Advice on an Applied Analysis Essay I wrote for class

  • dmlove02

    Posts: 45

    Nov 11, 2009 12:34 AM GMT
    Preface: I wrote this essay a few days ago, and have been reading and re-reading it to try and improve it in any way. It is for my "Perspectives on Sex Roles" humanities class, and I get very unsure of my essay writing capabilities in these sorts of classes being a biology major and having the majority of my college courses as scientific ones...this is a much different type of class. The object of the essay was basically to imbricate two texts from class that we read with a third text (the third text I chose to use was my own life experience 'text', a sort of personal inquiry essay). The two texts I did use was "Out of the Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and the Mass Media" by Larry Gross as well as "Becoming 100% Straight" by Michael Messner --- I recommend reading either and/or both of these texts; great theories, writing, and ideas to mull over. Anyway, here is the essay:

    “The Heterosexual Lock to the Closet Door”

    Growing up closeted in a very conservative home, coming out as a gay man was one of the last things on my mind. Even though I realized at an early age that I was ‘different’ in certain regards to the other boys my age, I chose to deny it. In almost an act of rebellion against my own sexuality, I repressed any ‘abnormal’ feelings I got toward any other men, and instead turned my focus on chasing girls. I made sure I was a fierce competitor in all of the sports I played, which included tennis, soccer, basketball, and swimming. My family was very Catholic, and I attended a Catholic high school as well. I knew all too well the thoughts the Catholic Church, as well as many other people that surrounded me, had on the issue of homosexuality: it was deviant, immoral, and just wrong. Seeing all my other guy friends talking about their latest conquests (girls) and joking to others, who were not as successful, about being gay, I made sure I had experience under my belt that I could talk about. I was often the first to demean someone for not being as athletic or ‘manly’, usually throwing out “fag” and “queer”, among other derogatory terms. In my head, I guess I felt if I was the one calling people the names, I would never be suspected as actually being the queer. In retrospect, especially after reading many texts presented in this course, I am able to analyze my own behavior and actions as a sort of survival strategy in order for me to fit into the standard heterosexual mold. Indeed, I was denying my own sexuality because of a lack of positive information and support from the environment around me. A quote from Larry Gross’ essay, Out of the Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and the Mass Media (that he quoted from another essay) perfectly sums up the reasoning for my behavior during this time in my life:
    “We learn to loath homosexuality before it becomes necessary to acknowledge our own. Never having been offered positive attitudes to homosexuality, we inevitably adopt negative ones, and it is from these that all our values flow” (1, 66).

    One concept Larry Gross brings up in his article that really rings true towards homosexuality is the concept that this is a self-identifying minority. From an outward glance, no one can tell what your sexual orientation is. There are, of course, people that many assume to be gay, such as extremely effeminate men as well as very masculine women, though frequently they are heterosexual. This self identifying characteristic of being a homosexual factors in to the prejudice that gay men and women receive worldwide. Because of the automatically assumed heterosexuality, we have to stand up and tell people differently. No black man has to stand up and say that they are black (for the most part) because their skin color can be seen, nor does a woman have to divulge that she is a woman (again, in general, as a whole other paper could be written on this topic!) Gays, on the other hand, always have to identify themselves as a member in this minority, and this is not always accepted by the rest of society. This self identifying characteristic causes people to see homosexuality as a choice, as something that was decided by that individual as a life path (though this is obviously not the case). Because this revelation is not obvious to everyone other than the individual, people assume that you are choosing to be in this category. In my case, both my family and my friends assumed that I was heterosexual, and growing up I tried to play the part as best I could. When I did come out, it was a surprise to all, and I was often asked the question of “why I would choose this path to travel down”. The people around me did not understand my point of view, as they had always thought that I was straight; this sudden revelation of my sexuality left many dumbfounded and confused.

    Another problem with homosexuality being self identifying and not easily determined from someone outside the individual is that we often have a hard time understanding, defining, and dealing with being considered ‘different’. Because other minorities can just look to each other for support, for role models, and for survival strategies to help to cope with the prejudice from mainstream society, homosexuals do not have this luxurious option (unless they look for the most obvious examples - effeminate men and masculine women- which, as stated before, are not always reliable judgments to assume they are homosexual based on their gender traits). This causes many gay individuals to automatically feel judged, rejected, and utterly alone. They feel as if they have no one to turn to for the support they need, and often are victims of prejudice, whether done consciously or unconsciously. Prejudice is already not a good thing, but when it happens to an individual who has absolutely no support system regarding the matter, the results can be devastating.

