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Is sexism rife in schools?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Oct 20, 2015.

  1. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    We'll have to agree to differ then. You seem to have decided on the way things should be and are looking for evidence.

    I'm not convinced, I think you're denying that men and women like different things. Look at hobbies, pass-times, reading matter etc. things that where there is little outside influence from society, males and females have different preferences.

    So where did these societal expectation come from in the first place? Why are they so consistent across time and cultures.
  2. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    Sorry, you don't think society influences pass times? You don't think that society tells girls from an early age that they should be interested in dolls and sewing, while it tells boys to be interested in football and guns? And no, these things aren't consistent across time and cultures. Take, for example, the association of pink with girls and blue with boys, which is less than a century old and used to be completely the reverse. No, if you want to prove that these alleged differences are natural rather than socially constructed then it's up to you to provide the evidence.
  3. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    I have never been interested in football. I have made a pair of trousers and altered clothing (Mrs. M. has never done these things).

    It's not black and white, it's tendencies, preferences.

    The strongest social constructs that I see are from people who decide there is absolutely no difference between the sexes other than bumpy bits. The evidence is everywhere, you've just decided not to see it as evidence. Pink and blue - really? you've gone from who becomes an engineer or nurse to that?
    wanet likes this.
  4. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    I picked a simple example where the evidence is clear cut. Ask a lot of people and they'll tell you that girls prefer pink, but it's pretty easy to show that that's an artefact of the current culture. Let's take a professional one. 100 years ago it was assumed that women had neither the capability nor the desire to be doctors or lawyers. Certainly the number of women in these roles was as close to zero as makes no difference. Now the GMC has the gender split among doctors at 55-45, with near enough 50-50 among GPs. More than half of new lawyers are women (upwards of 60% of trainees). How long do you think it has taken to get to that level? For decades everyone would have expected to find a headmaster leading a secondary school, but now over a third of secondary heads are female. Given that the pattern has changed in all of these areas, do you think that there is something different about these professions as compared with, say, engineering that makes change happen in one and not the other. There's strong evidence that girls and boys are socialised differently from a very early age, that different behaviours are encouraged and admonished both by parents and by other adults. Gender norms are actually quite rigidly policed, even by other children. Do you seriously believe that social pressure has no effect? Now, I wouldn't worry if this were just a matter of preferences, but the jobs that girls are directed towards have generally lower pay and lower prestige than those boys are pushed towards.
  5. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Assumed? By who? Why aren't girls so interested in STEM subjects today? I don't think it's just an assumption of desires, there is much more opportunity and the girls aren't interested in the main.

    No, I didn't say that. I said that there are different gender preferences, not the same.

    Directed towards? Maybe, but I think in part you are disregarding the influence of motherhood on careers which has a significant part to play.
    wanet likes this.
  6. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    I don't think motherhood affects choice of career (it's not as if medicine or law are renowned for family-friendly hours and flexibility). I think it does affect career progression and there are steps we could take to combat that, like requiring that occupational parental leave be available on an equal basis to both parents. As it stands, a female teacher can take 6 months full paid leave to look after a baby, but if she wants to share that leave with a partner who is also a teacher, the partner will only receive the statutory minimum paternity pay. It is also accepted and expected that women with young children will occasionally need to take time off to look after them, but the same acceptance and expectation is not there for men. This reinforces the pattern of women taking responsibility for child rearing and contributes to women not getting senior roles as their commitment is then doubted.
  7. hermitcrabbe

    hermitcrabbe Established commenter

    But Law and Medicine,like Business and several other occupations that women have made big inroads into are not exactly Engineering and Construction are they? They are largely " caring" jobs ( like nursing, teaching and keeping home (book keeping, management of money etc) work even,which have traditionally been " female" Even when women choose (or are forced ) into construction it seems to me they find a means of getting out of the "job" and into management rather quickly. I hesitate to say it but I really think many girls do not want these heavy lifting male kinds of jobs. They still chose not to do them in large numbers.

    However, schools and government seem hell bent on making these things choices .

