Nature vs. Nurture

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Is sexism learned or an intuition?

People are taught and repeatedly told that men are stronger than women. In our society, the “man of the house” is always seen as the provider and fixer. The dad is the one who goes to work and comes home and relaxes, while the mom is the one who is always at home either cooking, cleaning, and nurturing the children.

Up until the 1920s, women were viewed as the passive leader who only orders the children around and does not argue with her husband. Although women aren’t viewed as the 1920s housewife, they are still taught from a young age that they are weaker than men, and are unable to fend for themselves.

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While reading the novel Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I was startled by a small scene in the beginning of the book. In chapter 2, when Nick Carraway saw Tom Buchanan punch Myrtle Wilson on the face, breaking her nose, Nick did nothing to condemn Tom’s actions or defend Myrtle.

Every man who was at their small social gathering completely ignored the whole scene. One of the male characters there, Mr. McKee’s, reaction to the scene was described by Nick: he said, “Mr. McKee awoke from his doze… when he has gone halfway he turned around and stared at the scene… [he] turned and continued out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier, I followed” (37). What revolted and baffled me the most was that they didn’t do anything to speak out against Tom, and just left the party as if nothing happened.

Then I thought, why didn’t Myrtle do anything back to Tom? Why did she just stand there and cry? Why did she still stay with them?

So, I then started to look for a assertive female character in the book. I found her in the first chapter. It was the scene in which the narrator, Nick, first met Jordan Baker at his cousin’s, Daisy’s, house. She was described as this confident woman who spoke and acted with pride. She knew her self worth, and had a high self esteem.

When Nick first encountered Jordan in Daisy’s house, Jordan barely regarded his presence: he said, “If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it–indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in” (8). She was always frank and straightforward, which really impressed and inspired me.

It made me want to add another question into my prior one: How do women’s actions contribute to the idea that a man is stronger and more important than a woman?

I believe that women’s actions do contribute to the idea of sexism. Their actions, whether is be submissive or assertive, influence how men view and act towards women. In search of evidence, I stumbled upon a statement that caught my eye.

In chapter eight of my English Language and Composition textbook, Virginia Woolf alludes to how women are simple-minded beings who only do facile and inexpensive work. In the article Professions for Women; she says, “ The cheapness of writing paper is, of course, the reason why women have succeeded as writers before they have succeeded in the other professions” (Woolf 525). Virginia Woolf, a woman herself, implies that women cannot do hard door heavy work; only easy or busy work.

On the other hand, Woolf acknowledges the double standards between men and women. She vocalizes how society is okay with men being promiscuous, but pressure women to be chaste and celibate. She says, ““For though men sensibly allow themselves great freedom in these [passionate] respects, I doubt that they realize or can control the extreme severity with which they condemn such freedom in women” (528). So, I thought, “How can women ‘s actions reverse the concept that a man is stronger and more important than a woman?”

First, you should acknowledge the situation. Then, you can publicly address the problem, and ask people to listen carefully on your thoughts: like Feminist Frequency 5 said, “we should actively pay attention to women’s voices. Because for so long women’s experiences, perspectives and ideas – have been dismissed, ignored and silenced” (feministfrequency.com).

Another idea for women to start reversing the concept of sexism is to treat both their son and daughter equally from the beginning. Don’t ask little boys to “toughen up” and not show their own vulnerability, because it’s not manly. Men are often considered more masculine when they are dominant, aggressive, and assertive. Teach them from an early age that it is okay to show compassion, be kind, and thoughtful. That way, when they become adults, they won’t have a destructive and violent character. Feminist Frequency 5 also speaks of how society can negatively influence the parenting skills of raising boys: “Not only is all of this damaging behavior encouraged in individual men, but those same values are also reflected in our larger political and military institutions, often to disastrous effect”.

This makes me realize that men are affected by society’s views also. The idea of how a man and woman should be affects both genders. They can also help end gender prejudices by “interrupting the sexist status quo”. If they hear a sexist comment from another man, they should call him out; tell him it’s not funny or okay. So next time, that man will hesitate before making another sexist comment, remembering that not everyone is okay with it. Finally, I added another question to wrap up my thoughts about sexism and gender inequality: How can men help eliminate sexism?

So, in all my questions turned out to be:

Is sexism learned or an intuition? How do women’s actions contribute to the idea that a man is stronger and more important than a woman? How can women ‘s actions reverse the concept that a man is stronger and more important than a woman? How can men help eliminate sexism?

My final answer came to be that sexism is learned by an early age, and is embedded in the minds of the young. Women are taught that they are frail and need to be protected, while men are taught to hold in their feelings and be more aggressive. At an adult age, men and women contribute to the idea that a man is stronger by abiding and following the prejudice beliefs. Men would peg women as weaker beings, and women would think themselves as such. Instead, women and men should actively try to eliminate gender prejudices. They should teach their kids at an early age that it is okay for a girl to be confident and strong (instead of frail and weak), and for a boy to openly show their emotions. They should be taught to treat and respect each other as equals.

 

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3 thoughts on “Nature vs. Nurture

  1. I agree with your point about how sexism is embedded into the minds of children at a young age! It was interesting to hear your opinions on Jordna as a strong female character. Nice work 🙂

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  2. I totally agree with you. The idea of sexism all starts with the minds of our youth. If we teach them from an early age to respect each other and not force them to be a certain way, then we may have a chance to finally have gender equality! Great work and keep it up!

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