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The Fluidity of Gender: My Reaction to “The All-Girl’s Football Team”

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The Fluidity of Gender: My Reaction to “The All-Girl’s Football Team”

    My first experience with gender differences occurred when I was seven years old. Saturday mornings were always reserved for chores: cleaning, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn and doing laundry. My parents would delegate the work and take on any chores that we couldn’t (or shouldn’t) handle. With two sons and two daughters, they knew the work would be completed quickly. I never questioned why it was that the boys did the outdoor work (mowing the lawn, cleaning the garage, skimming the top layer of the swimming pool for gunk) and the girls were expected to do the inside work (cleaning and laundry).

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One day I asked my father if I could help with the outdoor work. His answer was a clear, unequivocal, no. “Outside work is for boys, inside work is for girls,” he explained to me. Clearly, my father never would have considered wearing a dress, much less putting on makeup and shaving his legs like Nordan’s father.

To this day, I would rather mow the lawn or work on the landscaping than clean up after my brothers and do their laundry. While I grew up with traditional ideas of what it means to be masculine and feminine, I believe that these titles can be assigned to either sex and we needn’t be embarrassed because we don’t fit the mold that others expect for us. The majority of our gender choices (what to wear, what tasks to complete, how to behave) are made for us by our parents and by society, and this determines what we consider to be masculine or feminine.

    Nordan’s father could be interpreted in many different ways: he was a closet homosexual, he was a cross-dresser, and he experienced gender confusion and was probably a candidate for sex reassignment surgery. None of these assertions would be true. Nordan’s father simply didn’t see the need for strict gender boundaries for himself or for his son. This was evidenced in the beginning of the essay, when Nordan described his father as “all man” and made it clear that his father’s experiences with dressing in drag only occurred twice a year for specific purposes (Halloween and the Womanless Wedding).  We don’t know if there were influences in his father’s life that manipulated his perception of gender identity, as occurred with my next door neighbor, Dennis. When I was a teenager, Dennis (a forty something married father of one daughter) experienced long periods of unemployment that would leave him home during the day while his wife went to work. During spring break in my senior year of high school, I was at home when my younger brother ran into the room, grabbed me and pulled me into the den. When I stood at the window and looked in the direction my brother was pointing, I saw Dennis. Dennis was wearing a black lacy bra and slip and a full face of makeup while watering the roses in his entryway. We were absolutely shocked. When we recounted this sighting to our mother (my father would have thrown a fit), she admitted that she had seen him before and he told her the reason behind the cross-dressing. Dennis’ mother wanted girls, but only had boys. She would spend “special time” with Dennis in which she would dress him up in girl’s clothes and apply makeup to his face. Then they would bake, sew, or complete other feminine-oriented activities together. When Dennis felt stressed out or depressed, he would revert to wearing women’s clothes. The feeling was a comfort to him. While my brother and I secretly enjoyed the sight of the six foot five inch, two hundred and fifty pound man in lingerie and dresses, we kept our knowledge of his cross-dressing to ourselves. He did not put it out for all to see, as Nordan’s father did.

    Nordan gets excited about the idea of the all-girls football game and boy cheerleaders because his father had introduced him to a world that he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to join. Watching his father prepare for his gender-bending events twice a year for so long gave Nordan a curiosity that could only be satisfied by trying it out himself. Nordan’s father influenced him to think about gender in an entirely different way. He learned that there was nothing wrong with a man playing the feminine role while a masculine woman played his protector. Even Nordan admitted that he “ …longed to be held as a lover by a woman in a football suit.”  Anytime my father was ill, he still would not allow my mother to take on the “masculine” jobs in the household, including getting the cars fixed or handling the bills. The line was clearly drawn for my father and not even being incapacitated changed his mind. He wanted women to conform to his idea of femininity. He might have felt as Nordan did, that the qualities he considered mysterious and captivating about women would be ruined if he saw them in a masculine light. Nordan saw Ednita blowing her nose like a man, and he began to realize that he preferred to think of women as feminine creatures. He was unsure if this was the way Ednita normally behaved or if this was the outcome of having women playing football. This football game was destroying all that he loved about women. When he decides that he is not going to cheer at the game, Nordan’s father convinces him to participate by assuring him that it was okay to want to be beautiful. His father’s help in preparing for the game is considerate and touching.

