10 May 2012
Metamorphosis As A College Fresh(wo)man
Last year, I was weeks away from anticipating my high school graduation ceremony. I was ready to enjoy my summer and I was scared, yet excited to start college. Forward it to now, a year later, I’m here at the CSUN’s library, fourth floor to be exact, contemplating on what to write for my cover letter for my English 114A portfolio. Once I turn in that portfolio and I turn in all my finals, it will conclude my freshman year at CSUN. Scary right? Well, in a way yes, because it just means that I’m growing up and going on to challenging, yet better things. This year, I took 9 classes (Fall and Spring semester), and to be frank, I can’t wait until it’s over. It’s been a little stressful; I had to get the hang of things. However, despite the stress, I have learned more and I’m grateful for that. One of the things I’ve learned during my first year in my collegiate endeavor. I’ve learned much more about writing than I did before in high school. I learned about more freedom to write, rather than the teacher or professor, for that matter telling you what to write.
This spring semester, I wrote a lot about identity. Once upon entering English, never did I think that the topic of space and gender identity would inspire me so much. Last semester we did discuss this specific topic, but not as much as we did this semester and I’m glad that I got to learn about it. As I look back, I’m more aware of my different identities and the identities of others as well as how our space affects or contributes to our identities. You never really notice things until someone or something brings it up. Because this was the main focus this semester, I have caught myself thinking about, “why does this person dress this way? Is it because they really like they way the clothes fit or how are their friends, do they dress the same? Is it the space within his group of friends that inspired him?” Because of this, as I mentioned before, I am much more aware of things. Before, I would hear the word gender identity and I just thought, “Oh, well, that guy is a male and she’s a female”. That’s their identity; it was pretty black and white. When in reality, Gender Identity has so much more depth than that.
My first essay, was about gender rolse in the graphic novel, The Surrogates, with influences from the movie, Gamer, although, I didn’t mention the movie in my essay; even though they are completely different plots they had a similar theme: gender roles. In my first essay, I pointed out the gender roles in the graphic novel and how it is relatable to the real world. In The Surrogates, the person who created the surrogates, Victoria, also known as Victor created them so she can get a higher position in her job. Because many seldom see that a woman can hold a high position job, she created her self as a man so it could be more “socially accepted”. Also, I mentioned how in popular culture in the world, we see authors such as S.E Hinton, whose actual name is Susan Eloise Hinton, knew her work would be recognized if she used a male pen name.
In my second essay, I discussed how a child would develop “normally” according to child development and how David Reimer developed. After reading as Nature Made Him, by John Colapinto, which talked a lot about nature v.s nurture and gender identity, I wanted to look at it from the psychological and child development aspect and how day-to-day things affect us, even if we don’t see it, using theories from Child Development to support it.
I look at myself a year ago, as a writer, I see I’ve changed so much. I’m more stronger as I writer I feel, even though I’m not so confident. Also, I feel as if I know more about Gender Identity than your average college student (I could be wrong though). This year in English 114 A and B, taught me a lot and I feel I’ve grown as a writer and I gained a lot of useful knowledge that will help me in my collegiate endeavors for the upcoming 3 years. With new knowledge about Pathos, Ethos and Logos to learning about Gender Identity and how it’s just more than Female and Male.
Gender Roles: Relevant even today?
Ever since we can remember, we’ve had this idea of how a certain gender should be. Whether we notice it or not, gender roles have a big impact in the society we live in. In advertisements, we see the masculine male, who is handsome, buff, which can be related to strong. If he is with a woman, the woman is usually beautiful, tiny, and delicate, which can be related to weakness. In Disney movies, for example, we have seen the same old plot that a handsome prince comes and saves a damsel in distress. It’s not only Disney movies we see this, but also a lot of the romantic films. In real life, outside from movies, outside of the advertisements, we see that gender roles have a huge influence. Women are usually seen as the caring, who provide warmth and love while men who are usually seen as the strong, “macho”, and the breadwinner. In the 1950’s and even in the present, we see this. In the 1950’s a lot of women stayed home and were the housewife and took care of the kids and had a home cooked meal for the family while the husband was away at work. Today, we still see this, but it’s not as present as it was back then. Gender Roles has also influenced us on how we live, on popular culture, such as movies and even in books. Even in advertisements we see gender roles. The graphic Novel, the Surrogates uses gender roles that are similar to how gender roles are viewed in society in real life.
