Toree Doll and Rachel Mutombo
Theme: Pressure to succumb to gender roles can be so significant that despite self awareness of sexists restrictions in society, girls will still fulfill them for fear of social ostracism.
A Day in the Life of...
Chapter 1: Childhood
Sunlight peers through the light pink curtains and illuminates the room; The light shimmers against the glittered walls. “Peyton sweetie, wake up. You gotta get ready for school.” A woman says as she enters the room. She steps over the princess plush toys laying on the ground and straightens up the My Little Pony books scattered across the floor. She picks up the baby stuffed animals and places them next to the young girl sleeping under a big, purple blanket and lavender pillowcase. The woman brushes the young girls shaggy brown hair out of her face and gently shakes her awake. “Peyton honey, go hop in the shower, I’ll get your clothes ready.” Peyton sleepily staggers towards the bathroom and grabs her Powerpuff Girls towel on the way out. The woman worriedly sighs and begins straighten up the rest of Peyton’s room. The woman stacks up all the books and places them on the white bookshelf. She smiles as her painted toes rubs against the soft hot pink carpet. She seats the stuffed animals at a miniature table with toy tea cups embroidered with lace. She gently tucks princess plush toys under the purple blanket. She opens the drawer and places a light blue top, a flowy magenta skirt and a pink bow on the bed. She enters the closet sets a pair white flats covered with purple flowers at the foot of the bed and walks downstairs. Peyton dresses herself in the clothes, walks down the stairs, hops on the couch and turns on Ben 10.
“Peyton, how many times have I told you that you gotta brush your hair, it looks so messy,” The woman sighs.
“Who cares what my hair looks like?” The young girl retaliates as she rolls her eyes.
“You’re a girl, girls are suppose to brush their hair and look pretty. Don't you wanna be pretty?”
“No, I wanna watch tv,” Peyton ignores as she continues her show with a big smile on her face.
“Ugh, this show again? Isn't this for boys?” The woman says trying to persuade the young girl.
“Hey! It’s not just for boys! Girls can watch it too!” The young girl fiestedly declares.
The woman walks towards the couch and changes the channel to power puff girls.
“Hey, that's my favorite show!” Peyton whines.
“But I thought you loved the Powerpuff Girls?” The woman calmly replies.
“Yeah, but Buttercup is the only cool one.” Peyton rolls her eyes.
The woman sighs and walks back to the kitchen. The woman puts a sandwich, an apple, and a cookie in the paper bag and then into a small strawberry shortcake backpack. “Come on sweetie, the bus will be here in a second.” The woman wraps the backpack around the Peyton’s shoulders, quickly runs her fingers through Peyton’s hair. “There, perfect.” The young girl carelessly buckles the straps on her shoes with eyes fixed on Buttercup fighting the monsters. Beep Beep, “Alright the bus is here,” The woman guides Peyton outside towards the bus and waves goodbye with a big smile on her face. “Have fun at school! I love you!” She screams from across the street. Peyton casually waves back. She steps onto the bus and walks past three rows of girls and sits in the fourth row next to a young blonde girl with ponytail. She looks back at the boys sitting in the back of the bus, gazing at their spiderman and Batman action figures. The blonde girl with a ponytail pulls Peyton back down to her seat and pulls out her Blossom Powerpuff girl toy.
“Peyton, I don't know why you like Buttercup so much she’s gross, Blossom is way cooler.” She starts.
“No way Claire, Blossom’s pink dress is ugly and she wears that stupid bow.” Peyton fires back.
“You’re wearing a bow.”
“Here,” she rips out of her hair, “You can have it.” as she throws the bow on Claire’s lap. The bus pulls into the school and the girls get off the bus and head towards homeroom.
During recess the girls head out to the playground and start playing house. Meanwhile, the boys start a game of kickball. Peyton gets in line to kick the all, “Hey! Boys only!.” A boy screams from the field. The line of boys turn around at her and scream cry out, “Yeah no girls allowed! Go play house!” Peyton, visibly upset, turns and goes to sit next to the girls. As the girls continue their game of house, Peyton sits alone. Bored, she whips out her Nintendo DS and starts playing Mario Carts. As the school day ends, the children pile onto the bus and Peyton plays Mario Karts the entire way home without speaking a word to anyone. Claire watches in awe of Princess Peach as she explains how she wants to be just like her when she grows up.
The woman greets Peyton with a warm hug, “So how was school today?” She questions.
