Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Gender Development"

“Gender Development”

I particularly focused on the Jerry Callahan scenario towards the end of chapter 6.  Nakkula and Toshalis tell us he is a straight, white, male student who is involved in many after school activities, but only those after school activities which are geared towards straight, white, and male oriented activities.   I found this to be unsettling because as a culture we do gender activities.  I remember looking at a student-created poster last year for spirit week.  It was recruiting the first ever cheerleading squad.  This poster had only girls represented and was geared towards middle school girls.  As an educator, I try to be as gender neutral as I can, since I am more aware of this being an issue in adolescent development.

After reading Safe Spaces by August, it triggered some thinking.  Why was this poster only recruiting middle school girls? What if a middle school boy was interested?—something as simple as a poster could possibly make a middle school feel alienated if a middle school boy had an interest.  How these feelings could be internalized for the future of students who are not represented.   What if a chess club, auto mechanics, or wood chop class only featured adolescent boys?  Some girls may feel alienated. What if our culture portrayed the images below?  The socially constructed world of gendered and stereotypical activities that Nakkula and Toshalis discuss in chapter 6. 

Since reading Safe Spaces, August quotes “Our classrooms need to be ‘windows and mirrors’ for all students - mirrors in which youth see themselves in the curriculum and recognize their place in the group; windows through which youth see beyond themselves to experiences connected with, but not identical to, their own.” I’ve learned we need to be sensitive to these gendered ideologies and include all students.  Nakkula and Thosalis say “As educators, our job is to promote student learning and creativity through safe and enriching experiences.  Optimal learning requires the presence of intact, full present students” (115).  As educators, it also our job to send gender neutral messages to our students.  


  1. I agree completely Ken and I think many of the gender stereotypes and expectations are so ingrained in our collective psyches that it is hard to see out of that box. And you are absolutely correct when you say that one seemingly insignificant poster could very easily alienate an (possibly already insecure) adolescent. I keep hearing and seeing the terms safe and safety as I read everyone's blogs this week, and rightfully so. Because we cannot hope to achieve anything in terms of gender neutrality and acceptance unless we give our students that safe place to start having these conversations. And, I'm just thinking about this now...maybe we could also model gender non traditional activities that we do in our own lives to open up some of these conversations.

  2. Ken I love your reflection on the cheerleading poster from last year! Im wondering if you noticed it at the time or are you only remembering it now? What would you do if you saw this poster now? I'm also curious what you do to be gender neutral! Can't wait to share today :)

  3. Ken, I think we have so many "gender-activities" that it is overwhelming. We separate far too often, whether it be sports, theater, music, or any activity. I am still surprised when I hear the percentage of teaching positions that are women. I have a hard time thinking of myself as anything but a teacher, or in the minority (even though I am surrounded by a staff of mostly women). I am not sure we still do this, but our high school used to have the football team wear the cheerleader's uniforms, and vice versa for the pep rally, which was a really common thing, but the whole thing was done tongue in cheek, and if anything reinforced the gender specific activities. I think we have gotten more sophisticated over the years, but I am willing to bet plenty of places are not.