Friday, September 2, 2016

Are you a round or a pointy.

I was sent this article by a friend in a group text accompanied by "ARE YOU A POINTY OR A ROUND!"  Eager to be part of the labeling of our friends that immediately followed, I read the article.  I found myself learning more than was necessary about the author's family dogs.  Then the article asked if I understood the distinction the author was outlining with this comparison of canine personality traits.  I did not get it.

Eventually there was a list of celebrities with definitive classifications of "pointy" or "round."  Wanting to be a certain way is "pointy."  Not caring about types is "round." Again, I didn't get it.  I struggled to put my traits squarely in one of these two categories (pun intended).   It was almost as if my personality was more complicated than this strict dichotomy allowed. 

This is not the first time I've been asked to sort myself into one of two options.  I'm sure many readers relate.  There are quizzes online, in magazines, created by friends that constantly sort certain characteristics into groups A and B--including the ubiquitous Type A and Type B personality classifications.  Monica or Rachel , Feminist or not.   I saw the same either/or mentality in the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. 

Many of the commentators in the clips we watched in class discussed how Stanton and Anthony were opposites.  The painted the women as the two options for womanhood.  Stanton was married and just kept having children.  Anthony was devoted to the work.  It invited the question, Are you an Anthony or a Stanton? 



But what if I'm both? What if I am committed to working for a cause I believe in, but equally committed to whatever type of family I choose to surround myself with?  It seemed absurd to me to pull out these characteristics about these women and pit them against each other.  They were both obviously more complicated than a simple category can convey.  We are all more complicated than a strict dichotomy.  Let's stop stamping out that complexity with dumb categories.  

4 comments:

Earnest Femingway said...

Josie, I had not noticed the implicit dichotomy the film presented when we first watched in class. Now that you wrote about it, the tactic is clear as day. It makes you wonder if the documentary was remade today, or made by feminist filmmaker, would this tactic have been used? Or if differences between Stanton and Anthony were highlighted, maybe their political differences would be the central focus as opposed to their personal life choices.

I also think it is worth exploring of whether division by labeling is inherently more gendered towards women in todays social media. Not that there is a lack of male-oriented "which are you" quiz's, but maybe there is a predominant bent towards dividing women up into categories.

Kyle Kate Dudley said...

I think this is also a topic for our domesticity conversation today. The concept of whether women "can have it all" is an incredibly pertinent one now that women are asked to be so many things while men are allowed to slide neatly into one category or another. Though this isn't always true across the board (there are men who play many roles and women who are single-minded in their purposes), I think it is the trend to this day. How do we change it, is the question?

Flamingo said...

I completely agree with your point of view about the Stanton/Anthony dichotomy painted in the film. In addition to that, what stroke me was that the narrator seemed to imply that it was extraordinary that they would appreciate and get along with each other. It is as if "round and pointy" are so extremely opposite that they would not like each other. First of all, there are more categories out there, though I am not sure how useful it is to divide people into categories. And more important, it is not because people are different that they cannot like, understand and respect each other.
Did you look at the comment section of the Buzzfeed article "Are you more like Rachel Green or Monica Geller"? I found it interesting to read the reactions.

Louise Trainor said...

Josie,

I thoroughly enjoyed this post and found your questioning of these stringent classifications to be enlightening.

In a time where values and beliefs are evolving, I sometimes feel under pressure to side with a particular viewpoint on some issues. The phrase "if you don't stand for something you will fall for anything" often circulates my mind and leaves me feeling passive and idle if I do not explicitly voice my views and take a definite stance on current societal problems.

However, I am becoming increasingly more aware that it is perfectly acceptable to have conflicting opinions on a topic. In fact, I now pride myself in my ability to look at an issue and sympathize with both sides of the debate.

This is why your "roundy or pointy" quiz hit home for me. Attempting to tie ourselves to one set classification is not only extremely unrealistic, but also harmful to society. We should not feel under pressure to classify ourselves, after all, no two people are the same.

Instead we should see ourselves as chameleons, able to adapt our opinions and beliefs according to the situation. It is rigid categorical ties such as the one outlined in your post that has assisted in women's oppression in previous years.