    As for motherhood. I can certainly say that single fatherhood changed my job choices ( that's why I came into teaching) so I am sure it does change women s choices too. Men and women are different . lets just celebrate it and give all a choice...... I guess that's sexist too, but as the father of a daughter it breaks my heart to see how she has been made unhappy by some of the unisex initiatives in school these days. I have advised her to do what she wants and to hell with society/school wanting for her.
  8. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    I have heard women say it did.

    I find that somewhat sexist in itself, why should women who take 6 months, a year or more off from their job be treated equally to men or other women who have worked continually and won't have any more time off in the future? In teaching I have seen women be given promotions when it is known that they will go on maternity leave when the promotion is due, i.e. in September, they went on to be paid at the higher rate until they came back 6 months or a year later to start the job that someone else had been doing for a year, in other words, oust the person who has the experience in favour of a newcomer to the job, because she is a woman.

    I see that as basic mammalian biology. As I said before, you seem to have an idea of the way things should be in some unrealistic world based on ideology rather than reality.
  9. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    If it's natural and biological then if we remove the social and financial pressures that currently exist then it will happen anyway. As it is there are couples where the partner who'd prefer to stay at home longer can't because of the way parental leave is set up. If these things are "natural" then there would be no need for people to exert pressure on children, telling them what's "girly" and what's not. And yet we know full well that they do.
  10. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    I have never claimed that society doesn't exert pressures, it's not as black and white as you seem to think. Of course there are inequalities which were much greater in the past.

    Going back to the OP the statement is essentially that girls should want to do STEM subjects just as much as boys do and if they don't it's because they are being oppressed.

    How do you account for the fact that "girly" things seem to be pretty much universal through time and all societies then?
  11. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    I don't accept the premise that "girly" things are universal. Dancing is now generally considered girly. It wasn't always. I've already mentioned pink. Kissing friends or holding hands with them is considered girly, but is completely normal in other cultures and at other times. Women doing daily household cooking is not universal, though it has been treated as such for a long time. Sewing is now widely seen as female, when once it was pretty universal. You seem to think that the things that have changed were socially constructed and the things that remain must be biological in foundation. I would suggest that the only way to determine a biological cause would be either to find that causal or to actually work on eliminating the assumptions and stereotypes that pressure young people one way or the other and see what happens when they have a free choice. All the evidence so far is that when we reduce the stereotyping and social pressure (as in all-girls schools) then more girls take STEM subjects, enjoy and are successful at them.
  12. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Ok, it really does seem that way though.

    By who? You seem to be as prejudiced as those you criticize.

    I keep saying this, it's not universal to go one way or the other, but it's about tendencies and preferences, shades of grey rather than black and white.

    Girls taking STEM subjects in school is one thing, but a career is something different altogether. What about the influence of teachers trying to get enough kids to do their option? In a single sex school, the teachers will try just as hard to fill the seats, result - more girls, no surprise there. In a mixed school, generally more boys to fill the same seats, less girls, you seem to be assuming this is the result of stereotyping and oppression with no evidence to show this.

    I suspect you will find lots more boys doing languages and literature in single sex boys schools for the same reason. I don't see any concerns about this in the same way as STEM subjects.

    Let the kids decide for themselves, they shouldn't have someone else's flawed "equality" agenda forced on them.
    wanet likes this.
  13. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    Who's talking about forcing anyone to do anything? I also really think you overestimate the amount of influence subject teachers have in persuading people to take their subject.

    My point is that by the time people get to choosing subjects, the damage has often already been done. If all careers were equally valued in both financial and prestige terms then it wouldn't matter much, but that is manifestly not the case. Some correction has been made by landmark legal decisions that affected local government a few years ago regarding pay for traditionally male and female occupations but it remains the case that a highly skilled nursery nurse will earn far less than a highly skilled mechanic, for example. A midwife earns a lot less than an electrician. Traditionally female roles are rewarded far less than traditionally male ones. There is also the issue that if we put off girls from doing STEM subjects then we miss out on talented people going into those fields, resulting in skills shortages. How much does a good network admin cost because they're so rare?
    Flere-Imsaho likes this.
  14. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    I have seen it many times, most teachers don't really seek to do so, so those who do can have quite an influence, "Follow your heart", "Do what you enjoy", "All subjects and qualifications are worth the same" - or "My subject is worthier than others" depending on what is required. It's especially relevant when the alternative is the subject doesn't run at GCSE or A level and some staff are no longer required.

