During this class, I learned about a thing called “normative narratives”. I hadn’t heard of that term before, but looking into it, we are all surrounded by these normative narratives. Whether it be within our class, or based on the colour of our skin, these normative narratives are everywhere. In this post about the normative narratives we’ve discussed in class and on our blogs, I will be talking about gender. Despite us all having different experiences in life, one thing females can all relate with is discrimination and sexism used against us.
i) In my story, Mud Tracks, I recollect the memory of being ridiculed by other girls because I enjoyed playing in the mud. I had always seen myself as a tomboy, and looking back on my childhood, I found that to be true. I hated going to church on Sundays because my mother forced me to wear dresses and pantyhose, while rainy school days were my favourite. My time to shine were on those days where I got to get my corduroys all muddy and splash around with the boys in my class.
In Jessica Yuyi’s story, Get Out of the Water, she recalls the memory of going to the swimming pool and swimming just like the boys, yet this woman ridicules her because she doesn’t believe a girl should be doing what the boys are doing. “I kept thinking about that moment when the woman pointed me out. Did I do something wrong? Why could other boys swim in the pool but not me?”. The similarities between our stories are striking, since both involve us being tormented because of the activity we were doing and how others didn’t believe we should be doing that.
In Esther’s story, Girly-Girl Lessons, she talks about how she and a group of friends at a party intend on being taught how to be girly-girls from an older girl. This older girl turns out to be more of a tomboy, however she teaches them anyways. From the way they talk, dress, and act, the girls practiced on becoming society’s view of the “perfect little girl”. However, Esther thinks about how she is both a tomboy and girly at the same time, since both aspects of her personality appeal to her. ““I’ve always been both!” Mom says. “I loved playing in the dirt, but I loved dressing up. No one said you had to be one or the other.” This is the moment I decided that I could identify as both a Girly-Girl and a bit of a tomboy. I’ve identified myself in this way ever since”.
In all three of our stories, the normative narrative seems to be that girls need to be society’s image of a perfect little girl, girls who love Barbie dolls and dressing up all pretty. Jessica and I were ridiculed because we participated in activities deemed to be boy’s activities, and Esther felt as if she needed lessons in becoming the perfect girly-girl.
- ii) I didn’t feel the need in finding another story, since Esther’s is the perfect example of breaking that normative narrative. In her story, she recounts the moment she realized that she can be both a tomboy and a girly-girl at the same time. If society could just come to that realization as well, then many different problems would be solved easily. However, things like that aren’t solved that easily.
From other stories I’ve read on this topic, Esther’s stands out more than others due to the fact that most stories written were about conforming to one personality trait or another. I’m guilty of that, since I wrote about being a tomboy and hadn’t even mentioned myself being a girly-girl. However, Esther’s story goes more into depth about how society wants a girl to be versus your own feelings about your personality. The internal conflict someone can feel about something like that can give a more personal feel to how they once saw themselves.
All in all, this normative narrative can be broken. This topic is not only about how girls can dress and act in different ways, but can also be viewed as girls not being able to participate in “male” activities. For centuries, the president of the United States has been a male, but who says a woman can’t do the same job just as well, or even better? The classic movie A League of Their Own looked into helping women in the sports world, yet a women’s baseball team or league still doesn’t exist. To conclude my post, I will leave with a quote from Esther’s blog post.
“I loved playing in the dirt, but I loved dressing up. No one said you had to be one or the other”.
Jaycee and I were best friends for only a little while before she invited me over to her house. It was huge, and obviously incredibly expensive. Her mother owned her own company, and her stepfather came from a wealthy family. I had been intimidated nearly instantly, since I had never experienced a house that big. At that moment, I felt like Annie when she first was in Mr. Warbuck’s house. The excitement fell flat after about an hour of seeing all of their possessions. A huge kitchen, a living room full with expensive furniture, and a television in every bedroom. Jaycee, who was twelve at the time, had one of the first iPhone generations there was. At twelve, I didn’t even have my own bedroom. I went home terribly sorry for myself.
My dad was rarely home. He worked out at the Mosaic potash plant to keep a roof over our heads. With four kids all under the age of fourteen, we were growing children who needed a lot of food. My grandmother also lived with us, and her health problems inhibited her from getting a job to help out or even leave her bedroom. My mother had a not-so-well paying job as a front desk clerk, often working nights as children we had to fend for ourselves during meal times. Kraft Dinner, hot dogs, or even just a bowl of cereal would have done sufficiently. At the time, we couldn’t afford eating out or ordering in at all. Some weeks, we could barely afford to even put groceries in our cupboards.
