One of the classes I'm taking this semester is an intro to Sociology. In this past week's chapter on social interaction, there was an explanation of Erving Goffman's dramaturgical analysis, in which Goffman equates social interaction to theatrical performance.
In dramaturgical sociology it is argued that the elements of human interactions are dependent upon time, place, and audience. In other words, to Goffman, the self is a sense of who one is, a dramatic effect emerging from the immediate scene being presented. Goffman forms a theatrical metaphor in defining the method in which one human being presents itself to another based on cultural values, norms, and expectations. Performances can have disruptions (actors are aware of such), but most are successful. The goal of this presentation of self is acceptance from the audience through carefully conducted performance. If the actor succeeds, the audience will view the actor as he or she wants to be viewed.
The text for this class, Society: The Basics, goes through several pages of explaining the perspective and then addresses the ideology in terms of gender as a "central element in personal performances".
Demeanor... is a clue to social power. Because women generally occupy positions of less power, demeanor is a gender issue as well. 40 percent of all working women in the United States hold secretarial or service jobs under the direct control of supervisors who are usually men. Women, then, learn to craft their personal performances more carefully than men and defer to men more often in everyday interaction.
Use of Space
Power plays a key role here; the more power you have, the more space you use. Men typically command more space than women, whether pacing back and forth before an audience or casually stretching out on a bench. Our culture has traditionally measured femininity by how little space women occupy—the standard of "daintiness"—and masculinity by how much territory a man controls—the standard of "turf".
Just about everywhere, men (with their greater social power) often intrude into women's personal space. If a woman moves into a man's personal space, however, he is likely to take it as a sign of sexual interest.
Staring, Smiling, and Touching
In conversations, women hold eye contact more than men. When men stare at women, they are claiming social dominance and defining women as sexual objects.
Although it often shows pleasure, smiling can also be a sign of trying to please someone or of submission. In a male-dominated world, it is not surprising that women smile more than men.
Touching suggests intimacy and caring. Apart from close relationships, however, touching is generally something men do to women. [several examples given] The intent of the touching may be harmless and may bring little response, but it amounts to a subtle ritual by which men claim dominance over women.
I say all the time that I'm not like other girls. According to this analysis, I am a man.
In my glamazonianness, I take up far more space than most women. Even after the weight loss, I'm still a 5'11, curvy size 10/12. Hell, I'm larger than a lot of men I know. Now that I'm considered a "normal" size, I'm still often uncomfortable when I see myself compared to other women, including my female friends whom I tower over and dwarf, physically.
I complain all the time that men seem intimidated by me and that it's a special breed who has the balls to actually approach me and invade my personal space—usually the ones who are letting me know all too blatantly that they want to fuck me.
I stare at people all the time, though that has a strange connotation. I'm not staring with the intent to ogle anyone; I am often regarding and watching them to see who and what they are. People fascinate me—the way they move and act as souls but also the structure of different human bodies. I tend to compare female form more than male, but I also have this theory about there being a certain number of combinations of physical attributes that work together to make people attractive, kind of like my own, screwy Beauty Ideal.
I do smile a lot if I'm comfortable—it comes with the raucous laughter. But in social situations, especially if I'm alone or somewhere unfamiliar, I tend to lock my jaw and look bored as I stare ahead of me. I don't tend to give other people any noticeable attention until I decide it's time. (That's not to say I'm not paying attention—never make that assumption.) And when I do pay attention to people, I am a very touchy girl. I make a lot of small contacts, in the midst of huge hand gestures, when I'm talking with someone.
Obviously I don't really think I'm a man in ewe's clothing. Hot Pocket and I decided ages ago that we were each men in past lives but that I didn't really enjoy it while she probably did. I am intensely feminine, almost to the point of contradiction at times.
What I am, as I realized finally last summer, is a very alpha female. It may present in a non-traditional way (off-off-Broadway), but it is part of my role, of the persona I constantly craft and refine as I present it to other people in my day-to-day interactions. Interestingly, when I find myself faced by a more dominant male, I often slouch and become quieter in some subconscious attempt to take up less of their space in deference.
In some ways, especially by modern America's statistical and cultural standards, I am a perfectly normal woman—41, divorced, mother of two, middle class. In other ways, I am larger than life, sometimes quite literally. From my perspective, though, I am perfectly normal, which is good since this is the only way I know how to be.