    The other outlet for support Larry Gross mentions in his article is the media:
    “In the absence of adequate information in their immediate environment, most people, gay or straight, have little choice other than to accept the narrow and negative stereotypes they encounter [in the mass media] as being representative of gay people” (1, 64). Gross points out, though, that gay people have been under represented in the media, and when they are portrayed, it is often as victims of ridicule and violence or as villains. There are few, if any, representations of normal, unexceptional as well as exceptional, gays and lesbians that could be used as role models. Recent improvements in the media has been the channel LOGO, which is geared towards homosexual audiences, though if one does not have cable, this option is not available. Growing up in such a conservative home and presumed to be heterosexual, I really struggled with my homosexuality. I heard peoples views on it, and heard the names that were thrown out that demeaned homosexuals (often, as I mentioned, using them myself to insult others). I had no one to talk to about my situation or to act as gay role models, and nowhere to turn to look for support and encouragement. The media was definitely one place I could secretly go to find some source of comfort whenever a show was on that had a gay character in it. Whenever such a show came on, I would be there watching it; seeing another gay person being shown to millions of other viewers gave me a sort of comfort, like I was not alone in this as much as I felt I was. Many times, though, the character was personified just as Gross stated, victimized or vilified. Either way, I would still be in front of the television watching it and taking note of how the person behaved and carried themselves. Years later, I realized a lot of my self esteem problems and “poor me” attitude stemmed from my gay “role models” as a young kid watching television – I saw gays playing the victims, and I felt like I was a victim as well: helpless, vulnerable, and weak. Reading Gross’ article really elucidated this connection for me.
  • dmlove02

    Posts: 45

    Nov 11, 2009 12:38 AM GMT
    As I have mentioned before, I played many sports in high school. Even though I did grow to love many of the sports I played, I must admit that one of the reasons that pushed me to be so athletically active was because I felt playing sports denoted heterosexuality. Basically, if I played sports and was a star on the team, it would overshadow any instances of possible attraction noticed by any other person, as well as show my classmates that played on the team with me that I was not a sexual threat (like when changing together in locker rooms, etc.). I made sure to show them I was not interested in them when changing, and would make it a point to be in and out as fast as possible. I would make fun of kids that were not as skilled at me in the sports I played, and made sure to make them feel subordinate to me in order to show my dominance as a man. I could totally relate to Tom Waddel’s story in Becoming 100% Straight by Michael Messner. In the essay, Messner quoted Waddel in saying: “I was totally closeted and very concerned about being male…I realized that I had to do something to protect my image of myself as a male” (2, 230). I believe that my realization of being gay in the very straight world I grew up in caused me to feel like ‘less of a man’. Because of the stereotypes surrounding me about gay people, I felt that I had to hold on to any bit of masculinity I could, which included playing sports as well as calling attention away from myself by ridiculing others.

    According to the sociologist Erving Goffman, included in Messner’s essay, what Waddel was doing was called ‘dramaturgical analysis’: “...consciously acting to control and regulate others perceptions of him by constructing a public ‘front stage’ persona that differed radically from what he believed to be his ‘true’ inner self” (2, 231). I acted in the same way, by ‘doing heterosexuality’. I knew how to act like a straight, masculine man, and that was what I wanted to be perceived as. I tried to cover any form of weakness my homosexuality would show by being hyper masculine. I put on a show for everyone when I was in public (even with one other person who didn’t know I was gay). I wanted to make sure that I had all the privileges and power that a straight man had, to be a real ‘man’s man’. The only time I could truly be myself was alone in my room, where my guard would be let down and I could finally lip synch to Britney Spears in my mirror.

