Final Reflection: A Post on Society & Sex

Upon being asked the question of what the most important and influential concept to understanding the relationship between sex and society covered in this semester, I began to think about all the different concepts talked and read about in class. When thinking about everything, I began to see connections between different terms that came up throughout the semester that were discussed that I had never seen before. The concepts are all fairly different, yet are all still related in some ways because of the manner that society has been formed over the years. Agents of socialization, sex education, social constructions, and heteronormativity have all become interconnected, creating an environment of hostility towards people who do not identify as heterosexual.

The agents of socialization people are exposed to impact their views on everything in life. However, their views on sex are affected more so than some other aspects of life are. The socialization of sex and sex education has a more prevalent impact on how a person forms their ideas and views on sex. The environment a person was raised in, their religion, schooling experience, family, friends, and the media all heavily influence the formation of what sex means and should mean to a person. But, this can be dangerous- with the amount of societal constructions (such as what “good” or “normal” sex is, gender, etc.)  that exist today, it is easy for the manner in which a person was socialized to negatively affect their views on sex or gender. For example, many religions do not condone homosexuality, so if someone is raised in that environment, it is likely they would judge and discriminate anyone who is homosexual.

SInce gender is a social construction, it easy to stereotype and discriminate against those who do not fit into the gender binaries that exist today (boy and girl). So, those who appear as  lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, or transgender are easily stereotypes and judged. The heteronormative ideals that are held by the majority of the people in this country also lead to stigmas and discrimination. When people who have other sexual orientations other than heterosexual, they are often mistreated by society and can even be susceptible to violence, sexual violence in particular (as seen in the video of the transgender man who used the bathroom of a New York McDonald and was beat for it by the manager, yet was charged for a misdemeanor when in actuality he was the victim ).

Over the years, this problem has perpetuated. It has become easier for discrimination and violence to occur without any repercussion on the perpetrator. The connections between these terms and these societal constructions and manifestations all lend to why society is as it is today and why people discriminate, act violently toward, and outcast nonheterosexual people. Having a good understanding of all these terms allows for a person too see the interconnectedness and understand why these horrible things occur. It allows for people to be aware of  the problem and not lend to it or be an enabler.

What’s Sex Got to do With… Final Reflection Post

In reflecting over the past semester, I think that our discourses surrounding different sexualities and sexual identities have been very important and informative.  Something that I have really taken away from our class discussion is the variety of sexual identities out there that deserve recognition, and the ways in which those identities can be divorced from behaviors, in order for us to take a more critical look at peoples’ embodied experiences with their sexualities and gender performances.

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Identifying as Transgender and Getting Hired

Individuals who identify as transgender face more everyday problems than we may know. The little things, such as having to choose a bathroom without getting yelled at or getting security called, or having to explain why you look absolutely nothing like your drivers license are a few things that heterosexuals take for granted.

The workforce today is strongly dominated by men. Typically white, middle to upper class men. However, when it comes to being transgender, being a white man is not necessarily favored. According to the article in “Introducing the New Sexuality Studies”, by Kimberly Tauches, people who identify as transgender undergo far more than we would expect. Transgenders face conflict in public spaces, language, documentation, sexuality, and also problems in the medical world.

Gender is a term that evolves over time. Today, gender is defined as something different than it was viewed as in the 1950s. A woman in the past who went and did work in an office for example was viewed as masculine, as well as a woman who played sports. Today, gender has obtained a new perspective. Feminine and masculine are different than they were fifty years ago. Gender operates at many different levels, including personal, in the workplace, and through interaction. All of these contribute to gender attribution, which is the process in which we decide and expect a person to act, based on what we see. We base what we see from how masculine or feminine the person acts.

Men have always been viewed as masculine. In the work place, men have always been favored in earning more money, such as doctors, lawyers, and bosses. Men also obtain the label as head of family, and have shown significant power over woman in politics. How is this supposed to come into play when a woman becomes a man?

Transgenders today often have a ridiculous amount of criticism when trying to fit into the workplace. According to americanprogress.org:

  • Fifteen percent to 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job.
  • Eight percent to 17 percent of gay and transgender workers report being passed over for a job or fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Ten percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were gay or transgender.
  • Seven percent to 41 percent of gay and transgender workers were verbally or physically abused or had their workplace vandalized.
  • Ninety percent of transgender individuals have encountered some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job.
  • Forty-seven percent of workers have experienced an adverse job outcome because they are transgender. This includes:
    • Forty-four percent who were passed over for a job
    • Twenty-three percent who were denied a promotion

And 26 percent who were fired because they were transgender

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuU5d4-s8BM

The link above is the story of a woman named Vandy Beth Glenn who was fired when she told her boss about her transition from being male to female. The took this into court regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009.

