Week 5 Blog Post

The day that Caitlyn Jenner announced to the world her truth was a day full of change for anyone who had ever heard of Bruce Jenner before. The public seemed mostly unsure of how to accept this news. A person who historically had represented the pinnacle of an American male, in both physique and in accomplishment was finally telling the world how that she had been struggling for years. “Bruce Jenner the winner of the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics, a symbol of masculinity as interwoven into American culture as the Marlboro Man.” (Vanity Fair 2015). I chose to answer the questions of what visual cues do we use to determine someone’s race or gender? And, what has shaped your ideas of race and gender that inform how you perceive someone’s racial or gender identity?

My experience may be slightly different than others when it comes to identifying people’s gender. I believe one of the major cues we use to identify people’s gender is the clothing that they wear. I grew up around people who dressed androgynously. Which lead me to some confusion to which my family explained that you could wear whatever made you comfortable. I was reminded of this instance during Ruby Rose’s “2015 Access Hollywood Interview” when she mentioned that she considers herself gender fluid. Before her transition Jenner used to wear womens clothes because they made her more comfortable. “He also secretly wore panty hose and a bra underneath his suit, so he could at least feel some sensation of his true gender identity.” (Vanity Fair 2015)

Other ways that people try to understand people’s gender could be identifiers such as the tone of their voice or the way that they walk or hold themselves physically. Jenner begun taking hormones early in life before she made the complete transition. “Jenner had actually gone through various stages of transition once before, in the mid- and late 1980s. He took hormones that resulted in breast growth and had his beard removed through an incredibly painful two-year regimen of electrolysis” (Vanity Fair 2015.) An individual’s appearance is often the number one indicator for people that gives away the gender they identify with. However, structures such as gender are often fluid, and can often times be hard to distinguish. The subject of gender is very complex and one of the ways of explaining gender is through “anticategorical complexity because it is based on a methodology that deconstructs analytical categories” (McCall 2005.) Antecategorical complexity is more favorable over the options because it gives options for everyone. It does not have a set systematical system, it allows for the diversity of a society. “Social life is considered too irreducibly complex—overflowing with multiple and fluid determinations of both subjects and structures—to make fixed categories anything but simplifying social fictions that produce inequalities in the process of producing differences.” (McCall 2005.) There are people who identify with different genders throughout their life.

The idea of intersectionality applies to Caitlyn Jenner’s story. Part of the definition of intersectionality is “social categorizations such as gender as they apply to a given individual or group overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” (from the Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English) This is important because the intersectionality of Jenner’s life as Bruce and Jenner’s life as Caitlyn. There is subject that some people bring up of not being a “true woman.” However, “there is a common misperception that such surgery is somehow “required” to be a transgender woman or man, akin to a certificate from the Transgender Licensing Board.” (Vanity Fair 2015) This could be connected to the social role that a man or woman is expected to play. This referral to Caitlyn Jenner as not a “true” woman can be considered discrimination. There is role that people expect celebrities to play, and Caitlyn is playing her own role and being true to herself after so many years. There is also the fact that “their female identities are not my female identity.” (Burkett 2015.) I agree with this statement that two people who identify as female most likely do not have the same female identity. A good example is Caitlyn Jenner. As someone who was born female and identifies as female my social situations are not the same as transgendered women would be. This mean that even though you identify as the same gender, your identities themselves could be drastically different. Which leads to the question of what cues could one use to identify someone’s gender? A good answer is there probably are not many.

References:

Bissinger, B. (2015, June 25). Caitlyn Jenner: The Full Story. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/06/caitlyn-jenner-bruce-cover-annie-leibovitz

Burkett, E. (2015, June 6). What Makes a Woman? The New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/what-makes-a-woman.html

McCall, L. (2005). The Complexity of Intersectionality . Retrieved August 2, 2018, from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/The-Complexity-of-intersectionality-McCall-2005.pdf

2 thoughts on “Week 5 Blog Post

  1. Hi Sam,
    I agree that clothing, voice and mannerisms can be used as indicators for someones gender. A lot of things in society are gendered all the time. So I believe growing up for me, looking at colors was huge. Blue pink, black and purple meant one of two genders: male or female. I remember always wanting the “boys toy” from fast food restaurants because they were more fun than lipstick and a doll with a mirror. Even the company known for making pens, Bic came out with Bic, “For Her”. Given all the societal expectations and judgements I couldn’t imagine how hard it was to do that interview. She even said saying that she’s Although she’s a well known celebrity, when it comes to intersectionality do you think Bruce gave up any privileges when he became his true self as Caitlyn? If the US adopted the Native American term “two-spirits” (having both male and female components in one self) maybe we’s embrace gender fluidity like Ruby Rose.

  2. Your experience with gender identity is one that most don’t experience. Traditionally, most of us are raised having clothes that are specific to girls and boys and different styles for each. We also see hair styles, shoe types, toys, tasks, and professional statuses separated, being specific for males or females. However, this seems to be shifting as people see that we need to work to be less stereotypical over things that encourage segregation based on gender. Recently, there has been a push to raise children gender neutral to decrease visual cues that may influence their behavior through adulthood. Studies have shown that gender stereotypes can have an affect on a child’s performance in school as early as age 4 and can continuously affect their performance as they age (Shenouda 2014). This is significant because we currently see many women that are insecure with themselves, for example in getting a job, compared to their male counterparts because they don’t think they compare as well. Can we get rid of these negative visual gender cues entirely? Is it something that will inherently always be within us? How do we bridge the gap between acknowledging gender identity while ridding the negative cues?

    Shenouda, Christine K, et Judith H. Danovitch. « Effects of gender stereotypes and stereotype threat on children’s performance on a spatial task », Revue internationale de psychologie sociale, vol. volume 27, no. 3, 2014, pp. 53-77.

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