I refused to let Jaycee to ever sleep over at my house, since I was embarrassed. My family was considered lower-middle class due to the fact that there were two working adults and four children, plus an elderly woman to take care of and next to no money to go around. When I finally agreed to let her sleep over, she didn’t say anything about the few possessions my family had. We had a wonderful time, watching a cheap movie we rented from Blockbuster and eating more popcorn than we could handle.
Today, I’ve started to feel that same pity I had for myself back then. I’m scraping by on money that the government gives me for student loans, rarely able to get through the month without running out of groceries. My boyfriend’s family has a huge home and each have their own iPads, computers, and recently just got back from a Disney cruise. Their mother has been on nearly twenty Disney cruises, and I’ve barely left the country. However, Max loves me for who I am, whether or not I have money.
Looking back on how I felt as a child and how I am now as an adult has made me realize that someone’s class doesn’t matter. I was fated by society to drop out of school and become a criminal, stealing food for myself to eat. Anybody can become anything they want, despite whether they were raised in the slums or in the richest neighbourhood. One day, society will wake up and see people for who they are, and not judge them by their class. I hope they do, at least.
Splashing around in the mud had always been my favourite activity after it had just rained. It always excited me when it rained, since it meant that my rain boots would come out and my corduroy pants would become soaked with mud and my short bob would be caked with dirt, much to the dismay of my mother. However, when I went to school and it rained during recess, none of my female friends wanted to join in with me. It baffled me, since it was so fun! Who wouldn’t want to join in?
My male friends, however, would happily join in with me. We would play catch and tag while splashing in the mud and puddles, tracking it into the school by the cuffs our pants. Throughout the day, however, it continued to bother me. Why hadn’t my best friend joined with my fun? She had stayed completely away from me while I had played.
In hindsight, I realized she hadn’t wanted to join in because mud and dirt was for boys. Corduroy pants, short hair, and playing with mud was all for boys. I had never really complied with female stereotypes, especially as a child. All of my female friends loved to experiment with their mother’s makeup, have their hair tied up into pigtails, and would cry if a touch of mud got onto their pantyhose. However, WWE was my favourite thing to watch on television, my hair stayed short for many years, and playing in the mud will always be fun.
Nowadays, I’ve complied more into how females are perceived to be. I have around three dresses in my closet, a couple of skirts, as well as a rather impressive collection of makeup. However, my interpretation of gender identity has changed recently. My boyfriend is gender non-conforming, therefore they identify as neither male nor female. They dress as the choose, act as they choose, and don’t blink twice if people defy them. My boyfriend is my rock, and having them with me changes my perspective about the whole world. Gender is not one or two things; it can be as many things as you want it to be. Meeting them, learning about them, and in turn loving them changed my perspective of gender. My childhood doubts about how I should act as a girl changed in one instant, and I realized that I can still wear a dress and leave mud tracks with my heels.
Going to a predominately white elementary school, we were taught only the basics of the land we live on and who it originally belonged to before colonization. In the seventh grade, we first learned about the term ‘treaty’ and that we lived on Treaty Four. As a young, white twelve year old, that didn’t really mean much to me. In the eighth grade, I attended my first Treaty Four Day with the rest of my predominately white class. While for them, it was a fun outing away from school. For me, it was an opportunity to learn more history about our land. It was there that I learned I was considered a treaty person; we all were. However, heading into high school, I learned more. I learned about the dark side of the treaty agreements, and it began to feel hard to identify as a treaty person.
“In particular, the headdress worn by most non-natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations. These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them. It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted” (An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses).
The above citation really made me realize that I experienced racism here in Canada from a young age. For a Thanksgiving craft in early elementary days, we got to make a turkey made from traced hands and construction paper. However, in the fifth grade, we did the same concept. Traced hands, construction paper. However, that year, we made “traditional Native American headdresses”. In hindsight, I realize how incredibly racist that was. I’m sure the teacher meant well, her mother happened to be Metis, but that’s beside the point. If headdresses in Indigenous cultures are for men who had earned them, and were very rarely women wore them, it feels incredibly insensitive for young, white children to wear them.
As a society, we can get better. We, as an entire people, are a treaty. Yes, we are all part of different treaties, but we all recognize ourselves as treaty people. Racism is still here, still incredibly prominent, but we can get better with it. It may never disappear, but I believe a step we can all take is recognizing that we are all treaty people.