“Fine.” The two enter the house and Peyton eats the carrots of the table the woman set out for her.
“So, Halloween is coming up, you know what you want to be yet?”
“Yeah, I wanna be Batman.” Peyton jumps in excitement.
“Hmm… how about Wonder Woman?”
“No, I like Batman!” She snaps.
“Well,” She hesitates, “There’s gotta be some other superhero you like.”
“Oh! Spiderman!” She exclaims as she launches fake spiderwebs on the wall.
The woman lets out a fake laugh, “Well, we still have time to think about it.”
Peyton rushes back to her carrots. “All the girls at school are saying they wanna be princesses, gross” She lets out a fake vomit sound.
“Well what’s wrong with being a princess?” The woman worries.
“They have to wear those silly dresses!” Peyton shouts in frustration.
“But what about all your toys I got you for Christmas?”
“I was just playing with them on the bus.” Peyton quickly answers.
She goes back to pretending to shoot webs out of her hands while mimicking the sound effects. She runs up to her room and continues there.
“Hey what happened to your bow?” The woman shouts from down stairs but Peyton is too distracted to hear. Car door shut. A Tall man with dark brown hair and a black suit enters the room.
“Hey David, how was work?” The woman asks clearly distressed and unfocused.
“Fine, are you alright?” The man asks.
“It’s Peyton, she wants to be batman for Halloween, but I’m scared the other girls at school are going to pick on her.”
She begins to tear up. The man embraces her in a tight hug.
“She’ll be fine, they’re just kids.” He assures her.
“It’s not just that. She watches all these boyish shows and plays boyish games, I just want her to have friends and get along with the other kids at school.” She breaks down into tears. The man rubs her shoulders while still embracing her.
“It’s just a phase, Peyton will be fine. Besides, kids just want someone to run around with, they don’t care about stuff like that.” He claims.
The woman wipes her tears away and calms herself down. The man walks to the room to set his stuff down and the woman starts to cook dinner.
Several weeks later Peyton scurries onto the school bus shaking with excitement. She cannot shake the smile from her face as she races up the steps.
“Peyton’s dressed like a boy!” a kid from the back of the bus jeers.
Peyton’s smile quickly vanishes as her freckled cheeks begin to burn red and a rope yanks her stomach to the ground. Her mouth hangs open while a group of boys laugh hysterically. Peyton rushes to her seat next to Claire and buries her face in her lap desperately trying to hold back the waterfalls emerging from her eyes.
“I like spiderman.” Claire attempts to lighten her spirits. The boy’s laughter floods Peyton’s ears, crippling her from hearing Claire. Peyton’s face is stained red as she buries her head in her Mario Karts game all day until she finally returns home.
“Hi sweetie, how was school today?” The woman greeted her with a concerned smile.
With puffy, red eyes fixed on the floor, “Mom,” she sniffles, “I change my mind,” her voice cracks as a fist clogs her throat, “I wanna be a Princess.”
Chapter 2: Adolescence
“Beep! Beep! Beep!” That noise sent a shock through my mind and I immediately woke up angry. I sat up in my bed, grabbed my phone, and used every bit of energy I had to get out of bed. I looked at my phone to turn off the alarm and the time read six forty five in the morning. Knowing I still had to get ready, as fast as I could I got out of bed. I walked over to my closet to pick out an outfit. Yesterday I wore jeans, so today I chose a skirt. I put my pastel pink skirt on with a fitting white short sleeved shirt along with a necklace and earrings. As I walked out of my room, I picked a pair of sandals and made my way downstairs for breakfast.
It wasn’t seconds after I sat down when my father looks me up and down.
“Peyton, what’s wrong with this picture?” He said sitting down, not even gotten up to see the outfit.
“Um, I don’t know. I think it’s cute!” I then took another bite of cereal, hoping he would forget about it.
He sat his coffee cup down and said, “Yeah, a little too cute. You’re a pretty girl, Peyton. You don’t need to me showing off. Try to be as modest as possible.”
I rolled my eyes and then he got up and walked over to me. He leaned in and kissed my cheek from behind while I continued to eat my cereal.
“I gotta protect my girl. Go upstairs and change.”
Too tired to get into a fight, I walked upstairs and changed into my pair of jeans that I wore yesterday. Looking in the mirror, I stared at a small stain around my knees. “UGH, people are going to know I wore these two days in a row.” I walked over to my closet and began looking for another pair of jeans. “Yeah, of course.” I looked over to my clothes hamper and saw all three pairs dirty. I ran my hands through my head in frustration. I had to stay in the dirty jeans, so to spice things up a bit grabbed a red peplum shirt- I couldn’t look too casual. I then grabbed the rest of my stuff and went downstairs.
