Mocked because my name ends in “SHE”
By Mahi Chitti
I grew up being mocked by both my peers and my elders because my name ends in “SHE.”
The shaming pushed me to invent a nickname, Mahi, so that my name would end with “HE.”
At the time I thought it was pretty cool. And having a name that ended in “he” made me feel a lot better about myself.
But now I realize that I had simply internalized the idea that men are better than women, and that masculine is better than feminine.
In fact, being teased as a “she” may have started my whole thought process that, “acting more like a man will help me.”
That, plus my brother constantly calling me a sissy. I was far from that, but I still got the title.
It all took a toll on my feminine side — a side that all men have, but hide.
For instance, I have always liked things to be neat and to look nice. But people shame me for being “girly.” For a while I tried to dirty up my room and be a little more rugged, but I didn’t like it at all.
Girls internalize these ideas too. A female friend of mine took a look at a binder I use for school and complained,
Damn, you’re such a girl! Why is your binder so organized?
So both men and women reinforce our gender notions, making them hard to change.
The strange thing is that this girl is a tomboy. She likes to hang out with guys and do male activities. But she doesn’t get much criticism.
That’s probably because we rank men and masculinity over females and femininity. If she crosses gender boundaries she is not seen as demeaning herself. I am.
Both masculine and feminine traits should be valued the same, but they are not. So men are under constant pressure to prove their manhood by cutting off parts of themselves. Women have much more flexibility to develop and express their whole selves.
Men and masculinity may be more valued but we often end up being more harmed in some ways, as we suffocate some of our best and healthiest parts.
This was written by one of my students who gave me permission to post it.
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Posted on May 29, 2015, in feminism, men, psychology, sexism, women and tagged feminism, gender ranking, men, psychology, sexism, women. Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.
The first part of the article was very interesting to me as a foreigner. I have lived in the U.S pretty long now but never though of the name ends with “SHE” be so feminine. And I really agreed with what Mahi writes “Women have much more flexibility to develop and express their whole selves”, and the story of his tomboy friend.
I liked wearing pants instead of skirt, but I was teased by boys, “why am I wearing pants like a boy?” when I was in kinder garden and elementary school. And if I had some Superhero goods, blue backpacks, and so on, I was teased. But when I got older, people have never teased me again. Far from that people even say “Nice pants!” to me. I imagine if a man were in this situation. What if a man wearing skirt or having Pinky backpacks? I would think, the man is pretty feminine. Since I feel this way, I guess this is what Mahi write as” men are under constant pressure to prove their manhood by cutting off parts of themselves.”
In the past, I encountered similar situations. I always think why I always use “he” to describe things. When asking “he or she”, sometimes I doubt why “he” is placed in front of “she”. Then, I ask myself to put “she” in the front all the time. Now that I think about it, I find that I have put women behind by default according to those behaviors in the past, because I think men are better than women. So I feel very resentful in my mind why men always come first. Gender’s subtle impact is deep-rooted. And now the focus is not to change the placing order. Instead, we shall let people have right definitions in their mind. Thus, naturally, people would not feel resentful on the ranking of the placing order deep in their mind.
I could understand how the writer feels about the name. When I was a little girl, I always felt that my name was just right for boy. Especially, my last name was kind of showing power. If my last for boys, it could be just perfect for the masculinity; while it’s just too much for girls. As a result, at that time, I usually asked my parents if I could change a name that fits girl better. I would like to take my mom’s last name. But I know I could not be allowed to do that for the reason that my dad will never permit that. He is traditional. Until my middle school, I still do not like my name so much. During middle school, my classmates thought I was a boy before meeting me just because of my name. For now, I started to accept that because my name reminds me where I come from. However, the thing is that people just surprised about my name, and they do not make fun of it. Therefore, in the real life, it does not bother me so much. For the writer, people might make fun of his name, which makes him shamed. I think this is what he states” Men and masculinity may be more valued but we often end up being more harmed in some ways”.
