Representation and Reality: What’s the Difference?

23 Sep

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What is it about the nondescript stick figure that says ‘male’? Certainly the figure that oftenadorns bathroom’s everywhere is not equipped with genitals—it does not even have hair!  So what is it about this figure that makes people see it as male over female or even another gender/sex possibility? Well, as the Lucal article illustrates, the male is default. It must not be ignored that we read bodies, but who teaches us this skill? How do we know when we are correct? In short, there must be some sort of reason why human is typically read first as male… not to mention white, mspacman2heterosexual, Protestant, and non-disabled.

Let’s consider the conscious representation of women, especially stylized representations? How are these representations (mis)read, just as Lucal claims to be popularly misread as male, as her article points out? One stylized representation of the female might be considered in the form of Ms. Pacman. It is worth noting that, although the Ms. Pacman game became more popular than the original male Pacman, Ms. Pacman didn’t come into existence until after the introduction of the male Pacman. Furthermore, Ms. Pacman (in her original Japanese form), despite being called “beautiful,” is simply Pacman with longer eyelashes and a bow. Thus, the female is additive… perhaps the female is even superfluous. But what of a woman’s personality?

First, it seems, the standard female, the default female, seems quite interested in her appearance. While the male is mostly nondescript, the female is adorned. The female is decorated, and thus takes notice in her appearance in the way a man isn’t implied to have as great an interest in. Therefore, in a way, this seems to be an indication that females are somewhat more self-centered or narcissistic than males. This also points to materialism. As females are sometimes seen as body alone, the body seems to be more important to a woman than a man—at least that’s the representation (it is, of course, not the reality). How we represent the world, in this case, the way women are represented as having an inordinate interest in the body and material goods. Many female character representations have only one personality: female. That is, certain characters (especially the most stylized, the cartoonish, etc.) represent all stereotypes—especially the most unflattering ones—as female.

Despite, as Teen Vogue presents, the fact that many of us realize that our representations and conceptions of sexual and gender difference are overly simplicity, that realization doesn’t explain why we vehemently hold to our view of binaries of gender and sex. This binary is seen as so important, that the representations, as non-descript and artless as they are, are entrusted to guard what some consider the sanctuary of the public restroom. Why are women in such danger in the bathroom? And why is this the place where gender separation is most mandatory? But perhaps the most interesting question is why we wish to simultaneously believe in the inherent division of the sexes when this division is so easily troubled.

I am hereby accessing the phenomenon of the boi—the queer woman that dresses, not as a butch lesbian or a man but as a young man. Certainly, the boi has her or his fans. And, we cannot forget that the boi has a diverse range of gender pronouns and other gender-based societal presenting options: some bois see themselves as boyish females, some see themselves as male and use traditionally male pronouns, and others choose a variety of other options (two-spirit, non-traditional trans people, etc.) But what is it about this phenomenon that is sometimes so offensive to more traditionally feminine identified people? Surely, the boi is immature, but are they also not honest? Do they not have their fans, so to speak? And the boi does access a great deal of privilege, including the privilege of youth. I do believe that there is currently a lot of privilege to access in youth—attractiveness, fun, opportunity, etc. These have been represented in the media as the predominate domain of the young. And the young male has even more access to this power. Doesn’t it make sense that certain women would choose this power? It must, after all, give them access to not only power and privilege, but pleasure.

That is to say that I am thinking here of representation rather than reality. Drawing a distinction between what is represented (symbolic) and what is existent (that to which the symbol is applied) is becomes more necessary as we continue in the course. It’s not so much that the postmodern application of relative truth is totally without merit, but it is more to say that there are certainly worldviews that are swayed by representations of reality and differ from a shared sense of reality.

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