Monday, December 03, 2012

The Things We Don't Discuss

In my work with young women, I spend a lot of time treating their minds as equal to the minds of the young men in my classroom.  In other words, I hold boys and girls to the same standards, as well I should.  However, this Mother Jones graphic representation of gender equality in the social world drawn from a recent UN Report conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media suggests that I am living in a dream world.

In conducting my classroom as an egalitarian place, I may be doing the girls in my care a disservice.  I am certainly not preparing them for the real world.  Because the real world is a place where young women will be judged by the quality of their backsides and not their ideas, where they will find that their minds are sometimes not as valuable as their cleavage, a place where they will be required to work twice as hard for half the professional rewards that will more easily accrue to their male peers.  Those are the hard and real facts of life in 2012.

As a feminist of long-standing, I've been thinking about this for quite some time.  My largely unsuccessful campaign against "you guys" is part of my effort to combat stereotypes of girls.  But my careful decision to never gender my expectations of leadership or status seems almost quaint in light of the UN report.  And I find myself feeling disheartened and less willing to think in terms of how far we've come but more in terms of how far we must still travel.


1 comment:

Jason Brozek said...

I struggle with gender issues a lot when I write syllabi (which is my task for the next week, appropriately enough). Women are underrepresented in political science (and even moreso in foreign policy analysis) and I always wonder if I'm over-doing it or stretching when I try to have 30-50% of my readings from female authors.

I deal with it two ways -

-I try to remind myself that the point of a syllabus is to spark discussion and engage their minds, not to hand out an authoritative list of what they need to know about a given subject. The Authoritative List might be made up of old white dudes, but the much, much longer list of thought-provoking articles certainly isn't.

-I try to be transparent about my choices at the beginning of the term. Not a condescending "Yo, I needed some ladies on this syllabus", but really just a discussion of the first point - that my goal is to give them a diverse set of voices.

I'm glad you prompted me to think/write about this. Putting together syllabi is one of my favorite parts of teaching, and I'm always happy to get introspective about the process!