    I believe that heterosexuality as an institution and as an enforced group practice has very much constrained and limited all of us from all spectrums of the sexuality scale. Straight people who may feel homoerotic desires from time to time growing up seem to fully reject these feelings because of societal stigmas against them and for one hundred percent heterosexuality. They very well could be missing out on good friendships and possible relationships, as well as unnecessarily wasting their time and energy on aggression towards their objects of secret desire. Gay people miss out on much more: the chance to grow up in an accepting society where they can be themselves and be loved for who they are instead of trying to play a part that is simply not them. Many homosexuals who grew up in the past few generations know all too well the toll these forced conformations have on the well being of our psyche. We grow up to feel weak, disgusting, and ostracized. We fear ridicule and we learn to hate ourselves for what and who we are. Some people over time get over these feelings, while others hold on to them throughout their life, diminishing the potential of a fulfilling existence.
    Messner pointed out that sports have been a salient institution for the social construction of heterosexual masculinity, and I could not agree more. My reasoning behind my agreement lies in the act of team bonding, and more involved male bonding. The athleticism, power, and skill involved in many team sports is geared towards the textbook “man”, one who is powerful and skilled at physical tasks. If someone showed homosexuality or another sexually deviant behavior, the feeling of this male closeness could decrease because of the feelings of homophobia and fear of “being liked like that”. Team sports, especially the more physical ones like football and soccer, especially go along with this trend of gearing towards men. It is typically thought, as both Messner and I have pointed out using examples, that most players who succeed in one of these sports are heterosexual, because homosexuals are not typically ‘supposed’ to be masculine and powerful. In fact, the standard homosexual stereotype is of an effeminate man, when this is often entirely wrong (they just happen to be the more obvious examples). When men play sports, they are automatically granted this heterosexual, masculine status because of the physical demands of the sports. When women, on the other hand, play and excel in a physical sport, they are not seen as feminine, and their sexuality and femininity is frequently questioned. I think this goes along with what I mentioned about sports and athletics in general being seen to show physical prowess and power, geared toward the typical male. If a man is good at a sport, he shows he is athletic and powerful, a good male specimen. Women are not, according to society, supposed to by physically able to do many things that men can do (which is a silly statement). Males are ‘supposed’ to be the physically superior ones, so when a woman excels at sports she is seen as masculine and powerful, which is not something society seems to want to accept.
    All in all, it seems that the institution of heterosexuality is practiced among both gay and straight people alike, seemingly as a survival strategy for both. For homosexuals, it is used as a persona, a façade in which they can hide behind to cover up their true identity. For male heterosexuals, there is a huge pressure to shun any homoerotic feelings and, in fact, ostracize any other male who shows the least bit of weakness/femininity. In both cases, it is detrimental to their overall well being, more so for the homosexual participants. I know that I participated in this ‘play’, this act of putting on a false front in order to be perceived in a better light. In turn, it has caused me to reject who I was inside and to loathe the person I knew I would become. Growing up with a lack of positive support behind me, I searched blindly for some form of comfort, which I found with gay characters on television and movies. This caused me to victimize myself further, and to see myself as a weak individual. When I came into my own, however, I realized that I am a strong person who has gone through many things in my life to get me to where I am today. I have formed a strong backbone of support, people who understand and empathize with my situation and help me get through any tough times. Society is slowly changing, and I know that one day homosexual children will embrace themselves for who they are, and be able to be open about it without fear of ridicule and ostracism. After all, in the end both heterosexuals and homosexuals are the same: we all just want to live a fulfilling life, to be loved, and to be accepted for who we are.




    Bibliography
    1. Dines, Gail and Humez, Jean McMahon. Eds. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. 2nd edition. New York: Sage Publications, Inc., 2002.
    **Out of the Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and the Mass Media by Larry Gross

    2. Zinn, Maxine Baca, Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette, and Messner, Michael A. Eds. Gender Through the Prism of Difference. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
    **Becoming 100% Straight by Michael Messner


  • dmlove02

    Posts: 45

    Nov 11, 2009 12:39 AM GMT
    Sorry it was so long.....gaaaahhhhhh. Kudos to whoever got through it without falling asleep. Anyway - any suggestions/comments/criticism is very appreciated.


    -D
  • Elpip

    Posts: 3

    Nov 11, 2009 1:33 AM GMT
    Hey I think you have a good writing style but the only question I have is how suitable it is to use your life experience as a third text? If you've discussed this with your tutor then it's be fine but I think you might have taken it in quite a different direction than what they are expecting.
  • dmlove02

    Posts: 45

    Nov 11, 2009 1:46 AM GMT
    Another option for using a third text was indeed using a personal life experience, so this is 100% okay with the professor.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Nov 11, 2009 1:49 AM GMT
    dmlove02 saidSorry it was so long.....gaaaahhhhhh. Kudos to whoever got through it without falling asleep. Anyway - any suggestions/comments/criticism is very appreciated.


    -D


    I read the entire article.
    I see how you took the two articles and wove them together and used your own experiences as a way of testing or validating their statements, or perhaps validating how you felt or perceived your feelings and treatment of yourself and others, as you grew up.
    I can not argue the content of your article as I have not read either of the mentioned articles nor do I know you or your personal history well enough to agree or disagree with the way you "feel" or have been treated and then validate or be vindicated by those perceptions.

