As children, especially within the first five years of their life, they learn and adapt to habits, specifically dominant gender expectations. Gender expectations brainwash children, not allowing them to be their true self and come to understand their true gender identity. “When children are able to express themselves, they will declare themselves to be a boy or a girl (or sometimes something in between); this is their “gender identity (Raising Children Network)”. Children gender identity can be greatly influenced by dominant gender expectations. These gender expectations can be shown through clothes, hairstyles, sports a boy or girl is supposed to play and so on. “Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy is a perfect example of how a child can be influenced and brainwashed by social gender culture. “The story of X” by Lois Gould is an alternative example of how a child can live without being influenced by social gender norms and their expectations.
“The story of X” follows a couple who volunteered to participate in a secret scientific experiment where they would be raising a baby X. The baby X was not any gender, and the experiment deemed it to stay that way. What sets baby X apart from dominant culture was that it wasn’t classified as a boy or girl like everyone else. Baby X also didn’t act as a boy or girl, it acted as an X. It didn’t fit in the social columns that were created to keep people in a gender stricken way of life. Baby X couldn’t be brainwashed to all the gender regulations around it, instead it and its parents worked around it. A dominant gender expectation shown in the text was gender specific clothes. Every clothing store only carries clothes clothing options specifically for boys and girls, there is no general clothing option. “Mr. Jones wandered the aisles trying to find what X needed. But everything was in sections marked BOYS or GIRLS (Gould, pg1)”. Society even enforces their expectations in stores. What if a girl doesn’t want to wear a dress? What if a boy does want to wear a Spiderman shirt? Society doesn’t even give people to option to choose who they want to be and what they want to wear, and that’s why majority of people just go along with what their supposed to do and wear. “The relatives all felt embarrassed about having an X in the family (Gould, pg. 1)”. Even family members want to label baby X, dress it up in gender specific clothes, and give it gender specific clothes. They weren’t proud to have a family member who they couldn’t mold into a social norm. Even when X started attending school, the brainwashing was more evident in the children. There was gender specific lines, gender bathrooms, and the students snickered to one another about how weird X is because he wasn’t like them. “Susie, who sat next to X, refused to wear pink dresses to school any more. She wanted red and white checked overalls – just like X’s. Overalls, she told her parents, were better for climbing monkey bars. Then Jim, the class football nut, started wheeling his little sister’s doll carriage around the football field… Susie’s parents were horrified by her behavior, and Jim’s parents were worried sick about this (Gould, pg. 2)”. The parents are so brainwashed that when their children begin to do things that don’t fall into their gender column, or even are taking interest in both ‘boy and girl activities’ this scares them and think that X is a bad influence on their children when in a all reality, X is the best example of what a child is supposed to be. X is free, sure of who it is not caring for permission to be itself, X takes gender to a new definition, X shows that it is possible to not be like everyone and be whatever you personally develop to be. X expressed its gender identity by not allowing itself to be labeled, and categorized. A personal connection I have with this text is the gender clothing expectations. Going to church as a teenager wanting to be comfortable wearing pants, instead of a skirt or dress was looked down upon. Pants were deemed un-ladylike, this is an example of how society brainwashes and expects you to act, look, and dress a certain way.
In the text “Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy, the girlchild has the opposite experience of Baby X when dealing with social expectations. “Barbie doll” is about a girlchild who is belittled, and pressured by society. The character is referred to as girlchild to let the reader understand the correlation and meaning of what it means to be a girl and a child. “This girlchild was born as usual and presented dolls that did pee-pee and miniature GE stoves and irons (Piercy 3)”. Like every other little girl when first born girlchild received girl presents such as a toy stove, iron, and dolls. all of these toys represent stereotypes of women, that women are only good for housework. These gender role stereotypical toys were “usual” things to give to a girlchild, to brainwash them from an early age and mold them into what society wants them to do and be. This girlchild`s gender identity isn’t in her hand, these toys are being given to her by the adults in her life pushing social expectations and roles on the little girlchild. This quote connects to a video I posted for my discussion board 1, CNN ran a news story titled “Girl`s Rant Targets Gender Roles, Toys” about a toddler named Riley and she goes on to state “Girls want superheroes and boys want superheroes”, and “The companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff that boys want to buy” (CNN News Story). Just as Riley stated and what is being shown in “Barbie Doll” society and adults implement gender roles and regulations as soon as a child comes out the womb. “She was healthy, tested intelligent, possessed strong arms and back, abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity. She went to and fro apologizing. Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs (Piercy 11)”. As the girlchild grew she possessed the characteristics of being strong, intelligent, healthy, and had grown a sex drive. Even with all of this the girlchild`s classmates look past all that and keep taunting her about her big nose and fat thighs. The world raises girlchild`s to care more about their appearance and what needs to be done around the house rather than to capture their individual characteristics. “She was advised to play coy, exhorted to come on hearty, exercise, diet, smile and wheedle. Her good nature wore out like a fan belt (Piercy 16)”. Instead of praising the girlchild for her individual appearance they wanted her to fit the social perfect appearance, like everyone else. Eventually the girlchild gave in and gave up herself to accept society’s wants and fit in. The girlchild was never really given a chance to express her gender identity from when she was born to the end of the poem. She never even really developed a gender identity of her own because society couldn’t let her be different from everyone else and stand out.
In both “The Story of X” and “Barbie Doll” there is a great presence of dominant social gender expectations. In “Barbie Doll” you see the influence of the adults around girlchild and even her classmates giving her gender role specific toys, and the classmates bullying her for her imperfect appearance which girlchild kept apologizing for. After finally allowing herself to be brainwashed by society and become robot-like the girlchild was never able to develop her own sense of gender identity because of society and dominant gender expectations. Luckily enough, X, from “The Story of X” instead of being swayed by societal expectations and opinions un-brainwashed children. X`s classmates started acting like what`s deemed as unusual to society and found their true gender identity and just did what made them happy no matter the gender attached to the activity. With social interference, children aren’t given the right to discover themselves and who they want to be, and when they begin or try to develop themselves and gender identity, society makes them feel incorrect and out of place if they don’t fit societies expectations and gender lanes. Give children the space to express themselves, pick out their own toys and clothes with no guidance of what`s “not for them”, let kids develop a sense of self and gender identity.