On October Nineteenth at Nine o’clock pm, I arrived to my friend Susan’s house for her Halloween party at Westlake Village. Demographics of the people attending the party focused on a mix of male to female college students over twenty-one years old and predominantly upper to middle class white background. Due to the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the party, I could not observe gender discrimination amongst people of different backgrounds. When I arrived to my friend’s house, I noticed the kitchen and living room was adorned extravagantly with Halloween decorations. To illustrate, the lights were dimmed with shades of purple and orange, the walls were covered with cobwebs and pictures of ghosts, there was carved pumpkins on top of the kitchen counter, and there was a table devoted to Halloween candy and candy apples. When I first entered the house, I smelled a strong scent of pumpkin and cinnamon in the air. In my opinion, my friend Susan did a remarkable job to make the environment aesthetically spooky to a college party. The setting did not promote masculine or feminine qualities and instead aimed for a gender-neutral atmosphere. When I met Susan, I noticed she was wearing a sexy nurse outfit that showed her breasts and legs. Similar to my friend, I saw a strong theme of girls dressed in provocative costumes ranging of the casual baker to the psychotic clown. Personally, I was amazed to see sexualized costumes of a nun and a scarecrow.
When I asked Susan what inspired her to wear this outfit, she replied how girls are expected to look seductive in a party, especially a Halloween themed event, to attract men. She argued, “if you do not not dress up for the event, your risking being judged by everyone. You cannot come to a Halloween party in a lame outfit not showing off your assets. You need to look smoking hot.” In her perspective, Susan believed she had to fulfill gender expectations of beauty to look appealing to the male gaze. This is a common pattern displayed amongst the girls in the party, where they all viewed dressing up extravagantly as necessary to fulfill gender roles and achieve female beauty. To emphasize, majority of the girls wore strong makeup, straightened their hair, and adored their bodies with citric or sweet perfumes. When I asked the girls at the party of their decision to dress this certain way, they replied how it is important to look beautiful in order to fit into the crowd, thus demonstrating an awareness of gender stereotypes to accomplish gender expectations and avoid ostracism by their peer group. To these female’s perspectives, adoring their bodies with feminine products makes them feel like a real women and not a failure. While there is social pressure equivalent on the male side to satisfy norms of gender, there is unrealistic expectations forced on women to look beautiful persistently while men have the advantage to present themselves naturally without backlash from their community.
Similar to the females in the party, the males wore costumes like a skeleton, pirate, and a superhero. While the females wore extremely provocative attire that showed their skin, the men wore costumes that barely displayed their skin except for their arms. Furthermore, the men in the party did not wear makeup or adored themselves with fragrances like the females. When I interviewed a male named Derek cosplaying as Wolverine about what inspired him to dress up as this character, he stated casually, “I wanted to show off to the ladies. Wolverine is a buff macho guy and that is what ladies want to see here. They want to see a hero, not a loser.” In this interview, Derek brought up an interesting point of how it is important to portray a masculine persona to fulfill societal expectations of masculinity. In the male’s perspective, shaping his character as the tough and authoritative hero is a fundamental aspect to fulfilling gender roles, thereby satisfying the masculine model encouraged to be strong and big versus the weak and timid type. If a male were to present himself as the sensitive and emotional type, he would receive heavy criticism from his community for presenting himself like a woman. This is a similar struggle women encounter on a daily basis, where representing themselves as powerful and independent is a sin and thereby fails the gender model for women being the delicate damsel in distress. When I asked Derek why there is no males wearing provocative costumes or wearing makeup like the women, he laughed and said, “No one wants to see naked men. It is disgusting. On the other hand, everyone wants to see naked women and no one would protest about it. Also it is weird for guys to wear makeup”. Derek’s statement came to me as a shock since he viewed it as natural for women to display themselves as seductive yet it is unaccusable for men to do parallel actions. While Derek views this treatment of gender difference as normal, it is a clear illustration of gender inequality since men and women interpret conforming to their anticipated masculine and feminine traits as natural for their sex. Since birth, every child is raised with the ideologies of how to behave like a boy or girl depending on their sex. Gender is a social construct of society yet people follow those gender practices every day to avoid punishment, such as exclusion and dissatisfaction, from their community.
Another gender pattern involves men and women not interacting with the opposite sex and instead sticking to their own sex groups. Even if there were occasional outliers of the opposite sex, I observed majority of men talking amongst themselves while women stayed in their own circle. As time progressed, their demeanor changed once they started drinking alcohol. Despite both sexes exhibiting a friendlier attitude to engage conversations with the opposite sex, I noticed a difference in how large versus thin men interacted with women when drunk. While thin males displayed a nervous demeanor and were reluctant to talk to females out of fear of rejection, larger males demonstrated an assertive and confident behavior as they easily engaged conversations various females. Key characteristics of larger male’s interactions with females focused on boasting about their masculine accomplishments in athletic or academic activities, fondness over sport cars and racing, and barbecue skills. Furthermore, larger men tended to display a dominant body expression such as folding their arms or laying their hands on their waist to show off their muscles, maintaining a straight posture with their shoulders high, and casually touching female’s hands or shoulders when talking to them. On the other spectrum, females show a submissive and quiet behavior when listening to larger men. They presented a playful body language such as twirling their hair, biting their lower lip while smiling, bating their eyes, pushing their breasts up with their arms, placing their hands on their hips, and casually touching larger men by the arm. While alcohol provides opportunities for people to socialize more easily amongst one another, it can also provide negative factors where a man or women’s true character and biases come out. To exemplify, I watched a drunk male say provocative jokes towards a female named Jane that was not interested in him. When Jane told her male friends about the incident, they replied, “he is drunk. He does not mean those things.” Listening to their responses made me realize how easy it is to ignore gender discrimination and disregard the female’s emotions in the situation in favor of the males innocence. Under no circumstances is it right for males to say provocative words to a female and not receive any form of backlash from society. In my opinion, alcohol is not a scapegoat to excuse an individual’s foul behavior towards another person. This is a clear example of male privilege, where men get away with saying horrible things to women without awareness of the emotional trauma left behind.
While the larger males bragged excessively about their achievements or hobbies, the females briefly mentioned their activities. When I asked a female named Charlie why she talked so little when compared to a male, she responded, “guys get bored if you talk too much. They do not want to hear about your achievements in school or sports. You need to keep it short or else they will lose interest in you”. Charlies answer astonished me since I initially believed there was no structure to how long men versus women should talk. Personally, it baffled me how our society views it acceptable for men to brag about their success yet it is annoying for women to talk about their achievements. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with women being equal to men academically and athletically. This social pressure to fit into gender expectations limits women from expressing their beliefs openly compared to men, thus encouraging a patriarchal society that favors male success compared to women. At the end of the day, conforming to society's expectations of beauty and gender norms is key towards acceptance from our community. If we deny these gender rules, we risk exposure of our status within our community and therefore become ostracized for not following gender models of masculinity and femininity. In my perspective, it is heartbreaking that a women experiences severe criticism if she decides not to dress up as a sexy clown or a man receives backlash for not embodying a masculine identity. We live in a cruel society that dehumanizes an individual if they decide not to follow gender rules, thereby enforcing gender expectations of practicing masculine or feminine activities in every section of our lives. Leaving the party at Two o’clock am, I drove home thinking of my overall experience at my friend’s Halloween party. While the experience was a festive time where I danced and mingled amongst friends, I confirmed that it was the perfect opportunity for society to enforce gender expectations on how to be the perfect man and women.