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Gender Specific Small Talk

April 4, 2010

I went to a party the other day where their happened to be one single person for each couple, all of which were straight and in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Topics of conversation were typical; ranging anywhere in between work and how do you open a beer bottle with a lighter. I was stone cold sober as per usual and although I was enjoying the company of others, I was in a quiet and observing mood. 

At one point in the evening, I was leaning against the wall in the kitchen listening to a couple guys enjoying some small talk. The event that spurred on this specific little tidbit of conversation, which I’m going to tell you about in a minute, was some sort of superficial dispute between one of the guy’s and one of the girl’s present. The girl in question had just left the kitchen and the guys were doing their whole shtick where they express their exasperation at apologizing to a girl about something the have no idea about and still finding themselves in the dog house without a clue as to why they’re there in the first place. 

The conversation turned to the general as opposed to the specific rather quickly, and could only be described as gendered posturing. I felt like I was in an American sitcom staring Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith. I’m not a relationship expert having been in a rather minimal amount of them in my short twenty-eight year span and I just had to ask, “Is that really what it’s like?” The answer I got was, “No, it’s not.”

That got me thinking about how most people, myself included, in a social setting say things they don’t always mean. It’s just how it plays out, I know I’ll say things that only illustrate one side of the truth and not all of the complexities of the situation just to keep the conversation going, just to entertain. I’m glad though, to know that some people know the difference between social posturing and the depth of an actual relationship. The only downside is that it does perpetuate stereotypes and in this case a gender specific stereotype that I don’t recognize in myself. 

That’s one of the reasons I find broad gender specific statements to be off putting, because it can be an odd feeling to not recognize yourself in them and even stranger when you are proud to find yourself outside of the so-called norm. It’s a familiar scene, the little girl who doesn’t want to play with barbies and is proud to declare herself a tomboy. Nothing wrong with that mind you, but the thing I find problematic is when someone rejects a gender imposed character trait solely because it is considered feminine and because being female is something to be ashamed of. Seriously though, I might have played with a couple barbies when I was a kid, but I never would have admitted it because it was too girly and being girly was something bad. Being a tomboy was a much better alternative. 

I try to not indulge in broad gender specific generalization, but it’s not always an easy thing to do. I’m not a stranger to statements like, “Guys are such dicks” or “Men suck”. It’s an easy trap to fall into when you feel hurt or frustrated, and although I think it’s always a safer bet to stick to the individual and not consider facts like age, race, gender, sex, etc, etc, I do sometimes wonder about the validity of certain gender specific stereotypes. How valid is it to say that women are more emotionally expressive than men? How valid is it to say that men think about sex more often than women? How valid is it…

Finish that sentence or any like it with anything you would like, the truth is that any such consideration is social in context. I don’t believe in a biological imperative that separates the sexes in such a clear cut manner, but then again the question is a lot more complicated than that. Where does biology fit in to all of this, when you consider the fact that some people are born feeling like they are in the wrong biological body? How much of the idea of gender is nurture versus nature, and does it really matter? And how do we as people, as individuals and as a society contend with the ramifications of our gender roles within these questions? 

I don’t know. How about you…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2010 12:39 pm

    Being a 46 year-old man and being married for twenty-three years I can state that men and women are very different. It’s not a matter of biology – meaning cocks versus cunts – but rather how having a cock or a cunt makes the conversation have a very different starting point. That’s not wrong, simply reality.

    Men think about sex just as much as women do but the very word “sex” means something different to both. The gender roles demanded by society dictate men do the fucking and women do the cooking. Each individual has to make the decision to ignore that mandate but depending on how you were raised will override knowledge. It doesn’t matter how many books you read or seminars you attend; if sex was called dirty, then the familial voice in your head will ruin a relationship.

    As a man or woman or anything in between, you have the responsibility to enjoy your body and to allow others to enjoy your body as well. All the crap about gender roles has destroyed more marriages than any other cause. Accept the roles that fit you best, compromise frequently and have sex whenever, wherever and however you both deem appropriate. Fuck nurture versus nature: You’re an adult now.

  2. April 4, 2010 2:10 pm

    You sound exasperated by this type of dialogue. Good response. Although, I don’t think that being an adult has anything to do with the question of how socialization has impacted our lives and the changes we can make in regards to it all.

  3. April 4, 2010 2:24 pm

    I am. Being an adult means more than being able to drink. I don’t drink either btw, but I disagree with socialization. As a kid you do what you’re told and what adults think you should do based on your gender. What I’m saying is that as an adult you can choose not to follow in your parents path. Why change for society? Why become someone you’re not just to fit in?

  4. April 4, 2010 3:35 pm

    What I mean by socialization is just that, what your parents/adults think you should do based on your gender. The gender specific roles that society at large imparts on to you is socialization. Now, the change I’m speaking of is not following a path just because it’s what you’ve been taught, but because it’s a better representation of who you are as an individual. I’ve never been the poster girl for becoming someone or something just to fit in.

  5. April 4, 2010 3:54 pm

    Then I guess we agree cause I’m the poster boy. 🙂

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