Slam Poetry has the unique ability to get a point across without holding anything back, while also being entertaining to the ears. In “Girl Code 101”, Blythe Baird accomplishes both aspects of slam poetry. She begins by describing actions some of us may have seen, girls and women using their looks, their bodies, their gestures to get things or get out of doing other things (such as the mile in gym class). These actions are often described in negative connotations, yet Baird suggests these actions are calculated acts for survival. She suggests these acts of survival come out of years of being told we are not good enough for academics or sports, from years of our looks being commented on by anyone who wants to, from years of being made to feel less worthy. These years of being put down lead to an acceptance that this is the way, the only way, for women and girls to survive in this world. Our feminine behaviors are drilled into us out of fear and years of being told we are lesser. Baird claims that femininity is act taught to girls by the society we live in. Baird goes on to call out for female role models known for more than just their body and ability to have a child, role models that will teach women and girls to stand up for themselves and their worth instead of getting by on their looks and politeness as females are often guided into doing.
Baird’s ideas fall right in line with sociology’s perspective on sexuality. Sociologists suggest that sexuality is not inborn, but that it is a product of society. This idea of social constructivism of sexuality applies to gendered behavior as well. Based on our biological sex society expects us to act certain ways, and trains these behaviors into us as early as possible. Whether this entails giving young girls Barbie dolls and young boys trucks or teaching young girls to be polite while expecting boys to “be boys” through aggressive behavior, the lessons of our youth stick. Barbie dolls teach us that girls wear dresses and skirts, girls are taught to be polite to a point that often makes them timid women. The Barbies and Polly Pockets given to young girls teach them that looks, beauty, and being a size 0 are what will get you far in life. Females are influenced by what is shown to them as the “proper” way to behave, and this creates a socially constructed idea of the female character. When talking about this I am always reminded of a scene in Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck dresses up and acts as a girl in attempt to avoid being found. Huck meets many people, but the only person who realizes his ruse is an older woman. While it may not be explicitly stated, it is obvious through Twain’s description why it was only a female who could tell that Huck was not a female. As females, even more so in that time period, we are trained to act feminine in such a precise way that leaves males oblivious to the act, so that no male could identify Huck as they had never experienced the training to behave as a woman.
While it is true that in our current time period there are many female role models who defy these conventional images of femininity, these women are often beaten down and told (very publicly) that they are lesser women because of their refusal to fit gender stereotypes. Women and young girls may also grow to believe that they need to fit accent aspects of their gender (such as their body) in order to get ahead in positions dominated by males. On my high school debate team, the other girls on my team and I were well aware of the disadvantage we were at simply due to our gender. Studies have shown that those who are taller, those who have deeper voices, those who are male are believed to be smarter and have their opinions given more attention just from these factors. We were well aware of these studies, we knew we’d be given less attention because of our gender. We also knew that there were ways to make people look at us, and hopefully hear us. This led many girls, especially the more inexperienced debaters, to intentionally dress in shorter skirts and more revealing tops in attempts to gain favor with the judges (other high school students). We were told, by scientific studies and the world around us, that females are noted for their physical appearance and not their brains. And at times, we allowed ourselves to believe that this was accurate and play into the stereotypes and act the part of the polite, only valued for appearance female.
Gender stereotypes follow us wherever we go. Both males and females have socially constructed stereotypes they are expected to follow, but tackling the issues caused by both stereotypes would take more than one post. How have you seen these stereotypes follow you throughout your lifetime? Are there any particular incidents you can think of in which gender stereotypes were taught to you, whether directly or indirectly?