    "Damage" - there's an emotive word with no evidence or even definition for it.

    Your job examples are not comparable, the caring professions can be done to some extent by anyone, that is why they are not so well paid. My wife and I have at various points looked after other peoples children, neighbours, relatives, our children's friends etc. and did it successfully. It wouldn't have been the same if they left their car in our drive way for us to service or pop round and install a new fuse-board for instance.

    I agree that we should encourage those girls who wish to take STEM subjects and follow-on careers and remove barriers, perceived or otherwise if possible. I disagree that imbalances of the sexes is by definition a problem that needs to be solved.
    wanet likes this.
  15. xena-warrior

    xena-warrior Star commenter

    There is no need for a woman to take more than week's holiday when she has a baby, if there are no medical complications. There is no biological necessity in this country to breastfeed, but even that can be managed by pumping if necessary. There is now an abundance of childcare options, and the baby's father can take the maternity leave if he wishes.
    But for some reason, women do not take up this option. Everything has been put in place for them to have an uninterrupted career. But the vast majority don't choose it.
    Don't blame society for that, man. Society's bent over backward to expensively underwrite a woman's career. Most of us seemed to find our biological imperative and infants' earliest family experience to be more important.
    wanet, Mangleworzle and hermitcrabbe like this.
  16. BillyBobJoe

    BillyBobJoe Established commenter

    Did you miss the part where I pointed out that men, for the most part, can't take the maternity leave because occupational maternity pay is only available to women, making it a practical impossibility for most. Also, while bottle feeding can provide an adequate substitute, research does still seem to show that breast feeding is the better option (all other things being equal), and pumping adds significantly to the costs and hassle of doing so. Many couples in that situation will understandably choose the path of least resistance. Even where both partners are equally able to take leave, it will naturally be the case that the one with the greater income, usually still the male partner, will be the one to continue working. Nonetheless, society still considers it strange when the male partner is the one to stay at home and the female partner the one to return to work, and the assumption is always that the reverse will be the case. There is still a strong social association between bread winning and masculinity.
  17. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Why do you think that is?
  18. Alldone

    Alldone Senior commenter

    Depends on school - my last year 11 Physics class before retiring were 60:40 girls to boys, and year 11 Chemistry also majority girls. Many girls in A level as well, probably 50:50. I think once girls see other girls doing sciences they think it is a natural thing to be doing.
  19. irs1054

    irs1054 Star commenter

    That societies all round the world are sexist to some degree or another is not in doubt.

    That some schools are more effective than others at resisting this sexism is most probably true.

    You only have to look at the internet where some woman sticks her head up above the parapet and is rewarded with a deluge of rape threats. The news stories in places like India about women getting raped as punishment. I t all has an effect.

    Most schools manage very well but some have an uphill struggle and the girls in these schools can find life very unpleasant if they make what is perceived to be the wrong subject choice. I think, in the main, teachers try very hard to mitigate these effects but don't (or can't) always succeed.

    Ii think it is a case of the struggle goes on. Society needs to evolve and old predjudices need to wither and die. Trouble is too many self interest groups want to hang onto them.
  20. xena-warrior

    xena-warrior Star commenter

    No, but you missed the point that everyone has a choice. They aren't running along tramlines of social expectation in this country. They make a choice. That may well be based on biology and inherent sexual difference.
    The cost and the hassle of pumping? Cost = a free electric pump from the NCT or the investment of£19.99 for a manual one from Mothercare. The hassle is the main thing that separates the (middle-class) breastfeeders from the (whatever working-class is called now) bottle-feeders. Nothing to do with expectations.

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