    Lewis Nordan did not turn out to be gay. Rather, he learned the value of being open to different ideas about gender. After his experience as a cheerleader, dancing with Nadine, he realizes that he wants to marry a beautiful girl with whom he would have sons to whom he would teach the same lessons he was taught about being gentle and the joy of wearing dresses. The typical father would have either criticized his son for participating in the football game as a cheerleader, or made a joke out of the whole thing. This behavior would make it clear to the son that gender lines are never to be crossed. Nordan’s father encouraged this experimentation, thus teaching his sons that there are no gender lines other than those we create ourselves.

Questions:

There is not a clear thesis statement in the story, nor is there a need for one. The story itself makes the thesis clear, that there is nothing wrong with defining masculinity and femininity for oneself, rather than letting society define it for us.

The introductory paragraphs do a good job of setting up the story for the reader by setting a tone that is sympathetic to being open-minded about genders. We know right away that Nordan’s father enjoys a little cross-dressing, but that it doesn’t impact his masculinity. When Nordan introduces the idea of the all-female football game, the tone of the story makes it clear that this endeavor will not be used as a joke. The information that is missing from the paragraph is whether or not Nordan has a mother in the household and how she feels about his father’s activities.

The author includes plenty of direct quotes during his exchange with the other boys about the football game, but doesn’t provide enough from his father. I would have preferred to have more direct quotes at the beginning of the story, when his father is preparing for the Womanless Wedding. I’d like to know what his father would say to him while he is getting ready.

The essay is organized logically, in a linear, chonological fashion. One event leads to the next. The only place this is not true is at the end, where Nordan reminisces about the dance that follows the football game. This paragraph should have been placed within the story when it actually happened. It is much more difficult to make sense of it when the reader’s mind has jumped to years later. It also leaves us wondering if Nordan had those sons and if he was able to raise them to be gentle with the support of his wife.

The last paragraph leads the reader to understand that Nordan learned a great deal from his father and that he wouldn’t have it any other way. He didn’t wish that his father raised him to be a brute or to treat women as a lower species. Nordan was raised to be a gentleman who treated women reverently.

Once again, this paragraph should have occurred chronologically and the conclusion could be improved by adding an anecdote that shows how Nordan relates to his own sons (if he had any)

Part II

 Write the thesis statement in the space provided. Is it a clear idea, or would it be better for the writer to express his thesis/claim in another way?

“In my experience, and from what I learned from my parents, men and women benefit from having a blending of both masculine and feminine traits, from being strong to being sensitive.”

This thesis statement is strong, but it would be stronger if the writer had chosen to begin with “Men and women benefit…”

Explain how well the introductory paragraph introduces the text and its author, establishes a thesis statement based on the story and the writer’s personal definition of masculinity/femininity, and establishes an organizational pattern for the essay. What suggestions can you make to improve the intro paragraph? What further information does the writer need to provide about the topic of the essay in the intro paragraph?

The introductory paragraph introduces Nordan’s story very well, with just enough detail and a good, comprehensive summary. The introduction, however, does little to introduce the author other than giving us the anecdote of her experience with Powder Puff football. The introduction implied that I would be reading more about the author’s upbringing and her parents’ role in shaping her gender identity. Rather than introducing her mother in the second paragraph, that sentence would be much more effective in the introduction as a comparison to Lewis Nordan’s similar upbringing.

Where could the writer add more examples from the story and his/her personal experience to support the thesis statement? Does the writer include the required number of quotes (3)? Where could the writer include more direct quotes from the story?

The writer could have added more information about her upbringing in the first paragraph, and she includes four direct quotes throughout the essay. One good place to insert another quote would have been after this sentence:

            The change is so complete that the narrator becomes confused

about his gender identity. (my preferred quote) He states, “By the

time someone in the backfield picked it up, my small breasts had

become a part of me, not rubber but flesh…” (Nordan).

How is the essay organized (clearly, logically, confusingly?). Suggest an alternative way to organize the essay.

The organization of the text is a bit confusing and difficult to read. There is quite a bit of criticism of Nordan’s father, and very little understanding of how a man might also feel sexy in women’s clothes. The author compares her upbringing to Nordan’s, even though their situations appear to be completely different. I would have enjoyed this essay more had the author compared her upbringing to Nordan’s in a positive way. She could have gone through Nordan’s experience chronologically while also recounting her experiences learning about femininity chronologically as well, from her first experience with those things her mother considered feminine (makeup, dresses, etc.) to her more recent discovery that things like a t-shirt and jeans could be sexy as well.