    The only thing I would comment on, is the "person" the article is being written in. I didn't think such an article should be written in a "first person" voice...it makes the article sound too much like an autobiographical chapter for the book you should write. To make this more "analytic" and less autobiographical, I would change the "voice" and the "person" of the pronouns used, to be more 3rd person. The hope is for the audience to arrive at the same conclusion as you experienced, but on their own..not because it is how you "feel" or how you got there in real life. This is done in a variety of ways but a "compare and contrast approach works, as long as you are using more than one quote from each of the articles and can then show how they worked, or not, in your own expereinces....again as an analytic process, not as an autobiographical story....
    I found the essay to be interesting and a relatively easy read. In the second post, you have a statement " I would make fun of kids that were not as skilled at me in the sports I played,", it needs to be changed slightly to read ..."I would make fun of kids that were not as skilled as me in the sports I played,".
    I appreciate building up the vocabulary...but one word in particular stood out as slightly out of character compared to the rest of the vocabulary in the article...in the 1st post, very bottom line..."elucidated"....I know the word and it is used correctly , but it is a very much less common word than just about any other word used in the rest of the article.....it just caught my attention more than any other...
    Nicely done!
    Good Luck.
  • dmlove02

    Posts: 45

    Nov 11, 2009 2:00 AM GMT
    Thank you for the comments. I appreciate the corrections...the only
    problem with changing the 'person' of the essay would be that it is considered a 'personal inquiry essay', and would
    be near impossible and slightly confusing for
    the reader if I wrote and related certain texts to my personal
    experience using third person. I felt the ethos was decent, allowing people to relate to my own personal experience, and even if they could not
    do that, at least be able to gather my whole viewpoints, one of which is how the institution of heterosexuality in society has caused a problem with identity and how people exude what they want others to see, often to the detriment of their own identity.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it immensely!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 11, 2009 6:28 AM GMT



    “The Heterosexual Lock to the Closet Door”

    Growing up closeted in a very conservative home, coming out as a gay man was one of the last things on my mind.[Why does this sentence have no noun?] Even though I realized at an early age that I was ‘different’ in certain regards to the other boys my age, I chose to deny it. In almost an act of rebellion against my own sexuality, I repressed any ‘abnormal’ feelings I got toward any other men, and instead turned my focus on chasing girls. I made sure I was a fierce competitor in all of the sports I played, which included tennis, soccer, basketball, and swimming. My family was very Catholic, and I attended a Catholic high school as well. I knew all too well the thoughts the Catholic Church, as well as many of the people that surrounded me, had on the issue of homosexuality: it was deviant, immoral, and just wrong. Seeing all my other guy friends talking about their latest conquests [of girls] and joking to others, who were not as successful, about being gay, I made sure I had experience under my belt that I could talk about. I was often the first to demean someone for not being as athletic or ‘manly’, usually throwing out “fag” and “queer”, among other derogatory terms. In my head, I guess I felt if I was the one calling people the names, I would never be suspected as actually being the queer. In retrospect, especially after reading many texts presented in this course, I am able to analyze my own behavior and actions as a sort of survival strategy in order for me to fit into the standard heterosexual mold. Indeed, I was denying my own sexuality because of a lack of positive information and support from the environment around me. A quote from Larry Gross’ essay, Out of the Mainstream: Sexual Minorities and the Mass Media (that he quoted from another essay) perfectly sums up the reasoning for my behavior during this time in my life:
    “We learn to loath homosexuality before it becomes necessary to acknowledge our own. Never having been offered positive attitudes to homosexuality, we inevitably adopt negative ones, and it is from these that all our values flow” (1, 66).


    I'm not sure if you wanted grammar corrections but there were a couple I just had to point out. Yes, I am a bit of a grammar Natzi. Words such as "almost" "I guess" and "sort of" should never be used. Also extreme words such as "perfectly" shouldn't be used and especially when describing a writer's work because you keep an objective voice.

    The words in red means bad and the words in green are things I would suggest you use to replace whatever words used to be there.

    Also when you note Larry Gross' essay, the tittle should be in quotations.
  • dmlove02

    Posts: 45

    Nov 11, 2009 8:26 PM GMT
    Thanks to everyone that responded. I have edited it a little more, and Pinny, I sent you an email with it attached. Much appreciated!


    -D