The HRC.org (Human Rights Campaign) noted some important pros and cons of becoming transgender:

Some benefits of disclosure:

  • Living an authentic and whole life
  • Reducing the stress of hiding our identity
  • Being more productive at work
  • Developing closer, more genuine relationships with colleagues, customers and clients
  • Building self-esteem from being known for who we really are
  • Having authentic and open friendships with other transgender people
  • Becoming a role model for others

Some risks/consequences of coming out:

  • Not everyone will be understanding or accepting
  • Family, friends and co-workers may be shocked, confused or even hostile
  • Some relationships may permanently change
  • You may experience harassment, discrimination or violence
    • You may lose your job

Unfortunately, there are no answers on how to perfectly or correctly obtain a transgender identity in the workplace. Being transgender is something that is a challenge that comes with a lot of personal choices. Applications may or may not ask for gender specifications as well as medical paperwork.

Transgender individuals face many problems not only keeping a job, but getting hired. The application and interview process are difficult. There are 29 states in America that make it legal to fire you if you identify as gay. There are many tips on sites that transgenders are required to use in order to keep or receive a job. These tips include some things that most people don’t have to face. Transgenders are suggested to keep their identity private and not make it a crisis at work. If it is to be discussed, it should be done not on-site at work, and made known that it is private. Trasgneders are also required to not slip under any circumstances while on the job. Every move is watched under a very large microscope. Transgenders are also advised to record every move they make. This way, if something slips up regarding discrimination, they have proof that the work was put in. Transgenders are advised to keep calm in situations. One might feel that he or she is constantly being watched or harassed. It might be hard to stay focused at work under that type of pressure.

How would you feel if your co-worker opened up to you?

Do you think that transgenders are going to be given equal opportunity in the next few years?

Do you think that transgenders have to right to be upset with how they are treated or do business owners have rights in choosing who they hire?

Final Concept Analysis: Binaries and Stereotypes

This Sex and Society course has taught me about extremely important issues, mentalities, and trends regarding sex and its connection to society. I believe that the societal construction of binaries and stereotypes is the most important concept because it crosses all sexual boundaries and has a major impact on groups in society. We learned that society often creates binaries to categorize certain groups and apply stereotypes to these groups. Binaries allow people to easily apply certain stereotypes and narrow-minded opinions to groups of people, and this often leads to discrimination or systems of hierarchy. Ever since I learned about this concept, I have seen it reoccur constantly in readings and discussion. It seems that it is almost human nature to mentally categorize certain groups as one and the same, leaving little opportunity for the genuine acceptance of authentic and distinct personalities.

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What’s Sex Got to Do With…Heteronormativity?

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Thinking about the most important or influential concept to understanding the relationship between sex and society that we covered in class brings an array of ideas to mind because we have covered so many topics. After much thought, I have come to a conclusion: the most important concept is the idea of heteronormativity in our society. We have talked about many concepts, but the idea of heteronormativity seems to come to mind in every one of them. Our society is extremely heteronormative, meaning that people believe heterosexuality is the only sexual preference, completely leaving out the entire LGBTQ community. It comes down to something so simple as stating that heterosexuality is privileged in our society. Awards like prom king and queen are completely geared toward the heterosexual community and leaves out the LGBTQ community completely. In addition, the media is heteronormative through expressing heterosexual relationships at the forefront of the TV shows we all watch and love. Some TV shows like Modern Family are now starting to depict homosexual relationships in the shows to make a statement, but it is going to take a lot of time and hard work to make our society completely equal in sexual orientations.

In addition, the idea of heteronormativity completely enforces gender stereotypes in our society. Males are the dominant gender, and females are left behind them. Heterosexuality enforces this because in the relationship, males are the bread winners and are supposed to have traits like dominance, physical strength, toughness, and being emotionless. Females, on the other hand, are supposed to stay at home and take care of children, cook, and clean and have traits like care, love, emotion, and less physical strength than men. Heteronormativity enforces these stereotypes because in a heteronormative relationship, these traits and ways of life are how it’s “supposed” to be. This is in quotations because there are many relationships where the mother is the bread winner, but as we stand in today’s time, the father is the bread winner in the majority of relationships.

