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The concept of gender has never been a topic that is particularly easy to discuss. Over the past few decades, gender studies have stretched the concept of gender and gender identity (Asante et al. 31), questioning the established norm. Among the recent changes in viewpoints, society as a factor that shapes one’s gender identity has been brought to public attention. Because of the strong emphasis placed on heteronormativity and the gender binary (Nelson) in my culture, as well as my personal identity as a strictly heterosexual man, I have had a strong propensity toward supporting heteronormativity.
However, the recent exposure to the idea of gender as a partially social construct (Asante et al. 25) has made me more accepting of other viewpoints. Due to the influence of the patriarchal society in which I was born and raised, I identify myself rather rigidly and have a strong idea of gender normativity (Asante et al. 25) as the foundational principle of social roles and relationships.
I believe that my gender and sexuality have been affected by societal norms to a considerable extent. Belonging to the Armenian culture has defined my gender development significantly since it strongly supports and encourages the idea of heteronormativity (Asante et al. 24). Therefore, I have always identified as a heterosexual man and have never felt any discrepancies between the sex with which I was assigned at birth and my gender identity. For instance, when considering the examples of the societal influences that have contributed to my current concept of gender, I must mention the idea of manhood that I was taught since my early childhood.
Everything from the toys with which I played to the clothes that I was wearing signified me being a man. Specifically, I had mostly army men and robots for toys and played the types of sports that were labeled as “male” in my community, such as football and soccer. As a child of 9-12 years old, I even remember looking at the games that were deemed as “girly” with slight disdain. Put differently, I used “communication to assert by ideas, opinions, and identity” (Asante et al. 33). The specified behavior can be characteristic of behavior influenced by the environment with rigid gender roles and stereotypical masculine preconceptions.
Furthermore, the upbringing that I had and the media that I consumed have led me to believe that men and women should have specific roles within society. Particularly, I was taught to draw a thick line between male-oriented and female-oriented behaviors. Most of the games that I played could be described as very characteristic of patriarchic society, where gender roles are very rigid. As a result, I have grown to expect men to be very masculine.
Of all the existing theories that explain gender and the development of specific behaviors, within the framework of contemporary society, the standpoint theory (Borisoff and Chesebro 148) seems to be the most legitimate to me. The proposed theoretical framework implies that opinions, or standpoints, define the course of societal change and, therefore, affect the relationships between people of different genders (Borisoff and Chesebro 148).
The identified approach suggests considering the combination of effects including social principles, the key aspects of the dominant culture, and other relevant influences, as the cornerstone for the development of gender identity and the attitude toward interactions between people of different genders. Based on the specified theoretical tenets, my way of perceiving gender and playing gender roles within the target society is defined by the Armenian traditions and the Christian religion. Since both emphasize the importance of the traditional patriarchal social and familial structures, I have a distinct propensity toward displaying the behaviors and attitudes that are typically coded as male.
In addition, I have always felt the presence of what I can now identify as the gender-linked language effect (Asante et al. 116). Particularly, I have always felt the urge to speak as less tentatively as possible when conversing with others. In addition, I often use what Asante et al. refer to as “minimal response cues” (p. 116). Specifically, I have always deployed the communication technique that can be characterized by high levels of assertiveness and the tendency to convince others. The identified aspect of my communication and behavior has always been a part of my nature, and I have been giving it very little attention up until recently.
Being a male representative of a rather patriarchal society, I have to admit that my body has not been as politicized as a female one. However, I have experienced the pressure of society regarding my physical appearance when recognizing the need to look physically fit and strong to maintain my status among my peers.
Herein lie the roots of the phenomenon of body surveillance (Asante at al. 118), which is also present in my life. Although I genuinely like feeling healthy and strong, I have experienced certain discomfort when facing the threat of possible weight gain and the failure to maintain my usual look. As a result, I tend to look rather condescendingly at the men of my age who fail to meet the current standards of physical fitness and strength.
Overall, my understanding of gender is rather heteronormative since I actively support the traditional concept of gender relationships and the image of gender that has been in existence for decades. Nevertheless, I am trying to be more accepting of people with other types of sexuality and the representatives of other genders. However, I have to admit that switching from the set of viewpoints that I have been holding throughout my entire life to a completely new set of beliefs and ideas is rather challenging and painstaking.
A significant number of stereotypical attitudes and ideas are coded into the way in which I speak and perceive interpersonal interactions. As a result, I often succumb to the behaviors that are regarded as positive in my community. Apart from using typically masculine communication techniques, I have a rather well-established image of male and female roles in society, which could use certain adjustments due to the changes in the global society.
If I use queer or multicultural approaches, I could be able to change my viewpoints and philosophy to a certain extent. For instance, my view of gender roles may alter slightly since I am ready to see women as active participants in modern society and a contemporary family. For instance, the queer theory allows challenging the concept of heteronormativity, which currently consider the default one. Similarly, the feminist theory would help me explore the challenges that women face in modern society and, thus become more understanding of their plight (Wood 92). Although the presence of traditions and stereotypes that I have been viewing as the ideas defining my personality may become significant hindrances in the process of deconstructing gender, I might ready to question the status quo.
Asante, Molefi Kete, et al., editors. The Global Intercultural Communication Reader. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2013.
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Borisoff, Deborah J., and James W. Chesebro. Communicating Power and Gender. Waveland Pr Inc., 2011.
Nelson, Kris. “What Is Heteronormativity – And How Does It Apply to Your Feminism? Here Are 4 Examples.” EverydayFeminism. 2015. Web.
Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives. 10th ed., Cengage Learning, 2012.