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.

 

 

Writing the Self 3: Big, Strong Boys

Writing the Self 3: Big, Strong Boys

    As I sat in my desk, I listened to Mrs. Clark describe how excited she is to finally watch our performance tonight. For nearly three months, we had been working, relentlessly, on our songs for the Christmas Concert with our lovely music teacher, Miss. Evans. Mrs. Clark, our grade 3 homeroom teacher, seemed to be looking forward to hearing us sing, but I felt quite the opposite about the upcoming event. Anxiety washed over me when I imagined myself on stage. There was a good chance the whole town would be attending the concert and rows of chairs would fill the floor space of the big gym. The thought of all those eyes on me caused my cheeks to warm and I had no doubt they were sporting some shade of red, by now. What if I screw up or forget the words? I could lip synch, but there was no avoiding my solo line. In an attempt to calm my nerves, I passed my rough, pink eraser back and forth in my hands.

Eventually, Mrs. Clark changed the subject and I was grateful. She informed us it was reading time and that seemed more like something I would consider exciting. Unfortunately, I barely made it halfway down the first page of my new favourite Junie B. Jones book, before a knock on the classroom door stole my attention. The faces of all my classmates, including my own, turned to the wooden door as it swung open to reveal everyone’s favourite staff member. Our janitor, Mr. Cooper, stood with a big smile on his face. “Good morning, Mrs. Clark and good morning, grade threes. It’s so nice to see everyone’s smiling faces,” his cheerful voice addressed the class.

“How can we help you today, Mr. Cooper?” asked Mrs. Clark

“If you wouldn’t mind, I could use the help of three strong boys. We need to set up all the chairs in the big gym and clear all the heavy equipment off the stage for tonight.”

Almost all of the twenty boys in my class raised their hands eagerly. This has happened lots before. Mr. Cooper often needs some assistance with some sort of heavy-lifting around the school. The boys around me waved their arms, begging and hoping Mrs. Clark would pick them and they could avoid reading time. I was happy Mr. Cooper only ever wanted the boys to help him. I loved reading time, and I never wanted to miss anything important during class time. I knew most of the boys in my class were quite strong; they almost always did more push-ups in gym class than any of the girls. Mrs. Clark chose Ben, Will, and Johnny. Her last choice caused me to stifle my laughter. Johnny was not strong, at all and Mr. Cooper asked for strong boys. Heck, even I could beat Johnny in an arm wrestle, and I’m a girl.

 

Writing The Self 2: Kids Like That

Writing the Self 2: Kids Like That

It was my second week of the second grade and I did not want recess to end because it was my favourite time of the day. I was sitting on the monkey bars when the teacher on duty rang her bell, telling all the kids it was time to go inside. I begrudgingly removed myself from the bright yellow monkey bars and my runners hit the rocky floor of the playground with a crunch. I began to skip towards the school alone. The sleeves of my sweater were tied around my waist and with each hop, they took turns swaying into my vision and flapping against my leg. It was only September and it was the kind of weather that caused me to shiver during morning recess and sweat by the afternoon. I reached my left hand up to wipe the sweat from my forehead.

Through the big foyer doors and down the hallway, I walked closer and closer to my classroom. Right before my classroom was the principal’s office and out of curiosity, I took a glance inside to see if anyone had been sent there during recess. The principal, Mr. Brown, had an office right across from the secretary’s desk and beside the secretary’s desk sat three chairs. Those were the chairs for the kids who misbehaved; the bad ones. I, of course, never sat in one and I wondered what it felt like to get sent to see Mr. Brown. My palms started to turn clammy at the mere thought of getting in trouble. Could I get in trouble for being nosy? I took one step forward toward my classroom but gave in to the devil on my shoulder and stole one last peek at the three chairs. My class was notorious for causing disturbance during recess so it came as no surprise to me to see one of my fellow classmates sitting across from Mr. Brown’s door. His name was Tyler and I did not know him as well as my other peers. I knew everyone in my grade but Tyler was not always around. He would come to school for a month then leave for two then be back again and so on. When Tyler did come to school, he spent a lot of his time waiting in one of those three chairs. He always wore pants that were too big around his waist and a large white t-shirt and although he wasn’t the only kid in my grade that had dark skin, he had the darkest skin. Gabby was Columbian, Ehsan was Pakistani, and David’s mom came from Mexico and even though their skin tones were all darker than mine, Tyler’s was much darker than theirs. Finally satisfied with my snooping for the day, I gave Tyler a sheepish wave which he returned and I began skipping down the hallway.

My friend, Ashley, greeted me as I entered Mrs. Miller’s grade two room. “Did you see Tyler was in Mr. Brown’s office AGAIN today?” I replied by telling her about my keen snooping skills and that I even sneaked in a wave without the secretaries seeing me. I told her about how upset I would be if I ever got sent to the principal’s office and she agreed with me. “Kids like that are probably used to it though,” she said. “Bad kids?” I asked, “Yeah, and black kids.” she shrugged. I had trouble understanding what Ashley meant but there was no other kid in our grade that looked like Tyler and he was always causing trouble, could those two things be related?

(Disclaimer: The names in this story have been changed.)

 

Writing The Self 1: Murray Arena

    I have spent several mornings and evenings watching hockey, public skating, and eating greasy rink food.  Over time, going to the arena to watch hockey became less about watching the game and more about socializing.  My classmates and I would miss entire periods huddled around the canteen tables, playing truth or dare and figuring out who was crushing on whom.  I was looking forward to yet another weekend spent at the rink; a place so familiar I could consider it a second home.

    I wanted to spend the least amount of time possible in the frigid December air and my pace seemed to increase with each step towards Murray Arena, which was a short, five-minute walk from my house.  Although, most things in Souris were a short, five-minute walk from my house.  The Pee Wee boys were scheduled to play early that morning and the sun was not up yet to light my path to the rink.  Each exhale sent a whirling puff of water vapour out to dance in front of me.  Instantly regretting my decision not to wear mittens, I stuffed my hands into the warm, deep pockets of my winter jacket.  My Mother’s voice sang “I told you so,” loud and clear in my mind.

    In a few short moments my good friend, Kate, was meeting me at the rink.  Kate was bringing the posters we worked on during our lunch hours at school.  Each player on the Souris Pee Wee Minor hockey team had their own personal 8.5 x 11-inch poster decorated with sharpies and made with love.

    Finally, the complex came into my view and my anticipation grew with excitement for what was waiting for me.  I pushed through the doors of the arena and hung up my bulky jacket by the row of bleachers.  As I looked around, I inhaled a deep breath and wrinkled my nose at the smell of body odour.  It was the kind of stench that can only be provided by a boys locker room.  I met Kate in the music booth that looked over the surface of the ice.  She handed me a steaming hot chocolate and I eagerly took a sip, letting the liquid warm my insides.  As the game began, we excitedly chose music off our iPods to play for the small crowd of parents sitting outside with Tim Horton’s coffee cups gripped tight in their hands.  From Justin Bieber to ACDC, Kate and I were exceptionally proud of our song choices.  While cheering on my peers as they skated across the ice, I could not help but feel like a stereotypical Canadian pre-teen.

    Unlike most of my friends, I was not ever a hockey player nor a figure skater, however, the rink was still a place I considered home.  It truly felt like a home away from home but I guess nearly everywhere in my small town did.  There is a sense of comfort in visiting a place you have seen a thousand times.  Every building and landmark in Souris impacted my childhood somehow, someway.  The rink, of course, is no different.