I can relate to this article so much and really loved the perspective that this guy gave! I thought it was really interesting how at the beginning he was so bugged that his name sounded like he or she. That is crazy how just the ending syllables of someones name can judge someones gender and character. Also, its crazy how your name can make you seem more feminine or more masculine. What I love about this article is that it shows that women and men are the same in many ways and in the end we are all human. Some of us are the same and some of us are different, like he is organized, but that doesn’t have anything to do with our gender! Yea girls do some things the same and guys do another thing the same but it doesn’t mean that in all gender defines who you are and how you are supposed to act! I love this article and it was very realistic and raw!
I hate to hear people referring a man as “gay” if he is not acting masculine enough. Since obviously, it is homophobic. And secondly, he is just expressing himself in the way he feels comfortable and there is nothing wrong about it. However, sometimes I also have similar thoughts in my head if I see a man not acting like a man. For example, I’d think that this man should be homosexual because his things are too tidy. You may say I am surprised to see a man can also be neat and organized, since it is not what I think guys should be…? And yes, I’m definitely internalizing ideas about how men should behave. I know it’s wrong, but it is so hard to change this kind of mindset after all these years.
It sounds really stupid to laugh at somebody just because his name ends in “she”. Every one of us should start doing something NOW. If we don’t help teaching kids today the right kind of thinking, the situation will get worse and worse…
I don’t understand why a man who shows his softer side is called a “girl”. Feeling is normal! Boys are brainwashed into thinking that they should be tough, resulting in them hiding certain parts of them in fear of being judged. Keeping stuff clean and organized mean you’re clean and organized, and it should only mean that. Plus men should stop be afraid of being judged because the way they act can also lead to criticism. Someone who isn’t afraid to be soft, or clean, or organized, and is still manly will not be criticized.
I agree with this post, especially about the perspective of “manhood” and how men feel a great amount of pressure to hide parts of themselves they may come off as feminine in order to prove themselves. I think that a lot of the time, men feel as if they need to deny certain interests that they may have because they are not considered masculine. This is pressure that society enforces, where men are constantly put down for showing femininity to the point where they feel ashamed about themselves. The neat and organized stereotype is interesting to me because I think that it completely depends on the individual, rather than the gender. I’ve known many women who are very messy and unorganized, as well as many men who prefer organizing and keeping things tidy. I think that it is merely insecurities that influence people to insult others for being who they are, whether or not it is considered feminine.
Boys are definitely teased from a young age to stop being girly or a sissy. I don’t know where it originated but it has reinforced the idea that boys who are feminine are bad, therefore women are bad. When a boy picks up his sister’s doll, it is frowned upon, especially by their father. In today’s society, we can see more acceptance in parents, especially those who have transgender kids. Still, there is nothing wrong with males taking on traditional “female duties/traits.” If I were to see a guy’s neat and organized binder or handwriting, I would compliment them (which I have done in the past), I wouldn’t call them a girl. I don’t see being organized as some label for females. I do see that girls have a little more room to cross the gender barrier. They are called tomboys for a certain period of time, but they are expected to grow out of it when they hit puberty. When they haven’t grown out of it then in most cases the parents may start to worry and urge her into dressing or acting more feminine.
The very concept of gendered names has bothered me for a long time. When one thinks about it rationally, there really is no reason why we designate some names as feminine and others as masculine. Why exactly is John a good name for a boy, but not as much for a girl? The function of names should be just to give a person something that they can be referenced as. The only reason I think of for this is that gendered are part of the cultural practices that internalize our identity as distinctly male or female (in spite of the wide spectrum of possible genders). It is one of the ways that we, as a society, can enforce a strict gender dichotomy. That fact that we continue with this practice only seems to suggest we still blatantly deny existence of sexism in our society. To further that point, I recall reading an article that talked about how when parents start to name their daughters with traditionally masculine names, people will stop naming their boys those names so as to avoid associating with femininity. This shows that names are part of the power dynamics between masculinity and femininity (where femininity is seen as inferior).
I also found another article that catalogues some of the changes in names across the 20th century. In case any one is curious.
“Why exactly is John a good name for a boy, but not as much for a girl?”
