Writing the Self Analysis: Looking for Normative Narratives

Writing the Self Analysis: Looking for Normative Narratives

i) Normative Narratives (Gender)

From writing my own story about being gendered, I realized how deeply the idea of females being the weaker sex was ingrained into me from a young age. After reading the blog posts of my colleagues, I can infer that they came to the same sort of realization or epiphany. Both Elara’s, and Janine’s posts were similar to mine as they addressed a time when they were told or shown they were simply less than the boys. Less strong, less skilled, and less qualified.

In Elara’s post, she describes an error she makes on the soccer field at a young age. After accidentally scoring on her own net, she is approached by an opposing player. The normative narrative in Elara’s story is prominent in her retelling of what happens next; “[a] boy from the opposing team shouldered past me to retrieve the ball, mumbling under his breath, ‘you play like a girl.’” This classic line is one I have heard several times from both the men and women in my life. I have been told this enough that it has become normal to me. Girls cannot play sports as well as boys do. That’s normal because that is what I have been told is normal. This normative narrative becomes apparent in my own thinking as a child, in my story. The last line of my blog post reads “Heck, even I could beat Johnny in an arm wrestle, and I’m a girl.” This thought is powerful because even though it oppresses my gender, I still accept and believe it to be the truth. This shows the normative narrative told by Elara’s opponent in action. Elara, too, accepted this myth as the truth. While driving home from her soccer mishap, Elara is told by her dad that she should “stick to ballet.” Elara follows this by beginning her next sentence with “I did,” meaning she did just that; she stuck to ballet instead of pursuing an athletic career as a female soccer goalie. She, like me, not only heard the normative narrative but lived by it too.

Janine chose to write her blog post about a childhood memory as well. In her post, she describes a time when she is not given the chance to prove her skill and ability because of her gender. She writes: “Once we are finished introductions and the parents leave, I approach the coach and asked, ‘Why I wasn’t [placed] on the more advance team?’ He replied, ‘This is the team [that] is [the] best suit for you as a girl, the other team would have been [too] rough.’” This coach’s decision to place Janine on a lower level team told Janine that her gender made her unable to participate to her full potential. Similar to Mr. Cooper from my blog post, Janine’s coach may have had good intentions, but he was still reinforcing the gender roles pushed upon children by society. As I grew up, I heard Mr. Cooper repeat the same line from my story on various occasions. He always said, “I could use the help of three strong boys.” At first, his request for assistance seemed harmless but the older I got, the more I recognized the power in his words. I knew, sitting in my grade 11 desk as Mr. Cooper borrowed a group of guys to help him unload the pop bottles from the Coke truck, that just because he specifically asked for boys did not mean that as a girl, I was any less capable of unloading that truck. But, it made me ask myself if the girls sitting in their grade 3 classrooms would feel differently. Would they think the same way I did in the third grade? I wonder if they would share young Janine’s thought from her story; “In that moment I don’t think I could have felt more discouraged.”

ii) Creating Counter-Stories: Disrupting Normative Narratives

Natasha’s blog post runs counter to the ‘norm’ because of her involvement in male-dominated areas. The normative narrative, as discussed above, suggests that girls can not fit in with the boys because the boys are at a higher level of skill and ability. Natasha states otherwise by recalling her memories of recesses; “I joined the boys almost every recess in whatever sport we chose that day.” Natasha explains that it was not always that simple, however. She writes, “In the beginning the boys would choose me last when picking teams or never pass me the ball during a game.” What makes Natasha’s story differ from the three other posts mentioned previously is that she did not choose to live the normative narrative that was presented to her. She continued to play with the boys and earned their respect. In her words, “I eventually gained a type of equality with the boys.” Unlike her colleagues, Natasha’s potential was not silenced and she was given the chance to prove that she belonged. Although this turned out positively for Natasha, I would like to point out that the determination of young girls is not the issue and that the normative narrative is the problem in need of change.

I chose to address this normative narrative because I truly believe many of those who reinforce these ideas about women and athleticism are unaware of the damaging effects. During her TEDx Talk, Hannah Perez, a seventh grader, says “As girls, we’re really not asking for much. We just want to be treated like another person; not coddled, not ostracized, and definitely not separated.” As a middle school girl, Hannah has been exposed to enough sexism surrounding athletics to inspire a five-minute speech. Additionally, I found Jox Dirkx’s TEDx Talk extremely helpful to describe the disruption of this normative narrative. Jox emphasizes the importance of storytelling by stating that “[t]o gain this ownership and relevance [of women in sports], we can start by using our own unique storytelling techniques . . . . [W]e are responsible for the stories that we tell boys and girls about young women and girls in sport and . . . these stories are actually much more important than we may realize.”

