Gender Is A Defining Factor Essay

Gender Is A Defining Factor Essay

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In our culture, gender has become a defining factor. A quality that some have come to see as increasingly ambivalent and difficult to define continues to cause assumptions to be made and conclusions to be drawn. “The belief that genes dictate our behavior has enormous appeal” (Fausto-Sterling). From the moment of birth, gender creates expectations for family life, educational and career decisions, and a person’s personal faith.
When asked to interview someone about their ‘gendered’ story, Carolyn Huffman immediately came to mind. At 63, she has traveled the globe and spent thirty years in the classroom with late elementary students. Though married for nearly forty years and a stepmother, she has no children of her own. Instead, she has devoted herself to her family, her students, and her faith. She also happens to be my aunt. Her unique life experiences have given her a strong perspective on gender issues and, in her words, “it’s something that matters to me” (Huffman).
Carolyn in the oldest of five; my own mother is the youngest. Elmer and LaVera Neufeld met and married in the farmland of Kansas and began their family there. Because Elmer headed off to Washington D.C. shortly before Carolyn’s birth to begin Mennonite Voluntary Service, he missed the birth of his first child and the father and daughter were not introduced until LaVera came east to join her husband six weeks later. As Carolyn sees it, “from the very beginning, [this] says something about my life and gender. For my father, his work was more important than being with his wife when their first child was born” (Huffman). Though this type of circumstance may have been more common in the first half of the twentieth century, it seems astonishing now, an era where both...


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...lt the pressures of their gender while in school or making career decisions. “Along with the family, educational institutions...are central arenas in which gender is reproduced” (Kimmel). For Carolyn, issues of equality and gender expectations began early and carried throughout her entire educational experience.
When Carolyn was three, the growing Neufeld family moved to Chicago. There, she was the only white student in her class and one of few in the entire school.
I think that also affected how important equality is to me...because from the very beginning that racial difference was part of my experience and part of my life. I didn’t think about gender at that time, but I think that civil rights kind of issues were important to me from very early because that was part of my experience. (Huffman)
Those feelings and care for equality would become lifelong concerns.

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