Gender is a hot topic among Sociology students. And so it is among American citizens. The failed campaign of what would be the first female US president coincided with the election of someone recorded on tape boasting of sexual misconduct. If you take a cultural angle towards politics, the backlash of the #MeToo campaign would hardly be surprising.
While the ethical contradictions between the sexual misconduct allegations and legal processes are hard to reconcile, it is a better time than ever to challenge our habitual ways of thinking about sex and gender. For a start, do you believe that girls should enter the arts while guys play sports, that girls should stay at home for guys to work outside, that girls can cry but guys must not?
Common sense tells us that girls and guys tend to behave differently, with a few exceptions. But are these differences biological or social? One way to feel the force of socializing is simply to behave outside the norms of your gender. Just behave as you think the other gender should behave. And see how others respond.
You probably know what might happen. You might not even dare to try.
Questioning gender norms is not a mere academic exercise. It has huge practical consequences on social relations, and thus the entire lives of all individuals. Acker argues that gendered discrimination, apart from being overt, is woven into the logic of work institutions. It is vital for girls to know what they are fighting for.
Privilege is hard to let go, and thus guys may prefer the status quo. But as Ford and Lyons will tell you, hierarchies exist within genders, and these hierarchies may shift as well. There is a hollowness to the power gained at the expense of women. Men often find it harder to know what they really want. It is vital for men to stop degrading “feminine” tendencies so that both genders can be allowed to thrive.
The #MeToo campaign is, on the whole, arguably a step in the right direction for both genders. My utopic hope is that greater mutual empathy is not far away.
Personal Faves of NUS SC2220
David Valentine/Riki Anne Wilchins – One Percent on the Burn Chart (1997)
Bronwyn Davies – Becoming Male or Female (2002)
Michele Ford/Lenore Lyons – Men and Masculinities in Southeast Asia (2012)
Joan Acker – Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations (1990)
Kingsley Browne – The Gender Gap in Compensation, Ch 6 in Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality (2002)
Other Highlights of NUS SC2220
Anne Fausto-Sterling – The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough (1993)
Eleanor Maccoby – Gender Segregation in Childhood, Ch 1 in The Two Sexes (1998)
Cecilia Ridgeway/Shelley Correll – Unpacking the Gender System: A Theoretical Perspective on Gender Beliefs and Social Relations (2004)
Judith Waters/George Ellis – The Selling of Gender Identity (1996)
Radhika Chopra – Retrieving the Father: Gender Studies on “Father Love” and the Discourse of Mothering (2001)
Deniz Kandiyoti – Bargaining with Patriarchy (1988)
Joan Huber – Comparative Gender Stratification (1999)
David Popenoe – Modern Marriage: Revising the Cultural Script (2004)
Brenda Yeoh/Shirlena Huang – Singapore Women and Foreign Domestic Workers (1999)
I took NUS SC2220 in AY14/15 Sem 2, under A/P Eric Thompson.