Saint Leo University Gender Transgressions in Public Places Paper

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Students will perform a gender norm violation in public and take field notes on the various sanctions they

experience. An article called “Gendered Heteronormativity: Empirical Illustrations in Everyday Life” (Nielson,
Watson, and Kunkel 2000) published in The Sociological Quarterly presents many student experiences of
gender norm violations (e.g., woman smoking a cigar; man painting his toenails), written by professors who
have consistently given this assignment over a period of decades. Students should use the article to compare
the reactions they receive to what this prior study has found. They should also collect a few additional peer-
reviewed journal articles to support their analysis (minimum of 2). Gender/feminist theories from the course
readings should also be applied. After their analysis, students should conclude the paper with a discussion
about the particular gender norm they have analyzed and the potential kinds of sex/gender inequality that may
continue to result if sanctions continue to exist for violating it.

Norms are rules or standards of behavior shared by most members of a society or subgroup. They are
statements about how you ought to, or should, behave. When appropriate behavior is defined differently for
women and men, the expectations specific to each are called gender norms. One way to find out what the
norms are in any given situation is to violate them–i.e., break the rules.

The purpose of this assignment is to determine the boundaries of some contemporary gender norms and to
discover and challenge your own boundaries around gender. A secondary purpose is to give you the
subjective experience of violating a self-defined gender norm – to give you “hands-on” experience.

Choose a natural (i.e., non-laboratory) setting in which to violate a gender norm. Think through clearly what
norm you’re going to violate–make sure it’s a gender norm. . . . Sometimes the reactions will be minimal; other
times it will be strong; remember, no reaction is a reaction!!! Be sure to record all reactions while they are
happening. Also provide concrete evidence by way of photo(s) included as illustrations in the body of your

Structure your 4-page typed-double-spaced paper as follows

State specifically the gender norm you intend to violate. Explain why or how it is a gender norm, and provide
cultural context.

State in clear details exactly what you did. Report any variations in your procedure. For example, you may try
your experiment in one setting, then in another. You may compare different variations of the same norm
violation, or change the degrees of violation. Give all the details of the violation process. Include the photo
evidence as proof/documentation here.

Describe your experience subjectively in two different ways: (1) your feelings as you prepared and engaged in
the norm-violating behavior; (2) your feelings about how other people reacted to you.

Report in great detail the general and specific reactions of others to your behavior. If you get no reaction at all,
or a mild reaction, report that. Report on the effects of any variations in your procedure, and what you think the
significance of any (or no) reaction is.

What did you learn from this assignment? About yourself? About your culture? Apply course terminology to
your experiences, citing the assigned course readings.

Don’t do anything illegal. Stop whenever you are too uncomfortable with the situation. If you explain your
behavior to anyone–report it. Be creative!”

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