While walking down the stairs I saw my dad was still in the kitchen, so I changed my direction and started heading towards the front door. However, my father must have seen me as he called for me. I rolled my eyes and made my way back to the kitchen.
“What do you want, Dad?”
Barely looking up from his phone he said, “Ah, that’s better. Now, hurry up so you’re not late.”
I quickly turned around and made my way outside. I grabbed my keys out of my backpack and piled my stuff into my Volkswagen Beetle and drove to school.
The school day was normal, like any other school day. I went from class to class, saw the same people, and dealt with the same teachers. Right before lunch I was talking with my friends when someone came up behind me and jumped on my back. I turned around and it was my friend Claire.
“I got some good news for you,” she teased.
“But wait, I can’t tell you!”
“Um, no! That’s not how it works! You have to tell me!” I yelled back.
“Okay,” she bagan and took a deep breathe, “but you didn’t hear this from me. Jordan, the cute boy in homeroom, is planning on asking you out today!”
Immediately, we began freaking out and squealing together in the hallway. When I got a chance to calm down I asked, “Are you sure? Who told you this?!”
“One of his friends from the Baseball team was talking to me about it!”
I was quiet for a minute and Claire asked, “Girl, why are you so down? This is GOOD NEWS!”
I looked down at the stain on my jeans and said, “He’s not going to ask me out looking like this, I look terrible. Look at my pants! I have no chance.”
“Pey, he isn’t going to notice that, just quit worrying and act like everything is normal.”
We were sitting at the lunch table when Jordan and his friends sat next to us. Jordan sat right next to me. I quickly put a napkin over my knee so he wouldn’t see the stain. My heart began to start beating really fast. He didn’t say anything directly to me the entire time we sat there, but then Claire, along with his friends, got up and left. It was just him and I.
“Hey, so um,” He ran his hand through his hair and looked down, “I was um... wondering if... maybe you’d like to go with me to the concert down at the Waterfront tonight?”
My heart dropped and I just stared at him for a second.
“Yeah, um, of course I’d love to go!”
“Cool, so I’ll pick you up tonight? Text me your address, okay?” He grabbed his lunch tray and got up and walked over to his friends standing my the doorway. I sat there shocked for a moment and when the boys went out the door, Claire ran up and sat next to me.
“So, how’d it go?!”
“Tonight we’re going to the concert together and he’s picking me up.”
She squeezed my arm out of excitement and we gathered our things and went to last period.
“UGH! What do I wear?!” I screamed looking at myself in the mirror. I tried on some short jean shorts with a vintage t-shirt and stood looking at my whole self. I stared at myself for a minute. I focused my attention to my thighs. My legs were too unshaven to wear short, and the more I stared the more I hated the way I looked in the jeans. I shrugged and shuffled my feet back over to my closet. I scanned through my clothes once again only to find nothing. I resulted going back to my original outfit, jean shorts and a vintage shirt. “Hopefully he won’t notice, I don’t have time to shave.” After I finished getting ready, I went to my bathroom to do my makeup. I didn’t want to seem like I was trying to hard, so I kept it simple.
Before I even had a chance to finish my makeup I got a text from Jordan saying he was in my driveway. I began to panic and rushed out of my bathroom and ran down the stairs past my parents. As I went to grab my purse sitting on the couch, my father stopped me.
“Where are you going?”
“Um, just out with some friends. My ride’s here, I gotta go!”
I bolted towards the door and shut it behind me. This was it: My first real date. Trying to look as normal as possible, I walked slowly to his car. “Hey!” I said as I opened the door.
Looking up from his phone, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you coming. I would have gotten the door.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. How was your drive here? Was it hard to find?”
“No, it was alright.”
As we arrived at the Waterfront, we met up with some friends. Although I wanted it to be just us, we still had a good time. Every now and then I heard his friends say some silly comments about how much we’ve done, or if he was “going to smash.” They got annoying after a while, but the attention was kind of nice. After the concert ended we walked back to his car parked a few blocks away. As we were walking he stopped my the Spaghetti Factory and asked if I was hungry. I said yes and we went inside. I only ordered a side salad and a kids meal, I didn’t want to eat too much in front of him. Although I was new at dating, it felt right and natural. When the dinner came to an end, he covered the bill and we walked back to his car. The night was going well. As we were driving home, he made a turn opposite from my house.