In the graphic Novel, the Surrogates we are taken to a society where people from the comfort of their own home operates as surrogates. These surrogates are robots who look how one wants them to look. This allows the owner to do normal day-to-day errands or activities without leaving sitting up or even going outside. We are introduced to the main character a man named Harvey Greer, who is on the case to find the person who is trying to kill off these surrogates because of these surrogates, people are forgetting what is real and they would rather be lazy and not enjoy life and they let vanity control their life. Harvey Greer, is a policeman, that seems to be strong, and in the end comes to his senses on the dangers of surrogates, and seems to be strong. In the novel, we are introduced to Harvey’s wife Margaret. Margaret is so consumed with her surrogate because it makes her young and feels beautiful. She can’t stand the fact that she is aging and when her husband Harvey tries knocking some sense into her, she won’t budge. The gender role that is being exemplified here is that while the man has common sense, he tried telling her that she didn’t need the surrogate that he wanted to see the real her, she wouldn’t listen. It showed that women could only care about how they look. At the end of the novel, Margaret commits suicide after the surrogates were disabled. Also, another gender role that were seen in the book was the creator of the original surrogate actually was a woman named victoria who changed her name to Victor. The reason why she chose to change her name and gender was simply because a woman could not be taken seriously and men could, so in order to be taken seriously because she was a woman, she had to change. It showed that for some reason women were untrustworthy and maybe even delicate. We’ve always had an idea that strength is by how big are a man’s muscle. In the novel, the gender role that were perceived is that men were strong and the rational ones, while women were untrustworthy and vain.
Women tend to be viewed as vain because of how the media portrays us. In real life, we see magazines and it’s women usually beautiful celebrities trying to sell us a product. If you pay close attention, you will see that the product that they are trying to sell us is a beauty product. We also see how a women’s role is viewed as vain in the shampoo section or the hair product section at target, or Wal-Mart. Shampoo and conditioner is a unisex product, but it seems to be appealing more towards women then men. You do see the shampoo that does say “for men” but those are very limited. Because women care more for beauty product, companies try to get their attention more. It just shows that many think that one of the many roles that a woman can play is being vain. Or in television shows, they always make a joke about how a girl must always go shopping in order to be happy, or we see in a show or we’ve all encountered a friend that can’t go out because they have no make up on. It is a sad reality that we have this idea on how women are supposed to look or how man is supposed to look because of the gender role that we’ve came to know. In the book, Margaret was so vain that she would rather commit suicide when her surrogate who was younger was disconnected. She did not want to see herself nor accept the reality that we all age and we all grow up that beauty is not only in youth, but as we grow older too. Another juxtaposition from the novel and in real life is when the creator of the surrogates’ name is Victor, but in reality it’s actually victoria. She chose to do this because she as not taken seriously as a woman. Maybe because they’re not viewed as smart as men? Or is it because they are viewed as weak? Whatever reason it may be, she decided to change her name to a manlier name. It just in a way proves that many believe that in order to be successful, you must be a man. A case like this that happened in real life, with S.E Hinton whose actual name is Susan Eloise Hinton, the author of a great book, “the outsiders”. She decided to change her name because probably many thought that a woman could not write a book about gangs the way she did. In order for her books to sell or get published for that matter, she had to change her name to make it seem like a man wrote it. Which isn’t fair because women can write a book just as good as a man, but because of gender role and the perception many have, it just makes it difficult for a woman to be taken serious at times.
The gender roles that are found in The Surrogates can be easily related to the gender roles that are in real life. Many have this view on how women should be or how a man should be. It was showed how Margret was seen as this woman who just loved beauty more than her husband and wasn’t happy because she wasn’t young. And Victoria becoming Victor just to be taken seriously. We see this in real life because how the media can sometimes portray women, as women who are more bout their beauty more than anything else, or women have to change their name in order for their book to be published. But it’s not only in the book industry that this happens.
Compared to the fifties, women have came a long way. Now we see women working and holding higher position jobs. Instead of being a teacher (which was expected of women back in the day), women are now doctors, executives C.E.O’s, etc. Even though women are still portrayed as weak, dependent on their male friend, some women go beyond the status quo and achieve and prove that women can hold a high position just as a man. Gender Roles, even today is still relevant in our society but it’s not as prominent as it once was. More and more women are going to work and some are even the bread winner of their own home.
English 114 B
30 April 2012
Experience Is What Molds Us
Have you ever wondered why we are the people we are? What shapes us to be the people we end up being in the future? Is it the way our parents raise us, the nurture they give us, is it solely our nature that shapes us, the events that we are faced with, the people we meet or even how we develop according to the four stages of identity? Or, could it be a combination of all five? In Bruce’s case, we can see that his parents, the people he met and the situations he and his younger twin brother, Brian were put while growing up, shaped them into the adults they grew up to be, which left them with emotional and psychological trauma.
