In my Comparative Literature class, we had a whole week dedicated to feminist thought and critique. It was one of the most influential weeks of education I have had thus far in my two years at Hamilton. In the class, we read and discussed The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, and The Laugh of the Medusa by Helene Cixous.
In our gendered society, and as a heterosexual male, I understand the socially constructed differences between the male gender and female gender. I would also go as far to say that I understand the personal struggle women go through of being seen as the lesser sex in a society. Reading these works helped me understand the social barriers and preconceived notions I, as a male, have to breakdown in order for the female sex to be seen for more than their reproductive organs. However, even with this knowledge, I hesitate to act and fully change my perception.
It is not that I am holding onto sexist beliefs. I hesitate because I don’t know what else there is. I see women as equal, but I am unable to stop seeing distinct physical or emotional differences between the two sexes. I know my inability to stop comparing them is why I am unable to enter the new way of thinking that Butler, Cixous, and Gilman want the male gender to enter. At this moment, I am disgusted by my existence, and the fact that I am a male. Even with understanding to a certain extent the suffering women endure, I consciously part take in social binaries that affect my day-to-day interactions. Phrases like, “oh, she must be on her period”, “ugh women, what are you going to do?” are just some phrase that stain my language. I may not be trying to oppress woman, but certain social behaviors I enage in further separate females from males. The sexes should be intertwined and actively sharing this world on all levels.
I saw these works as a form of liberation from women, and at the same time, as a way of pleading to the male sex to listen to another voice that is free from male insight or opinion. These works gave me insight beyond the idea of sexism by allowing for me to see a reflection of it in myself. By doing this, these great authors begin to strip away thoughts I have of the female sex that I subconsciously labeled as facts. From a male perspective, I personally feel both women and men, or however one chooses to identify, should read these works.