And in fact, in France the girls name, Jean, it’s pronounced the way we pronounce John in the US.
The reason we tend to use gender is because binary gender is so important in our culture — not that it should be, It’s a pain in the next for a lot of people. It’s the same reason that we have designated pink for girls in blue for boys (and at one time it was blew for girls in pink from boys in some parts of the US). But because gender seems to be so significant in most of our minds (Though it needn’t be), people often don’t even know how to interact if they can’t figure out your gender!
So I completely agree with your analysis. And thanks for the link!
Gender binary is not culture it is hard wired to the deepest parts of our brains. Here’s proof. Look at these photos: http://illusionoftheyear.com/2009/05/the-illusion-of-sex/
Pretty much everyone sees one face as male and the other female despite them being the same photo. Your brain at the very deepest level wants to see either a male or a female. It can’t not see that. It’s impossible to look at someone and not think hmmm male or hmm female.
There’s a difference between sex and gender. Sex is biological – and that is what you were talking about. Gender is cultural and what’s going on in your head.
I think we are at a point where a majority of women don’t hold back due to criticism but instead use it as motivation. Comments like “you throw like a girl” are one of the reasons women have built the strength they have today like Maharshi has learned to embrace the last part of her name. Always #likeagirl commercial shows this mentality that young girls especially are beginning to have. They are learning that it is not a negative thing to do things “like a girl”, and the older generation should continue to show this in order to end a cycle of gender boundaries.
The problem is that a lot of this is unconsciously internalized. Most people are so used to hearing this sort of thing that they don’t really think to criticize them. The ideas just seem natural and normal. Have you seen that ad where they ask both men and women to run like a girl or throw like a girl? And they all act oddly incompetent? They haven’t gotten to the point where they are criticizing it — it just seems like natural fact that girls are incompetent.
What I have learned is that men and women are expected to follow societies gender roles and stereotypes. Women should be stay at home moms, care for the kids, shows emotion, be caring, etc. While men are supposed to be your source of money and dependence, he feeds and provides for the family, he is strong, etc. So when they are not followed society is telling you that you’re doing it wrong, you’re out of order. In addition, young girls and boys are exposed to seeing what the appropriate gender should be doing as they grow and mature they do not realize that they should be completely free to do as they please. We tend to internalize these ideas until they become part of us that we make it difficult to end/break gender roles and stereotypes.
I can agree with this text, because even though we don’t know we are doing it as mankind it still happens. it even already happened in this sentence. I do not agree with the fact that women are always secondary, but for some reason no to sound biased I have learned to accept that the world does. for example since last semester I have not put a He before a she in my vocabulary when I address a group i do not put any man before a woman nor the other way around. I have learned to address both genders and sexes the same. We do still have that problem of addressing one more important, but I guess it is up to you how you see yourself or society some people just ignore and don’t even notice what they are saying, but i tend to pay attention. Thanks.
I’m glad I have helped you to see some things you haven’t seen before. I tried to say “Women and men” etc At least half the time.
If a man cries, he is said “dont cry a girl!”. If he keeps his room clean,” he is such a girly!”. Yes there are many such notions that goes for a man and sometimes because of it, a few men even if they are hygienic or neat behave like they the most untidy and unhygienic people.
Pretty crazy, isn’t it?
I have been on the receiving end of many sexist insults that both demeaned women and also reduced my self esteem greatly. I was a skinny, emotional kid who liked art and dressed different. I was repeatedly called sissy, girl, or “pussy”, my manhood questioned at every corner. as I grew older, homophobia reared it’s ugly head in my social group as people started calling me gay or homo as an insult.
Men’s phobia of anything that they perceive to be weak, or beneath them is what leads them to behave this way. Sadly this can become an endless cycle of men passing on their insecurities to the next generation, who then begin to repeat the cycle. I think in many ways this can be addressed by allowing men to be comfortable with a wider variety of emotional spectrums, fashion, and physical appearances. Education should also help men look at women as equal, rather than beneath them. If someone calls me a girl today, I will simply respond, “What’s wrong with being a girl?”.
I like your last response. Exactly!
