How does a person’s sex or gender identity affect the education they receive?
This topic combines Tolman’s article, “Adolescent girls’ sexuality”, and Pascoe’s article, “Guys are just homophobic”. Through this combination, we can see the interplay between societal pressures and expectations for both girls and guys. Also, how this interplay is perceived and responded to by adults.
The main takeaways from Tolman’s article are the ideas of “good”/”bad” girls and being desired as opposed to desiring. While the main takeaway from Pascoe’s article is guys need to avoid being perceived as homophobic.
To clarify, girls are expected to incite desire and boys are expected to desire them. To create this desire, girls are supposed to dress and act provocatively, but not too much.They cannot actually like this or gain anything from it. It must be simply to provide boys an object. Any deviation will result in a girl being labeled “bad”, and she cannot easily reclaim her “good” label. Boys have also experience the pressure to perform. Failure to express desire or objectify a girl can result in the label of being “gay”.
Society says that it is a biological truth that guys cannot control their sexual urges and naturally desire and objectify every girl they see. Given the responsibility of girls to create this environment, it is the girls who also hold the responsibility for keeping guys in check. Girls are told that a guy will not be able to learn if cleavage, midriff, shoulders, or thighs are shown. Guys cannot be held responsible for their educational experience. How can a guy possibly concentrate on his schoolwork with an attractive female wearing a low-cut top sitting beside him? Of course, he is going to openly stare and focus all of his attention on her breasts until she is out of sight.
Additionally, guys cannot be held accountable for what comes out of their mouth. It is simply a part of growing up that boys regularly demean girls and sexually harass them. To not do this, a boy is presumed gay. Heaven forbid, a boy actually respects women. At the same time, the beratement girls face creates a very uncomfortable environment, to say the least. And yet, this topic is hardly ever discussed. Boys have a responsibility to help create a respectful learning environment. How can a girl possibly concentrate on her schoolwork with a boy sitting behind her commenting on how nice her breasts are, how much she would love to experience his huge penis, and how he could please her in so many ways (all without her approval or encouragement)?
Taking a different track, boys and girls are told what they can and cannot do in school-related activities. This is seen in ideas of how children are expected to perform in each subject, what positions they are to hold, what organizations they take part in, and what sports they play.
Currently, adults perpetuate these ideas by accepting, enforcing, and encouraging them. We cannot expect children to step outside of these scripts without encouragement. To change these strict gender roles, we have to encourage children to step outside of them. We have to counter the unjust perceptions with respectful discourses. Children need to be taught what it means to respect another person. Some adults need to be taught this as well. How can we effectively change the school environment to one of respect? There is the common example of single-sex schools. However, there are many drawbacks to these and it would be just as unfair, if not more, to take away the possibility of co-ed schools. Segregation is not the answer. We have been there and done that. Separate and unequal, we all know which side of the binary would get the short end of the stick.
Then there are the “other” identities, those who do not fit in our binary system. What kind of responsibilities do they have? What responsibilities do others have to them? How do we combat all of these misconceptions?