I personally tunnel a lot. So while I was off tunneling on my way to my new classes, I got a little surprise right after I turned the corner from the Multimedia Center, as I noticed a dress (I also personally like dresses). I walked by this dress on my way to and from classes, always thinking that it was pretty. A few days ago, however, I managed to go inside the art exhibit and see some of the artwork inside – and that gave me a very different concept than just the fact that the dress was pretty.
If you haven’t seen it for yourself, I suppose for right now you have to take my word for it. The exhibit I am talking about is being hosted by the Susan B. Anthony Institute and is titled “(en)GENDERED: identity, gender & art,” featuring student artwork representing these themes.
One of the things I noticed when I stepped into the gallery is the fact that, for one thing, that pretty dress has measurements on it. The measurements happen to be a stereotypical image of beauty, which indicates to me that this beautiful dress could only be worn by someone with a culturally beautiful figure.
There was also a work on wood entitled “You Said You Were Ready,” which has two parts. To me, it looked like one part was like a photograph of this couple in which the female form had been removed, leaving the male grasping air, while the other part was the female figure alone, looking hurt.
There was also a piece, which I thought was really cool, consisting of different poses of a doll, which I believe could reflect a few of the problems of girlhood in America. Another one I liked a lot was what looked like a large rice bowl, made up completely of little acorns filled with rice, as miniature rice bowls.
The last one got me thinking, because due to the exhibit’s title, I thought it would deal entirely with gender issues. I then noticed, however, that another major part of the title is “identity.” I have been taught that identity is how one thinks of and defines oneself by cultural, religious and social lines. But how tied up with identity is gender, I wondered.
One of the first things I have learned in college is that sex, sexuality and gender are all different and that gender is based mostly on societal norms.
One could argue that gender, because it is based on others’ perceptions, does not have to be part of your identity. But for many of us, how important is it?
Think of how insulted some people can get if you accidentally ask, “Oh, what’s his name?” about their infant, when their infant is a girl. When trying to use song lyrics for a witty away message, does it concern you when your pronouns don’t match? (“No, it can’t say that my world revolves around her – my boyfriend is a boy.” Speaking of which, why are so many love songs written by boys, leading to this very problem?)
On Facebook, when you look at the mini profile of someone you don’t know, one of the few things that come up is whether that person identifies as a girl or a boy. If you know what I’m talking about, dear reader, you’re probably engendered.
Don’t be too alarmed, it’s not really your fault. Besides, it’s a new thing for you to identify as. Basically, I’m asking you to think about the way you self-identify and how much of that is based on gender, how much of that is you and how much of that is how others see you.
Also, there’s one last thing you could do for me. They say a picture is worth a thousand words (I also like clichs). Since I have just given you over 500, I suggest you make your way over to the Gallery at the Art and Music Library to check out the exhibit – because you owe yourself the rest of the 1000.
Frank is a member of the class of 2009.