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Be Yourself

Essay by   •  February 16, 2011  •  Essay  •  634 Words (3 Pages)  •  839 Views

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Society, parents, friends, teachers, and media, are encouraging individuals to "be yourself." Initially the idea of being yourself seems only natural, maybe even unavoidable. In order to be yourself, one must first know exactly what their "self" is. Based on biological criteria, the first characteristic of our "self" is given to us at birth----our sex. We are given our sexual identity, female or male, and expected to have the same gender identity. Males should be male, and females should be female. In regards to gender, though, what actually does it mean to be female or male? How are the ideals for each gender formed? Gender performativity, first introduced by Judith Butler, attempts to answer these questions. (Chinn 1997:294)

Gender is nothing that we automatically know when we are born. It is something that is learned through social practices. The actual act of performing gender over and over and the reaction received from performing gender are what defines our notion of gender. (Chinn 1997:300) The very idea of what is masculine or feminine is ingrained in us as soon as we are born. Chinn (1997: 294-308) examines the different theorists and their ideas regarding gender performativity. These concepts were foreign to me until after reading Chinn's work, and now I feel compelled to reflect on my own life looking for ways gender performativity and gender norms have affected the way I think and act.

Growing up in South Carolina has definitely affected the way I have been gendered. Since I can remember, the traditional southern ideals of "being a lady" have been instilled in me. Some of which I embraced in open arms, others I just obeyed so I didn't get in trouble. One particular even that everyone I know growing up attended, girls and boys, was Catilion. This etiquette and dance course was something the upper middle class southerners believed in. Ladies were taught how to sit down, where your legs should be while you are seated, how to eat your food, the proper place to put your hands while seated, and numerous other characteristics a true lady should follow. The boys were taught some things too, but since they are expected to be southern gentlemen, they were supposed to know already how to treat a lady. When I attended Catilion then, I honestly never thought there was anything wrong with its purpose. However, I am now almost embarrassed to admit that I went to it.




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