As Natasha mentioned in her post, inequality is often present on the school playground. Is Everyone Really Equal?, written by Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo, touches on this matter as well by pointing out “[m]any people cite sports as now open to women, and a strong emphasis on sports often begins in schools. But what is emphasized between boys and girls varies. There is often a lack of support for girls in schools . . .” (108). Furthermore, Sensoy and DiAngelo remind us that women’s sports receive less funding, television airtime, and recognition from mainstream culture than their male counterparts (108). This oppression results in lack of interest in sports for young girls. Sensoy and DiAngelo go on to say “[o]nce girls who are highly interested in sports reach puberty, a new pressure to establish their heterosexuality (by demonstrating their interest in boys and by remaining feminine) emerges.” (108). Pressure from society hinders the potential of female athletes. My examination of this normative narrative is extremely beneficial to me. I am involved with a lot of female youth through coaching and I hope to be apart of the disruption of this myth in their lives.

Works Cited

Badduke, Janine. “Unnoticed Sexism.” Miss Badduke, WordPress, 23 Oct. 2018,

missbadduke.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/unnoticed/.

Accessed 12 Nov. 2018.

Dirx, Jos. “You throw like a girl! Telling stories about women in sports.” TEDx Talks, 2014.

     Youtube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 31 Jan. 2014,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY8RLLbD_8g.

Perez, Hannah. “Women in Sports.” TEDx Talks, 2016. Youtube, uploaded by TEDx Talks,

18 May 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo4RSQqauOs

PettyJohn, Natasha. “Gender Inequality On The Playground.” Natasha Pettyjohn’s Blog,

WordPress, 23 Oct. 2018,

natashapettyjohn.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/gender-inequality-on-the-playground/.

Accessed 12 Nov. 2018.

Sensoy, Özlem and Robin DiAngelo. Is everyone really equal? An Introduction to Key

     Concepts in Social Justice Education. Teachers College Press, 2017, Second Edition.

Trischuk, Elara. “SELF-STORY #3 – YOU PLAY LIKE A GIRL.” Elara The Educator,

WordPress, 23 Oct. 2018,

elaratheeducator.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/self-story-3-you-play-like-a-girl/#respond.

Accessed 12 Nov. 2018.

 

Writing the Self 4: The Smallest

   Writing the Self 4: The Smallest

    “No! My house might look big from the outside, but you both know it’s not THAT big,” argued Mckinnleigh.

My two best friends and I were walking side by side on the sidewalk. Alike most days, we were walking home from school together. We had only recently started fourth grade and autumn was in full swing. The wind picked up momentarily and a pile of leaves started to dance in a circle a few feet in front of us.

Sighing, I hiked my backpack up a bit further on my shoulders and replied. “I can’t believe we are even arguing about this. It is obvious my house is the smallest.”

“No way,” my other friend, Patricia, joined the debate. “Mine is the smallest. End of discussion.”

That was far from the end of the discussion, though. My friends and I went back and forth the whole way home; each of us arguing for our house being the smallest. When I finally reached my house, I stopped at the edge of the driveway to analyze its exterior. My house is blue and white, but some of the paint is chipped or peeled off in certain places. By no means would I consider it to be large, but I could understand how others may not view it as little either. Of course, I had seen many houses that were not as large as mine, but neither of my friends’ houses were on that list. It angered me that Mckinnleigh and Patricia refused to agree with me. Not only did they have bigger homes than me, but their parents had bought them a D.S. and an iPod. Patricia even owned the newest version of them. Furthermore, I made sure to point out to them that most of my clothes were hand-me-downs. In fact, everything I was wearing at that time had been worn by someone else first.

Even in that moment, I could see the irony of the whole exchange I had just shared with my friends. Why did I want to be right? Why did I want my friends to admit my house was the smallest? Why did I want to be the least fortunate? I wondered if I was hoping for their pity or if I just wanted my friends to recognize their privilege.

Upset and confused, I stormed into my house with a pout hanging from my bottom lip. I retold the after school altercation to my mother, and felt astounded by her chuckle that closely followed.

“Honey, we have to be happy with what we have instead of being unhappy for what we don’t have. Besides, your dad and I are doing very well. I’d say we are a middle class family.”

     Although I didn’t quite understand the meaning of middle class from my mom’s explanation, I understood that comparing my house to my friends’ houses was probably not the best way to determine my family’s wealth.  With that realization, I was content and began searching the kitchen cupboards for an after-school snack. Not only did I have a lunch and two snacks when I was at school, but I also had a snack waiting for me when I got home . . . every single day.