Whenever it’s time to pick elective classes, many questions probably arise, including the typical: “Which one is interesting enough, but super easy at the same time, so that it won’t contribute to crashing my GPA?” To be perfectly honest, that question stays deeply ingrained in my mind and always pops up at the beginning of each semester. For this reason, I find myself hunting for the easiest and most stress-free classes that will hopefully lighten my workload. In that perspective, my expectations are pretty low when it comes to what I call “decoration” classes. I just want to earn my 3 credits and call it a day, nothing more.
Little did I know, my first class on Sexuality and Gender Studies had me shook to the core. It was a topic that was out of my main field of study and after each class, the feeling was oddly overwhelming; I felt as if my brain had expanded three times its size, as I was learning so many things that truly mattered (in my opinion) about society and its evolution; powerful concepts that had never been taught to me before, or if so, very little, throughout my twenty-two years on Earth. I started to sense that inner urge to share my freshly acquired knowledge to whoever wanted to hear me out or even the ones who did not want to (sorry not sorry). Over the past few months, I have realized that if you are well informed and open-minded, sharing your opinions or even simple facts about issues that you truly care about to other people is something important to do. Because in the end, we all have a voice and participating in discussions can only help you grow and flourish intellectually.
Today, I want to share with you my thought processes on a topic that made such an impact in my way of thinking about gender, more particularly regarding sexism and stereotypes that lie so deeply within dominant power structures in our society. I realize that not enough people my age are aware of the influence of those power structures and discourses that dictate social norms. What saddens me the most is knowing that I used to think “normal” and “natural” were interchangeable concepts. In other words, I thought that everything was normal since it was part of my daily life. But boy/girl, was I wrong.
I started to get extremely curious about Gender Studies as my teacher introduced queer theory to the class. Queer theory calls into question the categories of sex, gender, and sexual orientation. It conveys the idea that gender is socially performed, as it is taught, played, and repeated. Ever since we were kids, we were pushed to like certain things, and to behave in certain ways depending on our gender. However, in 2017 today, with a growing number of boys wearing makeup as seen on social media for example (you go MannyMUA and James Charles!!) or girls who like sports or are studying engineering, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that so many social norms define our expectations from people solely based on whether they are labelled as a boy or as a girl, and consequently, how they should act. I also find it very disturbing that we strongly feel the need to categorize both genders, while plenty of people do not associate themselves with either. As a result, such binary oppositions do not leave any room to those in-between and contribute to marginalizing sexual and gender identities that do not fall within the norm.
As early as I can remember, I have always been told at French schools that the masculine always prevails over the feminine or that the masculine is used to lighten the text, in the sense that it is considered neutral. Strangely enough, I have never been inclined to ask myself why… Being able to study the field of Sexuality and Gender has helped me shape my view on phenomena as trivial as gender reveals during baby showers for example, or rather its necessity and the importance we give to it. It has also opened my eyes to so many things, but mainly to the fact that I have only accepted norms as being justified by a series of causes and effects thus far, without taking the time to understand and challenge the status quo. I have learned that reality is heavily biased and how necessary it is to take a critical look at the dominant power structures around us that seem so natural, but actually sustain existing social inequalities.
And finally, I’m telling you, if you have read this far, there is one class you should consider adding to your schedule, because it is the most rewarding 3-credit optional class I have ever taken in Uni so far. Besides, not only did it push me to reflect on the social forces that surround us and its influence on sex and gender roles, it affected my view on schooling as well. Are those times when all I did was cram class material, spit it out during exams, then forget everything the next second I exit the room, now a thing of the past?
I would think so, but we shall see.
Source of the cover picture: Etsy
Cam's Look: Sleeveless Rudsak Suede Dress