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Being Gendered + Comedy or Tragedy?

bluebox's picture

I started looking into my memories when Anne asked us when we first felt gendered. My mother tells me that I had a “girly” phase when I was three, where I’d wear lots of pink dresses and lacy gloves and a white hat with a pink ribbon.  Instead of sleeping with a particular stuffed animal, I’d bring my favorite object of the day into bed. Once it was the frying pan from my kitchen set, and once my new pair of shoes.  But I grew out of that, and my mom bought me overalls and other clothes that didn’t have a particular brand or princess on it, and let me grow out my Dorothy Hamill.

Now I wonder if my gendered phases in my childhood caused how I’m gendered now—well, I’m certain they affected it somehow, but is it directly because of my inconsistent display of femininity? Or was I just born to be ambiguous?

On another note, I got incredibly invested in these characters in Middlesex. I was a crying mess at the end of the book, mostly because of Desdemona. Milt’s flying adventure had me yelling at the book to stop it, it’s too sad.  Despite this, I think it was a comedy.  In the movie Stranger than Fiction, Dustin Hoffman’s character says that if the main character “gets the girl” the story is a comedy. I’m going to stick with that argument because I know there’s a possibility of a happy ending in Cal’s life, especially since he does get the girl in a bittersweet, “last-stop” sort of way.  I don’t think a story counts as a tragedy unless the main character(s) learn something important about life or themselves or something to that nature.  Oedipus learns that incest is bad. Romeo and Juliet have to die in order to overthrow the petty rivalry between houses. Hamlet learns to do what’s morally right in a doomed situation. But they all do it beautifully.  Cal does not commit incest, nor does he have to change social order, nor is he damned entirely like Hamlet. To me, his story is just his life, there’s no overt moral to it.


buffalo's picture

Reading bluebox's comment

Reading bluebox's comment about her different gendered phases made me think about myself and continue to wonder what my gender was shaped by. Growing up I played with my neighbors everyday, who were two boys, so I ended up playing with lots of swords and other 'boys' toys. I was definitely a tomboy, I liked playing sports with all my guy friends, but at the same time I remember chasing 'the boys' at school recess, and in that I felt feminine. In elementary school I wasn't very interested in dresses or appearance, but it was still clear to me that I felt female. Not until middle school did I outwardly start making an effort to seem girly. I started getting into clothes and make-up, and completely changed as a person. I see this change as a social shaping of my gender, because it was so emphasized at school that being liked by boys and looking good was important. Looking back it depresses me to see how much I felt the need to be girly. I wonder if I had been home schooled how my early teen years would have been gender-wise, but I can guess they would have been much more neutral. I ended up going back to more of how I was as a kid, dressing much less feminine and not trying to 'act like a girl'; so it seems to me that my gender was socially influenced, but with time it went back to who I actually am.

j1377's picture



pejordan's picture

bluebox, I really appreciate

bluebox, I really appreciate you pointing out the different phases of your gender as you grew up because I feel the same way. I went through a super girly phase between ages 4 to 5ish, when I dressed myself in patterned dresses and brightly colored leggings and was obsessed with horses/unicorns/princesses (I dressed up as different princesses for Halloween two years in a row). But as I started growing up, puberty hit pretty hard--my hair was uncontrollable, I had glasses and braces simultaneously, and my body just didn't fit me. I was uncomfortable with myself and didn't feel like I was really a girl since I didn't look like the other girls, and so I stopped dressing girly. Eventually I grew out of that awkward stage physically, but I still don't think I'm out of it mentally. I'm more comfortable in athletic clothes, because being an athlete is something that is comfortable to me, something that I know how to do. My dad is very athletic, and so is my twin brother, and that was something that I learned from a very young age.

Looking back on all of these memories, I'm trying to figure out what was biological and what was social, and I absolutely cannot separate them. The Evelyn Fox Keller quote that we discussed in class was interesting for me because it made me think about whether it really matters if our gender is biologically or socially constructed. I'm hoping that looking through "My Gender Workbook" will help me to answer some of my own questions while also helping me to ask new ones.