Gender in School Systems

As a fourth year Liberal Arts college student I am looking forward to graduation this Spring. Before my four years at the university, I never acknowledged gender or gender differences and the impact and expectations are given to students at such a young age. With my diploma I hope to soon get a teaching certificate and be a teacher as I have aspired my whole life. The only problem I see now are all the flaws in this system and I constantly find myself thinking of methods I can improve this flawed system.

As a child I did anything I could to fit in, I was always nice and caring and acknowledged everyone’s opinions about me to try to “improve” myself. Looking back now, I see how incredibly ridiculous all this was and what a waste of time it all was. I cannot take into account what every school system is like by judge it on my own which I attended, but I think it is fair to say that growing up in the Los Angeles Unified School District can be challenging. Growing up in Los Angeles can be perplexing and it was always impossible for me to stay up to date on the latest trends. These Latest trends always involved what was “hot” and what was “not.” As a middle & high school child I seemed to hang out with the “in” crowds and that gave a good inside scoop of the “do’s & don’ts” and I’d like to say that this mean that there was and continues to be no room for gender exploration. In Karlin A. Martin’s article, the author makes and astounding job pointing out how sexualized school is and how since a very young pre-school age, children already have roles they must fulfill.

Martin states that “Our bodies are also one site of gender. Much postmodern feminist work (Butler 1990, 1993) suggests that gender is a performance” (Martin, 495). This quote I found intriguing due to the fact that women and men are categorized by social expectation and physical bodies. Martin states that society makes differentiations based on physical appearance and from there lead thoughts on behavioral expectations. Thinking back to my conformist middle and high school experiences I clearly remember my clothing expectations and “needs” growing up my teenage years. Friends and I would constantly shop at stores such as Forever 21, Hollister, and Abercrombie & Fitch. All these stores are incredibly sexualized and cause gender segregation. Martin conducted a study with preschool children and how they were categorized based on clothing. Martin learned that sixty percent of girls wore the color pink.

Well what does this mean? This means that a society who has oppressed women and gender neutral citizens has found a way to continue this oppression with a categorizing system. Girls are those who wear pink, wear skirts, and wear cute and sparkly things. So instead of seeing all these this as strictly female clothing items, we should see them as clothing items only.

Trying to obliterate these norms is not a negative thing but rather something that will impact everyone in a positive way. Men, women, and intersexual individuals will no longer face the need to categorize themselves as a “man or woman” but anything they’d like. This will remove stereotypes and stigmas related to genders. Having a gender neutral classroom will finally let the phrase “Let the kids be kids” some credibility. As a future educator, I hope to make a small dent in this incredulous system. Hopefully one day we will accomplish freedom of expression as was once promised to the citizens of the United States.