Gender Specific Small Talk
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…