Gender Stereotyping & Education

In U.S. News I take a look at something that is seemingly trivial but actually points up a broader issue and problem around gender and education: Why can’t I find good quality outdoor clothing for girls?

It happened again last fall. My fast-growing daughter wanted a new flannel shirt for chillier fall days. We went to a national chain store known for quality and affordable kids’ clothing, and she happily bounded to the girls’ section. Then the resigned look I’d seen before came over her, because she knew we were off to the boys’ part of the store next. There were no flannel shirts for girls…

…I get that there are more important things in the world than whether my daughter can find a pair of Carhartt pants she likes, but clothing choices are a powerful signal, and the availability of choices sends a message to girls about what they should and should not be doing. In practice, it’s not so far in our gendered society from “girls'” activities on the playground or what’s on their backs to the sense that math, science and engineering are not for girls either. After all, while clothing may seem trivial, what we choose to cloak our bodies in says a lot about who we are, our values and our preferences…

REI is closing the day after Thanksgiving to give its employees the day off to get outside. Before you make plans click here and you can read the entire column. I include a few tips on outlets trying to do better – send me yours on Twitter @arotherham.

3 Replies to “Gender Stereotyping & Education”

  1. Great post. There is still big discrepancies in the STEM fields between boys and girls. Though there have been some great initiatives to involve girls in science, the results have shown as increase but we have a long way to go! I began graduate school a few years ago in theoretical mathematics at a local state university. The program had 12 students, I was the only female enrolled. The mathematics education field had a much higher female enrollment rate. Since teaching can still be thought of as a “girl activity,”especially in mathematics where the “more capable” males have branched into more involved fields. I believe “pigeonholed in pink” is such a great way to describe this phenomena because from an early age girls are supposed to like pink and dresses and dolls, where boys can play in the dirt and experiment. The beginning of scientific thinking is often discouraged from an early age, even though it was never our intentions.

  2. This is a great article. I have seen this many times throughout school and into teaching. Girls are encouraged to go into different activities and careers than boys. I have seen such stereotyping in preschool children. The girls like to go to the dramatic play and reading areas while the boys like the science, animal, and music area.
    I think teacher treat students differently based on their gender as well. Most teachers don’t realize it or are not doing it on purpose but it happens. Boys are allowed to be out of their seats and talking out ore than girls. Sometime teachers hand out harsher consequences to boy than girls for the same infraction and sometimes it’s the other way. Most of the time the “Boys will be boys” saying comes into play here. Teacher might even call on boys more often in math classes and girls more often in reading. Such behavior just enforces the stereotypes put in place by the society.

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