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Just How Millian Do You Think You Are?

November 29, 2010

Today in lecture we discussed contingency vs. necessity: aspects of the world that are, respectfully, either necessary to a specific area and time, or those that are universal truths. We then delved into the abstract norms of society that come about from these traits, specifically identifying gender norms that have no biological justifications (except for girls sitting down when they use the restroom. Seriously?) Ultimately, The general consensus from the class, I felt, was one that felt negatively towards such arbitrary customs. The negativity was not exactly aimed at what we presented as examples of such norms, or even related to gender at all, but to the concept that norms were established at all: Women and men should be born on an even keel, a women could know exponentially more about sports than her male counterpart, pink kayaks don’t necessarily correlate to said kayakers skill, etc… These presumptions come as no surprise; they simply make sense. To refute these would be to refute common logic; obviously we are all born equal and deserve just as equal treatment and respect. Yet, they are not as obvious as this class alone would indicate. Our student body is full of intellectual individuals who are perhaps more liberal in their observation of society (by this I really don’t mean anything political and don’t wish to garnish any comments relating to that, I just mean to say that Umich students are generally more open to change than others). I, in fact, come from a southern state where adherence to tradition is definitely the norm and can personally attest to just how accepting and modern this great college is. As such, I also can very safely presume that the thought processes of the students of this class are not indicative of the majority of America, let alone the world for that matter. While we see the inherent flaws in the individual who preaches slavery and discrepancies in ability based on gender, religion, etc… and providing any argument for such practices would be futile, I want to turn the tables a bit and see  just how open we really are. No one would object to a women president, but what about a homosexual or cross-gender one? Would original gender even matter then? Don’t even think about the lofty position of president, would you let someone on the extreme radical spectrum of society baby-sit your kids? Ultimately, my questions boil down to one main question-keeping in mind that for the sake of coherency I am assuming individuals that are born homosexual, cross-gender, etc…have just as much control over that as they do their gender-that while there are many contingent facts of birth surrounding these sexual preferences, do any of them hold true, or are all contingent facts of birth stereotypical and inherently demeaning? If that’s so and it was, in fact ignorance that spawned such prejudices, is it only enlightenment that can alleviate them? Or if its not true, what are some examples?

  1. cgould4 permalink
    November 30, 2010 5:31 PM

    Although I do agree that being a University of Michigan student does entail being a fan of change, in the grand scope of this country, we are just too far from change. Yes, we are making strides in feminist legislation as women continually become more involved in the workforce, but we are, in my opinion, quite far from a female president.

    As discussed in section today, men may be the key to allow feminism to take root. If men, being half of our society, are opposed to giving up their power to provide women with more power, then the feminist movement cannot make strides. To move forward, although not necessarily a positive thing, we need the men, and I am not sure that our country is at a place today that men would be willing to give up power.

    We discussed how some men in other countries take paternity leave, a large divergent from America’s normal maternity leave. I am not sure that people in this country would be able to leave the gender norm of maternity leave aside, and allow for men to take paternity leave. They may see this as a sign of weakness, men, according to the majority of society, should keep working. Somebody in section mentioned that if a man working for a large corporation wanted to take 3 months off for paternity leave, his bosses would view this as a lack of devotion to his work.

    Thus, though at Michigan change is embraced, I don’t believe that the majority of American society is ready to release gender norms.

  2. vdeepa permalink
    November 30, 2010 10:16 PM

    Your question about gender norms sparked my interest. I have always thought that, while each sex seems predisposed to certain activities because of their genetic characteristics, the interest of an individual in activities happens regardless of their sex. This goes back to the relationship between biological versus social roles. Just today in Psych class, we were talking about how descepencies between sexes are so little that each sex is really equally capable of carrying out the same activies.

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