and informal institutions, nested in the mind, and produced and reproduced through social interaction (Wikpedia).
Many prople find it difficult to first identify a gender norm and second find a gender norm they are willing to break. So are you ready to step forward and give a try to break the gender norm?
So why border to break it? Well, it is for fun and for the following reasons:
- We live in a patriarchy: a social system in which all that is male, or masculine is more highly valued (has more status and power) than that which is female or feminine. Such that, shifting toward the higher valued status is seen as a positive (i.e. women who wear slacks, jeans, or otherwise dress in a masculine manner; or behave in more “masculine” ways) whereas shifting toward the less valued status is met with condemnation, criticism and/or attack (i.e. men who wear women’s clothhes; or act less than masculine).
- We are all subject to gender policing: the response to the violation of gender rules that is aimed at exacting conformity. This is far more prevalent in those who identify as straight, male-bodied people. The consequences for breaking a gender norm much more rigorous for those who are male-bodied.
- We practice impression management (also called self-presentation) involves the processes by which people control how they are perceived by others. People are more motivated to control how others perceived them when they believe that their public images are relevant to the attainment of desired goals, the goals for which their impressions are relevant are value, and a discrepancy exists bewteen how they want to be perceived and how other people perceive them.
Knowingly breaking a social norm is quite the challenge. When it comes to gender to gender norms, that challenge is bumped up a bit. I think the reward is that you get to know you and others. More importantly, you can a sense of what it is like to be different. You get to walk in other people’s shoes. The great takeaway is EMPATHY.
There is considerable variation in gender roles and presentation these days. This is up to you wheter to break it or not and why and why not. I have been breaking the gender norm since secondary school. It all thanks to my mother and brother kept on insisting me to behave and act in what they believe to be the perfect wife criteria.
Generally speaking, women face far less gender policing when it comes to breaking gender norms, here are a few examples of what previous female identified students have done:
- Held the door for men (sometimes gets to be tense especially for the older generations).
- When walking didn’t move out of the way (women more often than men will move out of the way)
- Paid the bill on the first date (or any date if that is not your norm)
- The tough one, cat-called men when they walk by.
- Changed up the domestic work customarily done by women in the home.
- Dressed up (more girly) or dressed down (less girly) than their norm.
Here are a few examples of what former male identified students have done:
- Painted their fingernails (a noticeable color – not black)
- Changed their handshake to a less firm more “limp wristed” handshake
- Wore make-up
- Wore a pink shirt
- Walking on the inside when on a sidewalk
Men have many options but seem reluctant to do them because they ultimately have their masculinity questioned.
And so, give it some thought – find something you ‘normally do’ and change it for a short time – and enjoy the experience. Remember breaking a gender norm does not CHANGE WHO YOU ARE, YOUR CHARACTER, or YOUR IDENTITY, even if it feels like it at the time. Plus it is fun to watch how people react – especailly knowing that you are only changing one thing (or action) temporarily. A word of caution: DO NOT EXPLAIN WHY you are doing this – you won’t get the honest reaction.
Have fun and good luck!