“Hey, where are we going?”
“Just taking a detour.”
He took me through the park and parked the car.
“What are we doing here? It’s dark, there’s nothing to do.”
He chuckled a bit and just sat there for a moment.
“Well, I thought that since our date went so well, we could... you know...”
He trailed off and smirked a little bit.
“Hook up?” I asked.
“Yeah, you know how it goes.”
I didn’t know exactly how far he meant, but I was super excited. This would be my first kiss. He then leaned in and he kissed me. It was awkward at first, but then we figured out the pace. After a few seconds of making out, he put his hands on my thigh and pulled me in closer. Not wanting to seem ignorant, I just let it happen. It wasn’t until he moved his hand up my shirt that I had a problem. I jumped back into my seat, scooting away from him.
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
“I... um... it’s just the first date.”
“Don’t worry Pey,” he said as he stroked the hair behind my ear, “We’ll go slow.” My heart began to race and I felt uneasy inside. I didn’t know what to do. He was taking me home, and I didn’t want an awkward car ride back to my house if things went wrong. I could feel my hands getting hotter and my palms getting more and more sweaty.
“Oh, um, okay. I trust you.”
And just like that we started up again. The entire time I felt something off about the whole moment. My gut was telling me no, but my brain was nearly forcing me to continue. I liked Jordan and all, but I lied. I didn’t fully trust him, and my gut knew it after it was too late.
When we pulled up at my house, it was almost midnight. He said kissed me goodnight and told me he would text me. I got out of the car and I walked in the house through the front door to avoid my parents in the kitchen and immediately went to my room. I changed into more comfortable clothes and just sat on the edge of my bed. I sat there for so long, just staring at my feet and how they felt on the rug. My body didn’t know what to do, It felt disconnected from the rest of me. After what seemed like eternity, Claire called.
Practically screeching into the phone she asked, “So Peyton, how’d it go?”
“Amazing! It was so nice, he even paid for dinner and everything!”
“And what about afterwards? Get any, y’know, action?” She said laughingly.
“After dinner, we went to the park, and, well-”
She immediately began screeching and squealing again and told me I have to tell her all the details; therefore, I told her everything. She ended the phone call by singing “Peyton and Jordan sitting in a tree!” and then finishing the song. I laughed with her hung up the phone. Being able to think again and process things with Claire helped me understand what happened. Claire was so excited, why wasn’t I? I just layed there in my bed trying to pinpoint my feelings, but I couldn’t tell what I was supposed to feel. I wanted to tell her the truth, but I would look so immature and embarrassed if I didn’t act like it was normal. So, I just layed there, wondering what to do next. I watched a little bit of Netflix and then my computer screen went black. I stared at myself in the reflection of the screen and I felt all the heat and feelings go to my head, and then my eyes. My heartbeat got faster and faster and I lost control of my breathing. I shot up in my bed and sat up. My body got hot and I felt like I was going to pass out. Tears kept falling down my face and I didn’t know why. Not knowing what to do, I sat in my bed, pulled my knees in closer to my chest and just cried. I kept crying and couldn’t stop. I wanted to tell someone, but if I talked to my parents I would get in trouble and if I talked to Claire, she might look down on me. I felt more alone than I had ever felt, and I didn’t know what else to do than calm myself down so I don’t have bags under my eyes in the morning and go to sleep.
When brainstorming ideas with my partner, Rachel, we wanted to focus on something that mattered to us and also made sense in today’s political and social climate. Rachel and I feel strongly about the struggles that women face and we wanted our story to represent how we feel towards the issue without other bias information interfering with our thought process. Our theme of unnoticed gender roles and norms that women face in society and how women feel obligated to conform to those restrictions is something that needs to be addressed.
While developing our idea, we found some issues with our idea and we had to change our project as we went along. We decided that we did not want to do outside research for our idea. We wanted this project to be a reflection of our views and our experiences rather than that of someone else’s. We took this project as a chance to portray what we viewed women face in society, rather than express other’s opinions. Also, we originally had three different time frames: Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood. We were going to write a story about each a boy and a girl and the gender role issues they faced in each of the three time frames of life; however, we realized that we did not connect to those issues of a boy and the story would be about a twenty page paper.
