Girly Boys and Manly Girls

June 6, 2010
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My room is filled with hundreds of pictures tacked on the walls, ticket stubs, and random trinkets that in my mind are associated with a specific memory. But one of the emptiest spaces of the walls of my room shows femininity the clearest. On my baby blue door there is a white sign with black writing that simply says, "That’s What She Said". On the wall next to it, is two pieces of paper with inspirational lyrics on it. On the other side is a ceramic circle with a large cursive "M" on it with a scalloped blue border hanging by a baby blue ribbon. The "That’s What She Said" sign is from my favorite TV show "The Office" and is an overtly sexual joke often stated in the show. After a a phrase is said that could be construed as sexual, one of the characters mutters “That’s What She Said” and everyone laughs. But this sexual reference is in-between two very "feminine" things. I think this is often how the feminine identity is presented. Women can be show signs of masculinity, but are still expected to be feminine. There is muted masculinity "sandwiched" in a feminine package. Women are still expected to be overall feminine, and have the traits of gentleness and submissiveness. But in any of trait of femininity, it is directly defined by masculinity. There are specific guidelines for things to be masculine, and then anything else is considered feminine. There are less specific rules for what is "feminine" as opposed to what is "masculine". The things in my room can be perceived as feminine, but that can be by the lack of masculinity in them, not by the femininity in them. So the sexual joke on the wall is not less feminine, but more masculine.
The very sign "That’s What She Said" that hangs on my door is a sign of "Compulsory Heterosexuality" as Adrienne Rich said. The joke implies that a woman is saying something sexual about sex, or the male body. The joke is 100% heterosexual with no leniency to be used homosexually. In an episode of The Office when referring to a gay male character they actually stop and change the joke to "That’s What He Said", with the change being a joke itself. The very sign that hangs on my door is a sign of a heterosexually dominated culture and male dominancy. The sign is on my door simply because I think the joke is funny, and to show that I love the TV show. But the joke itself implies that the woman is being used for nothing other than sex, and that the men should laugh about it. It’s such a simple joke that I’ve heard repeated hundreds of times, but no one would ever stop to think if it was sexist. That shows that our society is dependent on sexism, and revolves around it without even knowing it.
The fact that it is acceptable for me as a woman to have a sign referring to sexuality in my room is different than 50 years ago. Now, women are expected to have some masculinity, and to show some sexuality. Women are called “prudes” and “teases” if they are not sexual, and will be made fun of by men and women for being “wimpy girly girls”. Sexuality in itself is perceived as a male dominated idea, and for a woman to be open about it is still seen as a masculine trait. Like Marilyn Frye said in "Oppression", women are stuck in where they are expected to be both sexually active and inactive. The fact that women are at all expected to be sexually active shows a change in ideas, and in the expectations of women. This change has been affected by feminists, but also feminism in itself changed the view of women. After feminism was established, more women fought for women’s rights, and the feminine construct changed forever. For feminism to exist, it has to admit that we live in a misogynistic culture. It makes the world admit an existing patriarchy and the need to admit inferiority to men.
The most dominate visual in both most boys rooms is sports paraphernalia. Malachy has a large trophy with medals hanging off of it, while Andrew has an entire dresser filled with trophies, ribbons, plaques and an autographed basketball. Sports have always been a male dominated area of the world, which is part of the male patriarchy, presented by Allan Johnson in The Gender Knot. Our society revolves around males, and what they do best. Males are known for dominating athletics, and athletics is still seen as a masculine pastime. When girl’s play sports it "…well she’s an athletic girl" implying that that is an exception, not the normal. As opposed to boys, who are questioned when they don’t play sports. Trophies and ribbons are signs of masculinity in teenage boys, by showing that they have beaten other boys and are better than them. By having them shown so prominently in their bedroom, it shows that although there is a patriarchy, men still feel the need to prove themselves to fit into it. Fitting in makes them feel proud of themselves, which is necessary for them to feel masculine. Just being good at athletics isn’t good enough – you need to prove your abilities to other men with tangible objects. Teenagers are known for feeling lost and trying to identify who they are as a person, and seeing signs of athletic accomplishments is a reminder for boys that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, and fitting into society.
By looking at the bedroom of three teenagers, you can see various magazines and books, but you can also see their identity, including gender. By looking at the objects in the rooms it is obvious that our society still defines gender based on masculinity, and values everything based on it’s level of "manliness".
Bedrooms of teenagers show many things, and many aspects of their personality. Something as simple as four walls and floor can also shows problems in our society, and how they have changed over time.

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