Identity, culture, lifestyle, and personality are inextricably linked. Our values and cultural traditions and ideas are all linked to our identity and the way we present ourselves one way or another. Whether it is a cultural expectation of gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation other identities are always being questioned, judged and sometimes taken as a guessing game. In the essay, “Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Kathy Wilson, you see how cultural assumptions of people of different races contributed to Wilson and many other people’s sense of identity. In the composition “How Boys Become Men” by Jon Katz, the readers get an insight on how our communities, friends, families, shows/movies, and much more affect the way we present and perceive ourselves. Both articles go hand in hand because they illustrate that ultimately one’s identity is given to a person not by choice but by the world’s assumptions. But it establishes the fact that you don’t have to accept the identity given to you by others.
Without a doubt, cultural expectations weigh a lot on one’s identity. Preconceptions on how women and men should look, act, dress, behave and all things associated with male and female expectations and appearances have an impact on oneself. In “Dude Looks Like a Lady” Wilson explains why she chooses to ignore the cultural expectations of women one being having long hair. In response to her style of presenting herself, she receives very negative comments and reactions from people she encounters throughout her day to day life. When Wilson states, “…people get so twisted over the female presentation and what exactly is feminine that my bald head is cause for pause. People actually stop. Their physicality changes. Some stare and when, I attempt to make eye contact, look away.” The quote from her essay clearly shows the social views on women and how people separate females from being feminine and womanly to unfeminine and ladylike. Wilson accepts herself and chooses not to see herself as “normal” female. She holds it with pride because this is the identity and lifestyle she has chosen for herself, unlike some who put on a face or change completely.
Similarly, the way our communities, friends/families, and shows/movies, affect the way we present and perceive ourselves hugely influence the way we would prefer to be identified. Jon Katz addresses this in his essay, “How Boys Become Men”, explaining how the world gives each gender an untold Code of Conduct that will define whether there are cool enough, weird, or just right. Because boys think if they don’t act the way their “supposed” to or were expected to act that they are not impressive or high-class. However, boys are unaware of their inability to erase all racial prejudice towards their gender and adapt to them instead of changing them. When Katz states, “…you can’t understand why men are the way we are, why we find it so difficult to make friends or to acknowledge our fears and problems. Boys live in a world with its own Code of conduct, a set of ruthless, unspoken, unyielding rules…You don’t need to be a shrink to see how the lessons boys learn affect their behavior as men.” Though Katz has learned the truth or the reason to why boys act or react the way they do, he wants the readers to know that boys only do what they do because of the qualities men are fantasied to have.
Though cultural expectations of gender and race can greatly affect identity in seemingly negative ways, both Wilson and Katz clearly illustrate that one can morph such identifying characteristics into positive identity traits. They can positively change their lives or put a strain on how they feel or how to express themselves. Thus, the identity of an individual is heavily dependent upon the culture of the individual’s society. If a woman does not appear to be a woman, she may be culturally outcast, if a boy doesn’t show the ignorance that men should have then their weird or unmanly and their identity will reflect that. Additionally, racial and gender preconceptions of a given culture will affect identity and either make a person feel part of a society or rejected. So without a doubt culture can influence our identity, but the question may many will face in their lifetime is how one will allow a culture to affect one’s identity and how one will conquer or lose the battle trying to find themselves.