Read the last paragraph of the essay very carefully. Explain how well it draws a conclusion about the topic of the essay. Make at least one suggestion for how the writer could improve the conclusion.

The last paragraph does not do a good job of drawing a conclusion about the topic of the essay. Nordan’s essay was not just about the football game; rather, the game was an example of how his father taught him to blur the lines of masculinity and femininity, a lesson that stayed with him throughout his lifetime. The sentences in the last paragraph are far too long and make it difficult to understand what she is trying to say. I would change the last paragraph this way:

Throughout the story, the narrator witnesses the blending of characteristically masculine and feminine traits. He compares Nadine,

the short-haired quarterback he dances with at the end of the story to Jeep, a boy wearing a dress and missing a finger from a hunting accident. At the end of the story, the narrator states: “I was not a woman. I did not feel like a woman. I was not in love with a boy. I was a boy in costume for one night of the year, and I was my father’s child and the child of this strange southern geography. I was beautiful, and also wise and sad and somehow doomed with joy” (Nordan). The narrator has learned a valuable lesson about himself and what it means to be beautiful. He considers himself lucky to have a father who teaches him how to be beautiful. I myself am grateful for parents who taught me not just what it means to be feminine but also what it means to be a happy and healthy human being not limited by narrow definitions of masculinity and femininity. I learned from my parents’ example, just as Nordan learned from his.

Part 2: Following the directions below, write your comments on the essay itself:

· Identify the strongest paragraph in the essay, explaining why it is the strongest.

The second paragraph is the strongest. The author compares her lessons in femininity to Nordan’s, and she does so with very little judgment. While she states that it’s odd for a father to be involved in such a lesson, she doesn’t compound this statement with the conclusion that any of Nordan’s “training” were wrong.

· Identify the weakest paragraph in the essay, explaining in why it is the weakest.

The weakest paragraph is the conclusion. The author demonstrates that she doesn’t truly understand the essay. She sees the football game as Nordan’s main lesson in what it means to be a woman, when the truth is that this was the first opportunity Nordan had to emulate his father and dress like a woman. She implies that the lessons she was taught on femininity are superior to Nordan’s. She cannot possibly know that; Nordan centers his story on the football game and we aren’t given much evidence on the rest of his upbringing.

· Check all the quotes in the essay. Are they properly introduced/incorporated and cited according to the rules established on the “MLA Quoting Made Easy” handout? Alexsandra: I don’t have this handout, I’m afraid you’re going to have to answer this one.

· In the space below, write at least a five-sentence paragraph that explains your overall reaction to the essay. What are the essay’s biggest strengths? Of what would you like to see more? What do you think are the writer’s biggest concerns? What questions remained unanswered? What does the writer need to work on the most?

Jane Doe’s essay, “Femininity Is More Than a Game” demonstrates that Doe had difficulty understanding Lewis Nordan’s story. Her strengths are in the few anecdotes she provides as to what femininity means to her and how she came to understand gender identity. I would like to have read more such anecdotes, so I could compare them to my own experiences growing up. The writer’s biggest concerns have to do with the lessons that Nordan was taught by his father. She believes that he was taught about femininity on a superficial level and that he can’t possibly understand what it feels like to truly be a woman. What Doe doesn’t understand, is that Nordan and his father were so in touch with their femininity that they explored it in order to understand it better and to see where such lessons could be incorporated into their lives. Nordan states what he has learned at the end of the story: “and that together we would have sons and that we would love them and teach them to be gentle and to love the music we were dancing to and to wear dresses and that, in doing this, we would somehow never grow old and that love would last forever.” (Nordan) From this statement, it is clear that he understands the differences between typical masculine and feminine behavior. The question that remains unanswered is what Doe understands to be masculine behavior. This information would allow the reader to compare Doe’s perceptions of masculinity to Nordan’s own masculine characteristics. The writer should work on being open minded and understanding the essay for what it is, not judging the content based on her own value system.

Cite this The Fluidity of Gender: My Reaction to “The All-Girl’s Football Team”

The Fluidity of Gender: My Reaction to “The All-Girl’s Football Team”. (2016, Aug 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-fluidity-of-gender-my-reaction-to-the-all-girls-football-team/

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