SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2015 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Young Women Don't Do That
Back in high school, I was dating someone new and I wanted to bring him home to hang out. In my bedroom, I have a Wii, to which I have my Netflix hooked up. My boyfriend came over early, around 7 pm. Having him over at 7 meant it was early enough to watch a long movie, but still possible to get him out of the house before it was too late in the evening. I wanted to sit in my room with this boy and watch a scary movie, but my parents refused to allow it. They told me I was not allowed to have any boys in my room under any circumstances. If I wanted to watch a movie with him, I had to do it in the living room, where we could be watched at all times. The living room couch is small. After sitting, or laying, on it for a while, my legs start to itch. It is not where I wanted to be with my boyfriend. Not to mention, my bed is much more spacious and comfortable. The living room has no door to close us away from the rest of the house. There is no privacy. I could not sit close to my boyfriend because my mom, hovering over our shoulders, would have told us it was not allowed. She was, and still is, disapproving of anything involving a boy and me.
The living room couch meant boundaries; if I crossed them, I would have been punished. Not only was it uncomfortable to be watched while hanging out with someone relatively new in my life, but it was also difficult to watch a movie in that room because it is connected to the kitchen. It can get very loud in the kitchen and living room, due to having 6 people living in the house, and I hate missing parts of movies or not being able to hear what is going on. So, watching a movie in the living room was not something that I wanted to do, but not because I felt I needed to be alone with this boy. I just wanted to be able to enjoy the movie in the best environment possible. In this case, it was my room that would have been the best environment. I obliged, however, because the only other option was to send this boy home, which I did not want to do. In the end, we decided on a comedy, something not too raunchy, so that my parents had nothing else to fight me on.
My daughter, Amanda, attempted to bring her new boyfriend into her room to watch a movie alone. I do not condone that kind of behavior in my house because she is a young woman. Young women should not bring boys into their rooms because that leads to inappropriate behavior. I know what boys do when they are alone with girls and that is not something I want my daughter to be a part of. Not one of my daughters will be allowed to participate in any of those activities under my roof. If any of them wants to watch a movie with a boy, there is a couch and a TV in the living room that are perfectly fine to use for such activities. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Only a few days after having my boyfriend over, my older brother brought home his girlfriend to watch a movie in his room. His Netflix is hooked up to his Xbox the same way mine is hooked up to the Wii in my room. He took his girlfriend straight to his room, closed and locked the door, and was not disturbed by anyone for the rest of the evening. His girlfriend even ended up staying the night; he took her home the next morning. My parents, even after watching her leave, did not say a word. I watched the entire exchange in complete awe, but there was nothing I could do. Asking for fair treatment would have resulted in a fight, meaning I would have lost my privileges of having friends over altogether.
My son, Stephen, does what he wants. He does not listen to rules or do what I ask him. When he brings a girl into his room and locks the door, I allow it because it is not worth the fight. He will do whatever it takes to disobey my rules and get what he wants when he wants it. He’s the oldest of my four children and believes that warrants him to be able to get away with anything. His father says he is a boy and shouldn’t have to follow the same rules as the girls, but I think he just wants to avoid confrontation with his son. If neither of us do anything, Stephen will continue to do what he wants and get away with it. And, at the end of the day, it is not worth fighting with him. I will just have to let him bring girls home when he wants.
My parents had allowed my brother to bring a girl home, take her into his room, and watch a movie. They slept together in the family house. But I was not even allowed to enjoy a movie in my room with a boy. I would not have gone as far as my brother. I would have watched the movie, maybe done a little kissing, and then he would have left to go to his house to sleep. My parents did not care what my intentions were; I was not allowed to do what I wanted, but they treated my brother differently, held him to a different standard. This incident obviously upset me because it made me realize that simply because I am a girl, my parents will always treat me in a way that is different than my brother. I am not allowed to do the same things he is allowed to do and it will not change because I am female.
My children have different rules because they are different. My girls have different rules than my son and, even as adults, they will be treated this same way because they are different, that is all there is to it.
My incident seemed so important to me because of the obvious inequality within my family. For decades, women have been fighting for equal rights among sexes and I was not receiving these rights in my own home. My well-being was not severely damaged, as many incidents have done to the women who fought before I was born, but it reminded me that, in many situations, it is still unequal between men and women. Things as small as this seem to go unnoticed, but they still happen every day, even in 2015.
Our country, as well as many countries around the world, have come a long way in the quest toward equal rights. There are women that hold places in U.S. offices of power, women that have gone to space, and women that fight in combat alongside men, but they are still earning, on average, $10,000 less than men annually. Women are still treated as second class citizens. They have less power than men. They are not given the same opportunities as men. This is how I felt in my house. My incident is, by no means, as significant as the events that the women before me have been a part of, but it was significant to me. It was the first time that I actually realized that I would be treated differently because I was born a female. It was a bit of a view into the future for me. Even in the smallest of situations, I would be seen first as a woman, instead of a person with a particular set of abilities. My status as a woman would cause people to treat me in a different way.
My parents’ treatment toward me has nothing to do with our heritage because the punishment I received was handed down from my mother. My mother is what she calls a mutt, consisting of Irish, German, and mostly European decent, none of which had any impact on her own upbringing. Even if my father had handed down the punishment, I do not think his Italian heritage would have anything to do with it because he is the third generation to have been born in the United States and lacked a distinctively Italian upbringing.
For my situation, it didn’t matter whether or not I planned to do what my parents deemed “inappropriate” behind the closed door of my bedroom. My parents assumed that because I was a girl inviting a boy into my room, it was an unacceptable act, something a young lady should not do. My brother, a young man, was allowed to do what I had wanted to do, but without consequences. This was just a small idea of what I would have to deal with in the future, what I have to deal with now: unequal privilege because of my status as a woman.
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