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Natalie Paredes

Professor Ditch

English 115

6 December 2017

Why Ive conformed

Day in and day out, I am constantly reminded of who I am supposed to be. I can hardly

sit with my legs uncrossed and back slouched without someone snapping, Youre a lady, act

like one. Growing up, it felt as if I was being taught that every move I made and every word I

spoke had to be subordinate and vacuous to that of men. It was not until I had to examine my

feminine and masculine behaviors that I finally realized, gender conformity ultimately changed

depending on the spaces I found myself in. This examination has helped me comprehend that I

am not as feminine as I thought I was. Although society has set the expectation that we must

identify our gender according to our sex, the spaces in which I find myself justified that my

actions and behaviors will never fully comply with the female gender identity in which I am

expected to perform.

Believe it or not, it is our surroundings within a space that generally influence how we

behave and can ultimately make an impact on our gender conformity. The behaviors of men and

women can vary depending on whom we encounter and what situations we are placed in. For

example, if I were in a more discreet classroom, I may usually be more assertive and confident

and speak up in order to obtain the instructors attention. This performance may be perceived as

masculine, whereas if I were in a louder and more alive classroom and I became quiet, I may be

perceived as feminine. Normally, I am not very masculine within a classroom the first couple of
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weeks because I am not comfortable and this vulnerability would definitely be considered

feminine as well. Women are looked upon as submissive as they are expected to comply to

whatever a man demands of them. However, I have discovered that I do not always play this role

of submissiveness in certain spaces. According to Judith Lorbers, Night to His Day: The Social

Construction of Gender, article, Lorber states that, In almost every encounter, human beings

produce gender, behaving in the ways they learned were appropriate for their gender status, or

resisting or rebelling against these norms" (28). At times, I find myself overwhelmed with pride

and step into situations in quite a masculine way and rebel against the gender norms. In fact, in

my most recent masculine performance, I demanded a book in the library in a way I normally

would never act when I was told by an older male figure that the book was not currently

available. I would have thought that my introverted being would have simply accepted that the

book could possibly not be there. However, I knew that it had to be because it was for a class and

I had already confirmed with another instructor that it was in the library. Given this evidence, my

masculinity overcame my femininity and would not allow me to leave until I got what I came

for, even if it meant speaking against a mans words. This experience has allowed me to

understand that as a female who identifies to my corresponding sex, I have resisted the gender

norm by performing masculine in a situation where I was probably expected to perform

feminine.

The majority of the people identify their gender in accordance to their sex because we are

raised and expected to identify to it. My decisions on which gender to identify with begun as I

was raised during my early childhood years. In his article called, Becoming Members of

Society: The Social Meanings of Gender, Aaron Devor states, As we move through our lives,

society demands different gender performances from us and rewards, tolerates, or punishes us
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differently for conformity to, or digression from, social norms (35). As a child, whenever Id

say something vulgar or speak my mind, I would be punished whereas if my brothers would act

the same, they would receive little to no discipline. Somehow my parents perceived femininity as

an act of insignificance and submissive while they saw masculinity as dominant and aggressive.

There are certain expectations of a female and male that society puts pressure on. Society intends

to follow the social norms of gender identification (Devor 35). I am an example of the many

children raised to match their gender identification with their sex.

Given who we are with, some might find themselves acting differently with one group of

people versus another just as I do. Society gives us the impression that body postures, speech

patterns, and styles of dress are supposed to differentiate man from woman (Devor 42). We may

speak or pose more feminine with one group of friends and more masculine with another. After

analyzing my journal of feminine and masculine performances, I noticed that with my friends, I

was more outspoken and my body posture did not matter to anyone at all. Id wear whatever I

pleased without receiving any judgement about how I was representing myself. My femininity

became more apparent with my family because I am a young adult in the family who is supposed

to be a heterosexual female role model for my younger relatives. Referring to my body posture

again, it is as if every slouch or opening of my legs brings me discomfort now because I have

conformed to the idea that I must represent myself as female. I am no longer told to act proper

now because I have already decided to. My styles of dress have shifted more from jeans and a

plain t-shirt to a variety of floral tops and dresses. Keep in mind, today its very likely that one

may dress differently around their family than they do around their friends. My femininity now

comes naturally to me and has ultimately became my gender norm, although I do not perform

this way all the time.


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No matter what gender we've conformed to, it is simply impossible to behave as just the

one. From my seven-day journal entries, my studies have shown that I portray myself as not only

feminine, but as well as masculine throughout my daily life. At times, I will be submissive

almost by allowing a man to pay for my meal and other times I have been masculine by taking

initiative of working to support the family or demanding that I get the book that I requested from

the library. Kantrowitz and Wingerts argument from their article, Are We Facing a Genderless

Future? is that there is no way that six billion people can be categorized into two groups (71).

These two writers assert that it is literally impossible for people to act or perform as either

masculine or feminine at all times. Just as they assert this, I am proof of a person who acts both

masculine and feminine. After analyzing my interactions and behaviors each day, I find it

convincing that there is no way that I would be where I am today if I had acted only feminine all

the time. I have found a balance between femininity and masculinity in my actions to get me

through my daily life while dressing the part of a female.

Whether I am with my family or my friends, I will never truly act the same with both

groups. I am solely conformed to the female gender identity but my actions are not. My

surrounding space plays a huge factor in how I behave depending on who I am with and what I

see. I am almost a completely different person with my friends compared to when I am with my

parents and I believe it is safe to assume this for most other people raised in America. My

performance changes in different spaces because at home I was raised to act properly feminine

since birth but my surrounding influences such as school with friends have allowed me to build a

different and more vibrant character. With them, I can sit with my legs uncrossed, wear spunky

shades, or even bust out into laughter. Despite whatever gender Ive conformed to, Ive found it

impossible for myself, and maybe even others, to really perform as one specific gender because
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of the space I am in. This goes to prove that gender is ultimately influenced by not just our

parents and guardians but literally every space and person we encounter.
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Works Cited

Devor, Aaron. Becoming Members of Society: The Social Meanings of Gender. Indiana

University Press, 1989.

Kantrowitz, Barbara & Wingert, Pat. Are We Facing a Genderless Future?. Newsweek, 2010.

Lorber, Judith. Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender. Yale University Press,

1994.