Gender Identity and Education

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Liberal Feminists

  • Believe there has been progress in gender and educational achievement.
  • Think further progress can be made by:
  • further development of equal opportunities policies
  • encouraging positive role models
  • overcoming sexist attitudes and stereotypes.
  • This is similar to the functionalist view that education is a meritocracy where all individuals, regardless of gender, ethnicity or class are given equal opportunities to achieve.
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Radical Feminists

  • These have a more critical view.
  • They recognise girl's achievement but emphasise that the system still remains patriarchal and gives a clear message that it is still a man's world.
  • Sexual harrassment of girls continues in school
  • Education still limits subject choices and career options
  • Males are still more likely to become heads to schools.
  • Women are under-represented in areas of the curriculum e.g. their contribution to history is ignored.
  • Weiner (1993): describes secondary school history curriculum as a 'woman-free zone'.
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Subject Choice

National Curriculum options:

  • Andrew Stables and Felicity Wikeley (1996): where there is choice boys and girls choose differently, e.g. tech is compulsary but girls choose food and boys graphics.

AS + A levels:

  • Gendered subjects are more noticeable after National Curriculum with greater choice. e.g. boys opt for math, science, girls sociolog.

Vocational Courses:

  • prepare students for certain careers, evidence is similar to a levels e.g. 1 in 100 construction apprentices is a girl
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Gender Identity

Double Standards:

  • This is when we apply one set of moral standards to a group but different ones to another group.
  • Sue Lees (1993): found a double standard of sexual morality. Boys boast about sexual exploits but girls are 'slags' if she doesn't have a steady bf, or if she dresses/speaks in certain ways. Amongst boys it is approved of and given status.
  • Feminists: double standards is an example of patriarchal ideology that justifies male power and devalues women.

The Male Gaze:

  • A visual aspect to the way pupils control each others identity.
  • Mac an Ghaill: form of surveillance in which dominant heterosexual masculinity is reinforced and femininity devalued.
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Gender Identity ***.

Verbal Abuse:

  • Connel: 'a rich vocab of abuse' is a way in which dominant gender and sexual identities are reinforced. e.g. boys use name calling to put down girls if they dress in certain ways.
  • Sue Lees (1986): boys call girls 'slags' if they appear to be sexually available and 'drags' if they didn't.
  • Paetcher: name-calling helps to shape gender identity and maintain male power, the use of lables e.g. 'gay' 'queer' '******' are ways pupils 'police' each others sexual identities.
  • Parker (1996): boys labelled 'gay' for being friendly with girls or female teachers.
  • Lees and Paetcher: labels bear no relation to sexual behaviour but are simply to reinforce gender inequality/norms.
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Gender Identity ***.

Male Peer Groups:

  • Epstein and Willis: boys in anti-school subculture accuse boys who want to do well of being gay or effeminate.
  • Mac an Ghaill (1994): study of Parnell School examines how peer groups reproduce a range of different class-based masculine identities. e.g. working class macho lads were dismissive to working class boys who worked hard referring to them as '******** achievers'. Meanwhile middle class 'real englishmen' try to project image of effortless achievement.
  • Redman and Mac an Ghaill (1997): dominant definition of masculinity changes from that of macho lads in lower school to real englishmen by 6th form.
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Gender Identity ***.

Teachers and Discipline:

  • Teachers play a part in reinforcing dominant definitions of gender identity.
  • Haywood and Mac an Ghaill (1996): male teachers told off boys for 'behaving like girls' and teased them when they got lower test results. Teachers ignore boys verbal abuse of girls and blame girls for attracting it.
  • Sue Askew and Carol Ross (1988): male teacher's behaviour can subtly reinforce messages about gender identity. e.g. male teachers come in female's classes to 'rescue' them by threatening disruptive children. Reinforces that women cannot cope alone.
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Explanations of gender subject choice.

Gendered career opportunities:

  • Women are concentrated in a narrow range of occupations, and sex-typing careers gives boys and girls ideas about what jobs are possible/acceptable.
  • e.g. if boys get the message that nursery nurses are women they will be less likely to opt for a career in childcare.

Gendered subject images:

  • Kelly: science is seen as a boys subject, teachers are likely to be men and boys dominate the labs.
  • Anne Colley (1998): IT is a male subject, working with machines is seen as male gender domain, way its taught favours males, girls prefer group work.
  • DfES: single-sex schools have less gendered/stereotyped subjects
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Explanations of gender subject choice ***.

Early Socialisation:

  • Ann Oakley (1973): sex’ refers to inborn physical differences between male and female whereas ‘gender’ refers to learned cultural differences between them. Gender role socialisation is process of learning behaviour expected of males and females in society.
  • Fiona Norman (1988): from early age, boys and girls dress differently and take part in different activities. Parents reward boys for being active, girls for being passive.
  • Eileen Byrne (1979): teachers encourage boys to be tough and girls to be clean, tidy and helpful.
  • Murphy and Jannette Elwood (1998) – tastes in reading lead to different subject choices. Boys read about hobbies and information texts but girls read stories about people. Explains why boys prefer science subjects and girls prefer English.
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Explanations of gender subject choice ***.

Peer Pressure:

  • Subject choice is influenced by peer pressure.
  • Boys and girls may place pressure on peers if they disapprove of their subject choice.
  • Carrie Paetcher (1998): pupils see sport as male domain so if girls are 'sporty' they have to cope with image that contradicts conventional female stereotype.
  • Alison Dewar (1990): study of American college students found males call females 'butch' or 'lesbian' if they are more interested in sports than girls.
  • Single-sex girls are more likely to choose male domain subjects as there is an absence of peer pressure and restrictive stereotypes.
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