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Class And Gender Roles Essay

1507 words - 6 pages

There are many expectations from society about how people should act based on their gender and class. These expectations can have negative effects on a person and how they grow up. An individual can feel torn between their family members and society because he or she is supposedly not fulfilling the expectations. This was the case for Dorothy Allison in her article, "A Question of Class," and Paul in Willa Cather's short story, "Paul's Case: A Study in Temperament." Allison believes her family does not understand her sexuality as a lesbian, and her colleagues cannot relate to her because of their class differences. Paul's homosexuality and his desire to belong in the upper-class separate him from his own father and neighborhood. The teachers also dislike him because he tries being different from other students and they are uncomfortable with the way he dresses. He also thrives to fit in with those around him but ultimately fails because of his differences. Society's expectations of gender and class roles cause Dorothy Allison and Paul to feel conflicted with who they are, which results in their alienation from family members and peers.

As a result of gender expectations, people feel the need to choose an identity instead of being themselves. Males are seen as masculine, aggressive, and not too sensitive or emotional. Females are feminine, polite, soft-spoken, and perform domestic roles. The article, "Intersections of Gender and Class" by Jean Anyon states these expectations. Anyon discusses a research done in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries about conflicts people endure due to both gender and class expectations. According to Anyon, feminist researchers argue that girls believe their behaviors, attitudes, and roles are "submissive to males; sexual passivity; the desire to nurture children and husbands; and reluctance to compete with men in non-domestic situations" (Anyon 19). In other words, women are opposites of males—they are homemakers and are less aggressive. Allison deals with the same societal expectations and feels she has to choose either what is expected of her or what she wants to do. As opposed to expectations of heterosexual men and women, homosexual men are portrayed as feminine, and lesbians as masculine, tomboy, or butch. Allison's conflict with this begins as she states, "By the time I understood that I was queer, that habit of hiding was deeply set in me, so deeply that it was not a choice but an instinct" (Allison). The "instinct" to hide herself because of her sexuality is a result of the expectations enforced upon her. She is repressed by society because there are expectations and homosexuals are not widely accepted. Allison said that her family, or her mom specifically, "took my sexual preference very seriously" (Allison). Allison feels her family does not understand who she is because a woman is supposed to have a family and take care of them. Allison cannot be herself because she does not live within these...

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