Ande Lloyd

Who Am I Really?


            In Mr. Fisher’s 9th Grade Humanities class, we studied the subject of Sociology. Sociology is the study of how social forces create and shape individuals. Studying the topic of sociology was an excellent learning experience for me. For our mask project, we had to choose an identity category that represents how we view ourselves in society. An identity category can be race, gender, social class, age, ability and religion.  I chose the topic of being a teenage boy in today’s society. Discussing this topic gave me a deeper understanding of the decisions I make every day: the clothes I wear, kids I hang out with and the music I listen to.  One time at lunch, I was eating with some of my old soccer buddies and they noticed a kid who was a little different from the “regular” social norms.  He was wearing plain jeans and an Underarmor shirt, most kids wear Underarmor for sports not school.  They viciously pointed out that fact. According to their standards, he was not cool.  I wasn’t really aware of what we were doing until later that day in Humanities. In class, we talked about social norms and Agent Groups and Target Groups. An Agent is someone how has privileges and Targets often do not. Sometimes Agents discriminate against Targets. A question was raised, “What can we do to stop negative socialization?” I felt bad. From then on, I decided I would make a choice to become more sensitive to classmates who didn’t fit the “mold.”  How do we do this?   We model tolerance and build an awareness of negative socialization, just as Mr. Fisher educated me in Humanities that day. This awareness leads me to my class project.  I chose to make an identity mask. My essay will explain symbols I chose on my mask and what they represent.

            First the outer mask: how society labels males. The symbol of the arm flexing represents how guys are supposed to be masculine and strong. I look up to my older brother. According to society, he fits the “mold.” He is naturally very athletic and muscular and does very well in sports. He is very well liked and outgoing.  When most guys are exposed to what society wants, they want to fit in.  The next symbol is the background color blue; I chose to paint my outer mask blue because society says it is a boy color.  Also, a football is displayed on my mask.  Football is a popular U.S. masculine sport and rarely will you see girls or women playing the sport.  Next, a translucent piece of ribbon covers my eye sockets. Here you get a glimpse of what’s behind the first layer. What you see is a pair of sleeping eyes. This represents a metaphorical trap that every boy is set into at birth by society.  If we break free, we are punished by ridicule and teasing. Here is an interesting excerpt I found from the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman: “Boys behavior, choices, and personal boundaries are largely dictated by their definition of masculinity.” There are many instances in my everyday life that I make based on my definition of masculinity.  One time I was hanging out with some “nerdy” girls that I thought were actually pretty cool.  However, I was seen by some of my “cool” guy peers and I was a little embarrassed about what they were thinking of me.  It feels like an inner battle when you cross over those masculine boundaries.  Society causes some guys with feminine tendencies to be immediately targeted. It is a constant battle for them to figure out how to fit in.

            Second, the inner mask: who I am really. As a background color, I chose yellow. Yellow represents my personality. It also shows that I’m always very happy and interactive. Near my chin is a running shoe, which shows one of my hobbies, X-Country running. Society also dictates what sports are popular. Have you ever noticed how many spectators go to football games verses X-Country meets? Also on my mask is a silhouette looking upward, and this represents my height.  I’m really short. Being short is also a stereotypical target. Being short is a total age twister. Lots of people think I am a lot younger than I am, that really bothers me. Many times I get treated like a little kid.  Once we were visiting Las Vegas for a vacation. My older brother and his friend decided to ride the New York New York rollercoaster, which is totally awesome! Excitedly, I went along eager and old enough to ride my first rollercoaster.  I was hugely disappointed because I was a centimeter too short and of course apeared too “young”. And as my older brother came off pronouncing that was the best rollercoaster he had ever been on, I realized how much it sucks to be short. Being short does put you in a target group and a lot of kids get picked on because of that.

Third, open the eyes. The message written expresses to the world of my most important part of who I really am. The beliefs I mostly hide and don’t tell most people about. I am a born and raised Christian and that’s where I go to for my strength in my life. The hardest thing for me is enduring comments people say so carelessly about my religion. Using the God’s name is vain is very offensive to me.  Having a religion can be considered a target group as well.  It is not the norm and many people make judgments about something they really don’t know anything about.  So, they make fun of it and joke about it. My faith is special to me and inspires me to be kind to people and gives me comfort during hard times.  Being a Christian is not always an easy road, for example, many Christians in the Bible were killed for their beliefs. Like Paul, he was imprisoned for most of his life and yet still had extraordinary faith in God. He endured being ridiculed, hated, starved and eventually killed. Even today many Christians die in other countries for their beliefs. This saddens me because many Christians who are missionaries are trying to help people.

To conclude, my mask represents me as a person.  I know that society has molded me, but I would like to also be a positive influence by breaking the mold of social tendencies that are harmful.  Many of the symbols resemble important things in my life. This project has been very influential and a positive learning experience for me. I’m glad I had the opportunity to have participated in this unique project.