Quick! Picture a person walking. Imagine this march. The left leg is straight, now the right, very slight bending in the knees. The shoulders are back; the arms are away from the body. The chin is up; the eyes are focused on a decided point. The legs are far apart, pulling at the pavement. The feet press heavy, a clue into the level of assuredness the person possesses. Determination is coded into every minute movement of this gait. Now picture another. Still walking here, more of a teeter from side to side, right hip cocked than the left, arms limper than the first, a sort of sway in the space before any distance is covered. Its evident there’s somewhere to be but it’s subtle. It’s in the way the light pressing feet don’t stall. Still, it’s never a charge. What was the sex of the first imagined person? Did you imagine a male? What was the sex of the second? Did you picture a female? Why are the body movements gendered? Why would cultural anthropologists even care?
A Structuralist would see these distinct categorizations as essential. The binary opposites would be viewed as necessary in order to compartmentalize complex concepts of society (like sex difference). Structuralists believe that the human species “share the same psychological make-up.” Sex is segregated throughout numerous cultures (the degree varies) but the difference is always noted. So how is a man defined? You can answer what a man is by what he is not. What is a man? Not a woman. This difference is dictated down to kin-esthetics. So how should a man move? Not like a woman. This may seem far-fetched at the very least and completely conceived at the very most so let’s look at how we unconsciously enforce these differences to ensure the binary opposites retain their power. A slight sashay in a man’s hips is decidedly feminine. Anything other than a forceful thrust in stride is seen as a weak anomaly. How is this corrected? It’s often dealt with in terms of ridicule. Past the point where it’s acceptable to mock for sexual orientation ambiguity, a man with a swing in his saunter might just be jabbed with a common, “Dude, why you walkin’ like a girl?
Bringing practice theory into the mix will probably dismantle everything I’ve previously said, as it is directly contradictory to the last half of the prior paragraph. Practice theory “analyzes the relationship between established structures of culture and how the people in reality act within that structure.” Basically it is expected that people will rebel against the stated norms dictated by a higher institution. It is a consciousness in American culture that mannerisms –especially within the confines of body movement- will and should differ depending of sex. The want for men and women to be starkly opposite in all ways is a dated and high ideal to achieve. The Venus/Mars, thrust/sway gender opposite is a value that is voiced frequently but much less often carried through in action (if that action happens to take place in a ‘real-life,’ everyday setting). The changing power dynamic and acceptance of difference is carried out into the steps of the public (male and female). Women may walk with more determination, men with less aggressiveness. The national gait could be becoming more androgynous than what is desired by that ‘established structure.’
— Riley G.