We not only wanted to tackle the the effect that gender norms have on women, but we wanted to explore the reason why they exist in the first place. While writing my part, Chapter 2, I struggled with finding obvious situations to put Peyton in that would make it obvious she was struggling with dealing with gender norms. However, as I was writing moments like when he father made her change her clothes to be “as modest as possible,” or when she was nervous about people questioning what she wore, I realized that all of those situations were normal for me; therefore, I overlooked how it has effect Peyton and I throughout our entire lives. Towards the end of the story, she has an encounter with a boy named Jordan where he asks her out on the date. I used this situation as a way to explain how the “hookup” culture is male dominated and women feel obligated to follow through with hookups or accept them as part of the dating process. Because of the early influence of the mother wanting her to fit in and be like other girls mixed with the “protection” from the father about Peyton’s outfit choices only justifies the “boys will be boys” mindset and that women are at fault for how men view them. Rachel and I wanted to show all of this as well as how over time, gender roles for women become embedded into their minds and it’s hard to escape. Just like me not being able to realize that the father making her change out of a skirt is conforming to the gender norms of society while writing, I wanted to reflect that in Peyton as well. In order to do this, Rachel and I made the stylistic choice to change from third person to first person. We did this to show how in the second story already at the young age of seventeen, the gender roles of society were already stuck with Peyton because she grew up with them. The mother, unknowingly to the gender roles as well, pushed at an early age what girls are expected to do and by the time she got to be a teenager, she was able to make decisions in her life based off of those gender roles; therefore, society as already done it’s work and she is able to reflect the norms through a first person narrative.
This project has helped me realize that myself, along with every other girl out there, struggles with overcoming gender roles and restrictions in society. This project has made me understand that even at school, at home, and at places I feel most comfortable, women will always be encouraged not to express themselves to their fullest potential because of rules and expectations that society has for women. Issues like dress code, the “boys will be boys” concept, the hookup culture, and much more effect women unconsciously because women have grown up conforming to playing house rather than kickball or not wearing a skirt because it might be distracting to others. This project has allowed me to artfully show how what women go through from childhood to adolescence and hopefully help other women realize that some situations they are in are because of how society has taught them to act and that they shouldn’t be like Peyton: They need to do something about it.
Toree and I made many stylistic choices when writing this paper. Primarily the shift from third to first person. In the childhood chapter, we chose to do third person to represent the outside influence on young girls. For kids, everything is raw and uncorrupted so they see things for what they really are and societal norms hasn’t affected their way of thinking yet.We chose third person to parallel this idea of showing every detail the way it really is, clear of the individual’s thoughts or opinions to sway how the reader reads the story. In other words, to allow the reader to read like a child would, free of external influence. In the teenage years, we see more inside the mind of Peyton as societal norms start to weigh her down more and more as she matures. We wanted readers to see the psychological distress women suffer under the oppression of gender roles. We also chose to have Peyton like more boyish things like, ben 10 and Mario Karts to demonstrate who she really is and have her mother almost force her into what society wants her to be out of fear that her daughter will get bullied. We chose this because parents control a lot of what their kids are allowed to do, which the kids learn to adapt to. Instead of letting kids enjoy the things they like, many parents force their kids to conform to what society believes their kids should like because they don’t want their kids to get hurt by society. In other words, parents hurt their kids so they won’t get hurt by others. Although not physically hurting their kids, they are hurting the kids by not allowing them to be their true selves but rather the final product of society’s recipe for what children should be, and parental influence is the first step in the cooking process. The overly girly room, the choice of tv shows, the conversation instead of going to the store to pick a costume are all examples of how the parents force kids into being “normal” instead of being themselves, a concept we found very toxic. We strayed from our original idea to show how gender roles differ between boys and girls because we wanted to maintain a focus on women and how the fear of social ostracism still dictates the actions of many women and constrains them from fully exercising their liberty. As women grow older the stakes are higher, and women often pressured into situations they are not comfortable in as seen in chapter two. We wanted to keep this story genuine to our own experiences in the male dominated hookup culture and the emotional distress it puts many women in. We wanted to demonstrate yet another obstacle women must overcome to obtain true liberty.
Writing this paper allowed us to reflect on how society oppresses women. Publicizing this paper will allow readers to visualize and reflect as well. Because our story is so genuine and relatable, many will see how it reflects in their own lives, and hopefully take steps to reverse the cycle so many women get stuck in. These steps will help women towards freedom from societal oppression and liberty to be who they truly are without judgement or outside influence.