Friday, May 18, 2012

It's 2012 After All

So my last post was an expression of my frustration at my students perception of gender roles.  I should clarify that MOST of the jobs on the "Women Should Do" list are fine jobs and work that anyone should be proud to do.  What struck me most profoundly (besides the obvious "hooker" and "stripper" answers) was that most of the jobs "Women Should Do" were related to the arts, child care or home economics in some way.  Even the teaching positions were arts related and not technical.  These are wonderful professions to pursue; I even pursue one of them myself.  However, I am surprised that none of these kids thought of women in non-traditional roles.

In my shock and frustration, I decided to poll my two of my own children in the car that evening.  Paige, who is 13, and Jeremy, who is 8, had some answers that were more in line with the current times.  They still had some traditionally "female" jobs listed, but they didn't let those gender roles drive their answers.

Photo Journalist
Food Reporter
...and the list goes on.

Penguin washer at the zoo
Car builder
Lego designer
Pooper Scooper
Wrastler (that's how he said it)
...and the list goes on.

I especially like "Penguin Washer".  When I asked them what jobs women should NEVER do, they both asked me a question: "Why would there be a job a girl couldn't do?"  I have to tell you that I am very relieved that my children see the whole spectrum of possibilities that  await them.  I will do my level best to ensure that they never feel trapped by their sex, their socioeconomic status, or any other thing if they have a dream they want to pursue. 

The only job a woman CAN'T do, in my book, is sperm donor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Year Is It, Anyway?

Ok, it has been a while since I've been here. I'd love to say it's because I have been so busy (I have) or that it's because my kids and my job and my husband and my home need me more than you do (They do).  Sadly, though, it's just because I haven't been FIRED UP enough about anything to write.  Well guess what?  I'M PISSED!

I am doing a unit at school on gender portrayals in the media.  As an opening activity, I surveyed my students on two questions: "What are jobs that women should do?" and "What are jobs that women should not do?"  18 students took the task, 11 boys and 7 girls, aged 12-19.  The results made me weak.

I expected there to be some gender bias answers...because although we live in 2012, there are some stereotypes that prevail.  What I didn't expect was the OVERWHELMING "keep her in her place" responses that I got.  I had to ask myself, "What year is it, anyway?"

Here is the list of jobs my students said women should NEVER do:
*science teacher
*math teacher
*gym teacher
*truck driver
*factory worker
*lawn care
*police officer
*pro athlete
*cab driver
*business owner

Here is the list of jobs women SHOULD do.  Some answers were only offered once, some many times, and a couple EVERY single child offered.

* retail clerk
*home ec teacher
*day care provider/babysitter
*grade school teacher
*English teacher
*art teacher
*teeth cleaner (hygienist)
*flight attendant
*hair dresser
*nail tech
*fashion designer
*school counselor

Only one student said women should be pediatricians.  EVERY student said they should be strippers.  All 18 of them.

I feel sick to my stomach.  I can't imagine how it is 2012 and these are the attitudes this group of young men and women have toward gender roles.  I'd be interested to see how this list would look in another town...with another set of kids.  Is it the same? I'm not even sure my daughter knows that being a stripper is a job option for her (IT ISN'T!) or that someone out there thinks she should not consider going to medical school because she is a female.  And I guarantee you that my boys don't think it's acceptable for their sister to be a hooker.

So what now? How do you begin to change these attitudes in kids who have been raised to believe this?  If anyone has any suggestions, I'm listening.