5 Ways We Perform Our Gender Every Day (Without Even Noticing)

Gender is a funny thing. Many people think gender and sex are synonymous. However, this is quite wrong. Think of it like this, sex is between the legs while gender is between the ears. Each day we perform our gender and actively work to prove our gendered identity (whether we realize it or not). Even if not all of these performances apply to you, it’s still important to reflect on how you put on your own gendered show. Let’s explore some ways that we put on this performance:

1.  The way we sit.

As a woman, do you ever feel the need to cross your legs? As a man, do you ever feel weird crossing your legs? We have defined femininity and feminine actions by the performance of crossing legs, keeping legs together, and looking put together in a public space. This is not to say that it is acceptable for men to man-spread in public, but we do less of a double take when we see man sitting with his legs apart than when we see a woman sitting with her legs apart.

2. The way we dress.

This one seems obvious, we have different body types so we need women’s clothing and men’s clothing, duh. However, the way we dress and what we choose to accentuate is almost exclusively dominated by this performance. As women, there is a stress to wear tighter, more revealing clothes that accentuate something (breasts, legs, arms, waist, butt ect). However, as men, there less of a tendency to accentuate parts of the body. With these existing expectations, women who dress in loose clothing or men who dress in tight clothing defy their gendered expectations. Therefore, those who feel the need to prove their gendered identity will subscribe to the preexisting fashion attributes.

3. What we drink.

A cold one with the boys? A wine spritzer with the girls? While this has become more fluid (lol pun intended), more men usually feel secure ordering a beer than a fruity drink. The idea of drinking a beer as an indicator of masculinity is absurd, yet we are programmed to accept that men like hardier and more bitter drinks, while women tend to enjoy fruity, light, and sweeter concoctions. Think back to moments when the waiter/bartender comes and you panic and order a drink. What is your go-to? How have the people around you impacted your decision? How has the gender of the waiter/bartender impacted your decision?

4. What we like to do.

Sports. Shopping. Talking politics. Gossip. In reality, most everyone has participated in those four things at some point in their life. However, read those four words one more time. As you read them you probably connected each activity with a specific gender. By doing this, we perpetuate stereotypes and expectations. Women love to shop right? Or do women love to shop because they believe it boosts their feminine image if they show the world they love to shop? Much of what we like to do is at some point compared to the gender with which we identify. Are our activities too feminine? Too masculine? Or maybe not feminine or masculine enough?

5. What we listen to and what we watch.

There is something attractive about a man who loves romantic comedies. Maybe it’s the light in his eyes because he is defying gendered expectations by watching and openly enjoying cute cliches and predictable plots. Maybe it’s the security he feels in his own masculinity that he can confidently tell his guy friends that he watched Bridget Jones’s Diary and loved it. Whatever it is, both men and women typically opt for movies that have been influenced by their own gender performances. Movies labeled as “Chick-Flicks” have become the craze at all-girl-sleepovers, meanwhile at a stereotypical guy sleepover the odds of watching Clueless is slim-to-none. I get if certain movie genres are not your thing, personally I freak out during scary movies. However, think of the movies you LOVE. Why do you love them? When would you suggest to watch them? How would the group dynamic impact your suggestion? What assumptions do you make when you suggest movies or music to a group of friends? Working through the way we perceive gendered expectations will not change overnight, however reflecting on how we perform our gender can help us better understand what we do and why we do it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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Norm Sampson