I’m glad you get that it comes out of their insecurity.
To start off, I giggled, because this reminded me a lot of my brother who so much interested in being neat on opposite of my other brother who is his twin. Both of them are very different that I can say each is 180 degrees far in his direction than the other. One is a trouble maker and so masculine, and other is quiet the opposite to the point that some people ask him to become a man. As for me, I am very moody, sometimes I like everything to tidy and well ordered and sometimes I dont even care how misrable is my room. I also remember being in the kitchen with my dad while cooking, he was saying how much he acts like his mum who well organized when used the kitchen tools, and his dad who would just leave things missed up after using it.
Thanks so much for sharing. Stereotypes can be pretty crazy.
Insightful tracking by the writer of the sexism we have internalized-and how both men and women have it toward the feminine esp. Really appreciate his awareness. Not sure if you watch Amy Schumer but she does a beautiful job of showing how women tend to operate from that unconscious sexism that puts the feminine down too.
I’ll have to check her out. Thanks for the reference.
If being neat is ‘girly’ I must be a bloke, a lot of the time I can hardly see the floor in my room. It is true though, calling a girl is not an insult and a lot of people might consider it a bit of a compliment, but being called girly or sissy is considered insulting it’s ridiculous.
Over here in the states men and boys may be called girls as an insult. As in, “You run like a girl… You throw like a girl.” And in the movie “Sweet November” with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, a little boy makes a boat that is smaller than the other guys’ boats. When he takes it to a race the other boys say, “Your a girl!” That’s not the only time that I have heard a boy called “a girl” but it is one where you can check it out for yourself.
I find the neat and organized thing an interesting stereotype and why and where certain assumptions of what is femine and masculine came from. Some I understand, but the neat and organized being “girly” doesn’t make sense to me. I understand the concept, but this is where perception doesn’t exactly meet reality, and is why I wonder why people think that. Because if they look at people and examples from reallife the divide in regards to neat and organized being femine and messy being masculine is not really that accurate. What I’m getting at is, I know plenty of men who are straight and masculine, who are organized and neat. I see them as simply neat freaks, maybe ocd, or perfectionists or very structured men. Actually you’ll see many military men, who are very masculine men many times to be very neat and organized. So nothing says feminine to me as far as neat and organized. My uncle, a high ranked soldier, long retired, but general or sergeant, something of high ranking from all the years in military. Well at his house, his bed, and everything is very neat and perfect and it’s because of the disciplined background from military.
He’s very neat and organized. And I’ve seen so many girls and women who are complete slobs as far as whether its there home or interior of their cars with bottles, dust, just stuff all around in their car. I mean how many girls growing up in their home head clothes all over the floor in their room that drove their mom’s crazy? My sister did when she was in highschool and such. I find that interesting, because my own experiences, is that just as many women are and can be “slobs” and disorganized, messy and dirty as men and just as many men, neat and organized as women.
Yeah. My husband is way more neat and organized than me. And my dad is way more neat and organized than my mom.
So, you abandoned a name to get rid of the “she” at the end, and it resulted in having the nickname of a fish. I don’t think it’s working for you.
Yeah it’s always ‘you fight like a little girl’ or you ‘throw like a girl.’ I remember in primary school having throwing competitions where we’d each have to throw a softball as far as possible. Most of the boys threw a lot further – a lot of it, I think, was internalised. Boys were expected to be more sporty, physical and active, while girls more social, and into playing with things like dolls, which is really silly. Statistically there isn’t much different in strength between boys and girls until puberty, so it isn’t a strength issue. The main reason boys threw a lot further was attitude: showing off, for one, and also technique. It was quite obvious most of the girls put little effort into it almost expecting to not throw as well as the boys. The few girls that did could throw as far as the boys – they were usually the sportier ones. Also in team sports you had a few more sporty girls who participated and gave it their all, while some girls would just stand out talking or not participating. It’s good that girls are more involved in team sports, but girls are still socialised to be seen as less capable in that arena.
Yeah, I think you’re right. Plus dads are more likely to play ball with their boys and give them practice. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.