An example of a heteronormative relationship from the media that embodies gender norms in our society is Phil and Claire Dunphey of Modern Family.

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http://haveuheard.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/julieandtye.jpg

Phil and Claire Dunphey are the epitome of the modern, heterosexual relationship because Phil works, while Claire is a stay-at-home mom. Phil has a great relationship with his son and frequently talks to him about girls. Claire is a loving mother who makes (or tries to make) dinner every night, and is caring and loving toward her children. In addition, she always looks gorgeous, wearing a nice outfit with makeup on throughout the show. This is the classic heterosexual relationship. As much as I love Claire and Phil, their relationship enforces heteronormativity and gender stereotypes in our society.

Do you think we will ever be able to have a society that is completely “sexual orientation neutral”? If so, how much time do you think it will take, and/or do you think our society will need to make some major changes before we can get there? Also, do you think we will ever have a gender neutral society?

What’s Sex Got to Do With……. South Park?

What does it mean to be transgender?  According to Tauches, “transgender is an umbrella term that is used to describe a group of people who intentionally “mismatch” their sex and their gender identity” (134).  Let’s ask Eric Cartman what he thinks it means to be “transginger”…..

http://southpark.cc.com/clips/ms8uv8/im-transginger

In this clip you can see that Principal Victoria doesn’t really know what it means to be transgender as she says that since Cartman want to be a girl that he must be attracted to boys.  This also ties into how heteronormativity, or the view that heterosexuality is the only acceptable form of sexuality, figures prominently in American sexual culture (136).  Heterosexuality is seen as “normal” or the right ay for people to be; this is seen everyday life through the assumptions that everyone is heterosexual.

Gender varies at difference levels, such as the personal, international, and institutional level; at the personal level, society dictates what is considered normal for a person ion terms of their gender identity (135).  This includes how individuals use their hair-style, clothing, mannerisms, and their ways of talking to express the gender they choose to have.

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What’s Sex Got to Do With…Bruce Jenner?

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Many rumors have been going around the media about Bruce Jenner transitioning into a woman.  Once the world’s best athlete, a label that fits the definition of masculinity perfectly, now transitioning into a female through surgical modification of his masculine features is something nobody would have ever guessed to happen to him.

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“Cheered on by a wildly whooping and whistling crowd of 70,000, the United States’ Bruce Jenner grimaced his way across the finish line late last Friday afternoon to claim the one Olympic honor more precious than gold: the title of “the world’s greatest athlete.” (Time.com) Bruce Jenner was, and still is, one of the most well-respected athletes of all time. He won a gold medal and set a world record in the decathlon at the Summer Olympics of 1976. Competing in the decathlon is the ultimate test of strength, agility, and true athleticism, consisting of 10 track and field events. Setting a world record in this at the Summer Olympics defines him as the world’s best athlete, a label that fits perfectly in the definition of “masculinity”.

This idea brings up the overarching question, which we have talked a lot about in class, of what defines “masculinity” and what defines “femininity” and who defines these traits?

Masculine traits tend to include dominance, a lack of showing emotion, being the bread winner of the family, physical strength, independence, and security in himself. Feminine traits, on the other hand, tend to include being weaker than the male (where did this idea come from?), more emotional, physical attractiveness, caring about their physical appearance, and usually working at home and caring for children. The overarching question is this: why are masculinity and femininity defined as stated, and how did it become this way?

Personally, I believe that it started with the primary, biological trait that men are physically stronger than women. God made them this way, and there is nothing females can do about this. But the idea that they are physically dominant over women makes them feel like they should be mentally dominant over them as well. This is where the extreme difference in traits comes from. It comes from the idea that men are the ones going out and bringing home the money for the families, and the women are the ones that stay at home and cook, clean, and take care of the children.

http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_d80xfykn

http://i4.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article4530376.ece/alternates/s2197/PAY-Bruce-Jenner-Main.jpg

I realize that this video is from TMZ and TMZ is never truly justified, but I believe this video is a great representation of all of the changes Bruce has made to himself to make himself more “feminine”. From the plastic surgery in his face, to his hair, to the shaving of his adams apple (something considered to be a true, masculine feature), to his painted nails, his changes are a great representation of how the world describes femininity.

The overarching question is as stated: how did “masculinity” and “femininity” gain their separate traits?  Henceforth, besides the media who defines these traits today?