Now, I know the title could be misleading, but it isn’t what it seems like. From the first grade until the school shut down in 2007, I went to l’Ecole Ross School in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Depending on which part of the city you lived in, you were bussed from your home to the school in the East End where the school was. Again, depending on where you lived, you got on a different coloured bus. Where I lived, I got on the White Bus. As ironic as it was, only white children were on that bus. Moose Jaw wasn’t exactly known for its diversity. However, that all changed when the new family moved in just two houses down. They were a black family that moved from Calgary, and they were the first coloured people to live on our street. An older girl my sister’s age, named Punjay (pronounced poon-yay), and a younger boy my littlest brother’s age named Sunday.
When they first moved in, I immediately saw two new friends. Since Punjay was my sister’s age, they hung out most of the time and I looked up to them. They were the two older girls, the coolest girls on our part of the street. Since Sunday was around four, he and my littlest brother hung out. I never really got to know him, but I do remember one distinct time he wanted to show me a magic trick. The kid dug a tiny hole in the dirt of his mother’s garden, pulled out a worm, and proceeded to eat it. I never really wanted to be around him after that.
At school, though, I realized the backlash these two new kids were receiving. To this day, I’m still unsure about whether they had a different skin colour, or if it was because they were new students. Neither of them were in French Immersion with me, but I often saw Punjay getting bullied in the lunch room during the break. My sister, bless her soul, was always there to stand up for the poor girl whenever that happened. I never understood why these kids were being so mean. Punjay was just some other girl, who wanted friends and loved Polly Pockets like the rest of us. Though now today, eleven years after us all parted ways, I realize that these kids were being cruel to her because they found something they could pick on. Punjay was black, and we were all white. It saddens me that to know to this day, that prejudice is still around. I still love to think back as an innocent child, I don’t believe that I “saw” race. I just saw another girl who could be my potential friend.
Every year we make this trip, my family and I. Only being nine years old, Christmas is still an exciting time. The smell of food when we get inside the cozy farmhouse, the laughter of the adults in the kitchen, and of course the glistening tree with presents piled up underneath. Family from Saskatoon, and Alberta, and even just down the road make the trip to the green-roofed farm just for one night. Seeing my young cousins again just fills me with joy, since I always seem to laugh the hardest when they’re around. Of course, however, the true laughter came from my young Uncle David. Being the youngest amongst his siblings, he really prided himself in making his nieces and nephews laugh. Doing so instantly makes him the favourite uncle, though this year was different. This year, he brought his snowmobile, some strong robes, and a few toboggans.
Despite my mother’s protests of how dangerous the activity was to be, she bundled the four of us up as much as she possibly could before sending us waddling out into the cold. The snowflakes hit our already red cheeks and instantly melted, giggles escaping our lips as we threw snow into the air to make it happen again and again. Each young child, my siblings and cousins and myself, entertained themselves with the snow while our uncle set up the toboggans. As soon as it was ready, we all hopped on and were ready to go. After just one sharp turn on the snow covered gravel road, we all went flying off. Looking up, the world in front of me turned fuzzy. The winter wonderland before my eyes mixed together in a blurry heap of white, grey, and a mixture of coloured lumps in the snow.
My glasses, which were always perched upon my tiny nose, where missing from their snug spot.
My cousins and siblings didn’t care, however, as they just wanted to get back on the toboggans for another go around the road. Despite being the fun-loving, pushover uncle he usually is, my Uncle David spent the next half an hour with me looking for my glasses.
We never did find them. I went back into the farmhouse, the place still roaring with laughter from the drunk adults, with tears streaming down my poor little face, my cousins and siblings equally made that we spent our precious toboggan time looking for some stupid pair of specks. My parents, as any parents would be, were livid. Since it was Christmas however, they let me off with a warning to both me and my uncle for being very irresponsible before heading back to the poker game they had been so enthralled in.
We all went to sleep that night listening for Santa Clause, as every child does, but fell asleep long before any sign of him could be spotted. Mysteriously during the night, the cookies were eaten, the milk was drank, and the reindeer food we left in the front lawn was gobbled up. Each child got special presents, though the stockings were downright the best part of the morning. Everyone got the same gifts, except me. At the bottom of my stocking was a very special gift.
University is something, ain’t it?
“If you’re an adult still giving money to your college, college is a $125,000 hooker and you are an idiot who fell in love with her. She’s not gonna do anything for you. It’s done.” – John Mulaney, 2018