Doing Gender

Keyshla Guillon ’19

Keyshla Guillon ’19, Women and Leadership Participant

The first chapter of the book On Women and Leadership confirmed most of the things I believed were true. I remember when I was younger, I dressed like a tomboy. Nobody around me understood why I liked the things I liked, being a girl. Instead of being with my older sister, I would always be with my younger brother. We were closer in age and had similar interests. He liked playing video games and so did I. He liked riding bikes and running around the park without caring about getting dirt on his shoes. So did I.

However, whereas he was freely allowed to express these behaviors given that he was a young boy, my mom began to tell me how I needed to start acting more like a lady because I was getting to an age where I had to properly act my gender. She would shout to me in a frustrated tone saying things like, “You’re not a boy like your brother, you can’t get dirty in those dresses I got you!” I would ignore her because I liked being able to play outside without caring about getting dirty. That ruined the fun. Nonetheless, after so many months of her repeating the same things to me, I finally gave in.

I started behaving more “properly” and like the young women she wanted me to be. She would send me to my aunt’s salon every weekend so I could straighten my hair since it helped me look more well-kept. I would wear the dresses she got me and eventually, I became interested in all things associated with being “a girl”. However, I resent the fact that my mother did not allow me to come to terms with who I was on my own. I wish she could have let me develop into the person I was meant to be without pressuring me to do it before I was ready.

“‘Social truths’–what it means to appropriately act ones gender–are made up of social constructs made to keep women inferior to men.”

Knowing this, I strongly believe that children do not come up with these social constructs of what it means to be a “boy” and a “girl” by themselves. I am sure there is research to support this. As a child, I tried to defy my mother by being who I was comfortable being at the moment. All I wanted was to be a normal child but instead felt like I was pushed to grow too fast without understanding why. I didn’t understand that the answer was right in front of me the whole time. When I gained more knowledge about the culture around me, I realized that the only reason I got treated so differently from my brother was because he was a boy, which made me question everything in society. This is why I am so interested in Sociology. The way our communities are constructed allows individuals to be taught stereotypical ways of performing gender. However, it took experience and education for me to learn that these “social truths”– what it means to appropriately act ones gender–are made up of social constructs made to keep women inferior to men.

With my knowledge, I hope to break these boundaries by becoming a part of a team where I am not the only woman taking on a leadership role. I want to be sure that the company I am working for in the future prioritizes diversity. In order to achieve this type of setting in my future, I must first practice on becoming being more open with people. Someone cannot be a great leader if no one knows anything about them. There is little to look up to if the individual seems more like a robot more than a human being. Therefore, I chose this action because I must learn to be more trusting towards those I work with to successfully create an environment where we all humanize one another instead of seeing each other as solely “workers”. Solid and strong relationships within the workplace create a foundation where we all work in the best interest of the other. For instance, instead of someone just being my co-worker, they may also end up being a great mentor for me or vise-versa if I give them the chance to get to know me a little better. All in all, it is important for me to build as many social relationships as I can with those around me because this would help me obtain better relationships with others.