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My earliest experience of realizing the difference of genders occurred when I was about three years old. I visited California. There lived my cousin who was one year younger than I. We had been playing in the garden, surrounded by cactus and flowers. It was summer. I remember my aunt turned on the water hose for us to spray around with. Being kids, we couldn’t have imagined anything more entertaining.
My cousin took off his shirt, and was running back and forth through the sprinklers like a madman. Of course I wasn’t going to let him do it alone, so I joined in. I ripped off my shirt and galloped through the drops of water falling from the sky (about two feet above my head.) The next thing I remember, our water day was over and I was inside reading my favorite Dinosaur book. My aunt came out into the giant chair that I was sitting in and took my book from my lap, just when I was getting to the good part. “Honey,” she told me, “you can’t take your shirt off. Your bellybutton is a private part.” I took no time to argue, “But my cousin takes off his shirt all the time.” “You are not him,” she said, “You are a lady, and ladies don’t show their bellybuttons.”
I recall having this conversations a few times to follow, each time with different members of my family. I just couldn’t understand what made me different from my cousin and best friend. Our adventures following were few and far between. We no longer had long marathons of Spiderman while we raced our cars around the circular coffee table in the living room. Blocks were not for building towers, they were for making horse stables and houses for my pretend family. I no longer read the green and white dinosaur book to my cousin before bed every night. I was scolded constantly to close my legs, sit up straight, elbows off the table. I was given a pretend puppy to stare at instead of running around with Antonio, while he pretended to be a wolf. Since none of these new activities interested me, I instead read books about all of the pretend adventures I wanted to go on and even learned to write. I now lived in a gendered world.
The strict ideals of gender that I was raised with have definitely influenced my experience in this class, as well as choosing this class in the first class. From the moment I comprehended this idea of inequality between girls and boys, I despised and rejected it. I knew that I was bigger, faster, stronger and smarter than my younger cousin. These early experiences have influenced my outlook on the world. While I don’t despise everything that is considered feminine in this society, I despise the gender inequalities. I hate that certain games, toys, colors, jobs and clothing are limited to certain genders. I hate that boys are vies as more capable of succeeding than girls, and I hate that girls are generally only the gender allowed to have emotions other than angry or hungry.
This passionate hatred for our society’s gender ideals was instilled in me the same day all of my favorite things were snatched from me. And thus, in class I fight to understand the true differences between genders and sexes. I look at gender ideals in different cultures, societies and religions in an attempt to make sense of them, and eventually, to change them.
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