While we are kids, more than one thing shapes us into being the adults we eventually end up being. It’s a mixture of the situations we’re put in, the people we meet, how our parents nurture us, and how we develop accordingly to the 4 stages of identity. Those whose parents nurtured them correctly, and went through the four stages of development in a healthy manner, turn out to be a “normal” member of society; by normal, meaning that said person develops to be a healthy--mentally, physically and emotionally. While others, on the other hand like Bruce, whose situation was an odd, yet had a negative affect on him.
Ron and Janet had a normal life when their twin baby boys, Bruce and Brian were born. But because of some health issues that the twin baby boys needed to get a circumcision. That is where everything changed for the Reimers. The doctor, who was to do the procedure on the twin boys, used an incorrect tool for the circumcision. The first who was to be circumcised was baby boy Bruce, the oldest twin, it was supposed to be a quick and simple procedure. But what happened was anything but quick and simple. The tool that was used to cut off the foreskin on the baby’s penis actually burned off baby Bruce’s penis. Because of this the doctors decided not to follow through with the procedure with the other twin, Brian. This event changed the Reimers’ lives forever. Ron and Janet had gone to doctors to see what could be done about their baby boy, but it had seemed that everything was just hopeless.
One day, while Ron and Janet were watching T.V, they saw Dr. John Money, a well-known psychologist at Johns Hopkins being interviewed and talking about sex change, gave the Reimers hope. Immediately, Janet contacted Money and soon, the couple was on their way to Boston to meet Dr. John Money. There, Dr. Money had given assurance to the young couple that if they did decide in giving their boy a sex-reassignment that the boy would live like a normal woman and function as well, the only thing is that she wouldn’t be able to conceive. Dr. Money convinced them that they could nurture their boy to be a girl. But before the sex-reassignment, Money told the young couple to takes some steps, like changing the baby’s name, “Within days of their return from Baltimore, Ron and Janet stopped cutting the baby’s hair, allowing the soft, light brown locks to curl down past the ears. Janet used her sewing machine to turn his pajamas in to girlish granny gowns. Their son had become, for Ron and Janet, their daughter. Dr. Money had counseled them, when deciding what to call their new daughter…. Janet, following Dr. Money’s instructions, called her new baby daughter Brenda Lee” (Colapinto 53). After consulting with Dr. John Money, the parents eventually slowly, but surely changed their boy into a girl. Believing they could nurture their now daughter, into being a girl, ignoring that genetically speaking, she was a boy and hoping that the boy in her didn’t come out. This could lead to a lot of psychological problems.
Because Ron and Janet tried their best to nurture baby girl Brenda into a girl, ignoring the fact that nature played a big role into molding Brenda as an adult. They did what ever they thought a girl should do and what a boy shouldn’t do, “Ron and Janet tried their best to do just that. They furnished her with dolls to play with; they tried to teach her to be neat and tidy; and they tried, whenever possible to reinforce her identity as a girl. So when, for instance, the twins had just turned four, and Brian was watching Ron shave and asked if he could shave, too, Ron gave him an empty razor and some shaving cream to play with. When Brenda also clamored for a razor, Ron refused. “I told her that girls don’t shave”, Ron says. “ I told her girls don’t have to.”(Colpinto 56). Brenda at a young age showed interest in more manly things and Ron and Janet just ignored it, and forced her into more girly things. But the more they tried to steer her in that direction, the more they failed, “Brian says that the episode was typical of the way their parents tried to steer him and his sister Brenda into opposite sexes—and how such efforts were inevitably doomed to failure. “ I recognized Brenda as my sister,” Brian says. “But she never, ever acted the part.” (Colapinto 57). Nature played a big role in the Bruce’s development. He was just trying to act how he genetically was made. The more his parents forced the role of a girl and the idea of femininity into the young child, the more the child resisted. Which is unhealthy.
Because you’re constantly told that you’re a specific way, your whole life, you tend to be confused and it plays with you psychologically. When talking about his past, David mentions how he just wishes that that part of his life was completely erased, “It was like brainwashing,“ he was saying as if he lit the first in an unbroken chain of cigarettes. “I’d give just about anything to go to a hypnotist to black out my whole past. Because it’s torture. What they did to you in the body is sometimes not as near as bad as what they did to you in the mind-- with the psychological warfare in your head.”” (Colapinto, xiii). This could be dangerous, being told you’re one thing and feeling something else, especially when you’re at that age when you’re trying to find your identity and who you are. Your adolescent years are very crucial to your development as well as your childhood. During this time, you go through what Erick Erickson called, the four stages of development. The first identity achievement, which occurs when an individual has gone through an exploration of different identities and made a commitment to one; the second stage of identity is moratorium, which is the status of a person who is actively involved in exploring different identities, but has not made a commitment; then it is foreclosure status, which is when a person has made a commitment without attempting identity exploration, and finally, identity diffusion which occurs when there is neither an identity crisis or commitment.
