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Subject Choice and Gender
Identity…read more

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Subject Choice
· NATIONAL CURRICULUM- reduced the choice that
pupils had over their subjects. Until the age of 16, many
pupils have to learn certain subjects, but when there is a
choice (after 16 years, in college) girls and boys take
different gender paths.
· AS/A LEVELS- There is still gender paths. Girls tend to
take English and foreign languages whilst boys tend to
take maths, physics etc. These differences are also
reflected in university.
· VOCATIONAL COURSES- These courses prepare
students for a particular career, apprenticeships. There is
still a gender path. For example, only 1 in every 100
pupils are girls in construction courses.…read more

Slide 3

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Explanations of Gender Differences
in Subject Choice
· EARLY SOCIALISATION-According to Oakley, children learn gender role socialisation (what their gender is
expected to do) at an early age through early socialisation. Norman notes that from an early age girls and boys
are dressed differently, given different toys, rewarded for different behaviours etc. Schools also do this, teachers
reward and teach boys to be active, tough and un- sissy like whilst girls are rewarded for being quiet, passive and
helpful. As a result of different socialisations, boys and girls develop differences in reading. Murphy and Elwood
(1998) found that boys like information or hobby books whilst girls like books about people. This then also explains
why girls like English and boys like science.
GENDER DOMAINS- The tasks which are expected to be fulfilled by a specific gender. If at an early age, a child
sees repeatedly their mother cleaning and cooking and their father DIY and manual work, this teaches the child
certain gender domains which they will probably follow when they get older. Children are more confident when
they are doing a task that fits their gender domain. Murphy set up an activity where children from primary and
secondary schools were asked to design boats and vehicles. The boys built battleships with elaborate weaponry
whilst girls designed cruise ships that paid specific attention to the domestic and social details. This study shows
that girls and boys interpret tasks differently. Boys tend to focus on how things are meant to work whilst girls tend
to focus on people.
· GENDERED SUBJECT IMAGES- The gender image that a subject `gives off' affects who will choose the subject.
Kelly argues that science is seen as a boys subject because: many science teachers are/ likely to be men,
textbooks from the subject are likely to be focussed on male interests, boys dominate the laboratory so girls don't
get to experience the apparatus properly. It was found in 2007 that pupils who attended a single sex school were
less likely to hold these stereotypes and would therefore not be affected by subject images. From analysing 13000
pupils, it was found that girls from a girls only school were more likely to choose male A level subjects like science
and maths, whilst boys from a boys only school were likely to choose female A level subjects such as English and
foreign languages
· PEER PRESSURE- Other girls and boys may pressure an individual to take or not take a certain subject e.g. a
boy may be bullied if they took food tech. Dewar (1990) found that male students would call girls lesbian or butch
if they appeared to more interested in a sport than boys. By contrast, girls from single sex schools are more likely
to choose traditional boys subjects as there isn't any male peer pressure so girls don't have to be feminine or
choose feminine subjects.
· GENDERED CAREER OPPORTUNITIES- Jobs tend to be sex- typed as male or female jobs e.g. bankers tend to
be see as male whilst cleaners are said to be female. Female jobs tend to have elements that they perform in the
house e.g. childcare, cleaning, cooking etc. Over ½ of all women's jobs fall in to 4 categories: clerical, secretarial,
personal services, cleaning etc. Whilst only a 1/6 males work in these jobs. By sex typing jobs, it affects how
children see jobs and what kinds of jobs it is expected that they do depending on their gender. This then also
affects the subjects that they choose e.g. it would be seen as too feminine for a man to have a cleaning job.…read more

Slide 4

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Gender Identity
· Experiences that have happened to an individual (specifically at school) that
influence their gender and sexual identities.
· VERBAL ABUSE- Connelly believed that a rich vocabulary of abuse is one
of the ways that a child's identity can be affected. For example, boys call
girls names if they dress or behave in a certain way. Many sociologists
found that the names that children are often called have no relation to the
individual, instead it's function is to reinforce gender stereotypes and norms.
· MALE PEER GROUPS- They use verbal abuse to reinforce their definitions
of masculinity. Mac an Ghaill (1994) studied several groups of male groups
and found that the working class `macho lads' became dismissive to other
working class lads who had higher aspirations. By contrast, middle class
`real gentleman; boys made the impression that they succeeded without
really trying, but really many of them did work behind the scenes.
· TEACHERS AND DISCIPLINE- Research shows that teachers also play a
part in reinforcing definitions of gender identity. In a study conducted by Mac
an Ghaill et al, it was found that male teachers made fun of boys if they
scored lower in tests than girls and if they behaved like girls etc. Teachers
also tended to ignore boys' verbal abuse towards girls and even blamed the
girls for attracting it.…read more


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