Erickson’s four stages of identity explain a lot when it’s relating to adolescent development. If one goes through the stages in a healthy manner, then they will most likely lead a happier life. Once one reaches identity achievement, which is after figuring out the different identities, they commit to it, everything is easier. Why? Because after searching for one’s identity, and thinking about who they are, when they find one that they’re happy with, everything tends to fall into place. When one reaches that stage in identity, they know how they are and they tend to start looking for a group where they would fit in and feel safe. It’s a satisfaction one gets by knowing who they are and in what category they fit in without constantly having to doubt or think about it.
However, when one has not reached identity achievement, and they are in the earlier stages, it can be hazardous. Because they feel like one does not belong to a certain group, per say, they will most likely be angry and upset all the time because they lack knowledge of who they are and they will more than likely be isolated. We clearly see it in David Reimers case. David Reimer, before successfully killing himself, did try to kill him self before his suicide. At one point, according to David, he tried to coincide with what he was told his identity was. Meaning, he tried putting on make-up and started to wear clothing that a girl her age would typically wear, just to make his parents happy. Even though on the inside, he himself was not satisfied. This, as mentioned in one of the points earlier did affect David greatly because his whole life, he was trying to cope with figuring out who he was. He felt a different way than what he was told he was. This ultimately shaped him into being the adult he was.
Another thing that vastly affects the development and shapes us as adults is the people we meet and the situations we are put in. After the sex reassignment, Dr. John Money requested to meet up annually with the twins and Brenda alone. During these sessions, Money would make the twins do things that would get him fired, “But the children did not enjoy these enforced activities—particularly those involving “play at thrusting movements and copulation,” which Brian recalls that Dr. Money first introduced when the twins were six years old. Money, he says, would make Brenda assume a position on all fours on his office sofa and make Brian come up behind her on his knees and place his crotch against her buttock” (Colapinto 87). This is a traumatizing experience for 6 year olds to go through. Because Money wanted to be right in his experiment, he did what ever it took to get the results he wanted. Even if it meant hurting someone else. This part of the counseling left a deep scar on both twins, “ Today David is still unwilling to speak about it. “There are some things I don’t want to remember,” he says. In 1989 he did describe the sessions to Jane Fontane, the woman who would become his wife. The tow had just watched a TV documentary on CIA torture involving electro shock to people’s genitals. “He cried hysterical,” Jane told me. He was crying about John Money. I’d never seen him like that.” (Colapinto 87). Here we see that that those specific counseling sessions left David traumatized, but not only David, but Brian as well. Since this is a form of abuse, it highly affected them. In Jane and Greg Cook’s book , “the world of children”, Childhood abuse may also have a permanent effect on the brain structure. The limbic system, important for regulating emotion and memory, seems to be especially affected. Stress is a toxic agent that can disrupt normal brain development”(Teicher, 2002). We don’t know how much the twins’ cognitive development was affected by this, but after wards they refused to go and refused to see Dr. Money. When he went to their house, they were stubborn and refused to see him.
Ultimately, situations we are put in also leave a scar and traumatize us. Because David didn’t fit in with the other students since he first started going to school, he would get made fun of so much. Being bullied severely affects one. The type of bullying that David had gone through was verbal and rational. Verbally, people would call him things such as “ape”, rational; he would be excluded from many groups within the school. According to Guadalupe Espinoza, kids who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, have suicidal thoughts and have social anxiety. In the book, David tells John Colapinto that he’s tried committing suicide as when he was older after having the sex change.
As we grow up, the events that we end up going through shapes us, as well as the people we meet and how our parents decide to raise us. It could be a bad thing or a good thing; some unfortunately have such a difficult child hood that when they are adults, most of them have a depressing life. The Reimer twins died tragically – they both committed suicide. Of course, they had many reasons why they had committed suicide, but what they went through in their childhood, had vastly affected them. Even if you try, the memory of what you went through will always stick around. And the twins had gone through so much.
Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. Print.
Cook, Greg, and Joan Littlefield. Cook. The World of Children. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010. Print.