Diversity 410 Inquiry Paper
People will be People
Is there a problem with letting ‘boys be boys’ and ‘girls be girls’? I selected this question because after my experience in schools, I have noticed that the treatment of boys and girls still fall under strict stereotypes. I want to explore the implications of these stereotypes, so I focused on the inferences made about boys and girls within physical education. Our bodies are more than vehicles for our brains. They are essentially the instruments in which we convey meaning. Society today values the superficial version of the body to such an extent that it has affected our language. Slurs such as, “You throw like a girl” and “Man up” are perverting humanity because they force social roles on gender, which is a term that originally served a biological purpose. This question is important because of the increasing amount of headlines that involve child suicide due to homophobic bullying. The isolating nature of the patriarchy and societal norms are dangerously manifesting themselves in the microchasms of our society- schools. As people, not just as teachers, we must spread awareness about the dangers of genderization.
One major assumption I made about this topic was that teachers ‘knew better’ than to stereotype girls and boys. I unknowingly have always held up teachers on a pedestal until I entered this program. I began to critically reflect on my past teachers teaching styles. I also did not realize how much power words hold. Words can truly support or break social barriers. It is astounding how little phrases such as ‘ladies sit up straight’ can affect the way boys and girls understand their place in society.
In order to learn more about my topic, I read two articles: “Negotiating Masculine Hegemony: Female Physical Educators in an All-Boys’ School” by Amanda Mooney and Chris Hickey, and “’Boys will be Boys’: What do Early Childhood Teachers have to do with it?” by Deevia Bhana. I chose these articles because they discuss hegemonic gender roles in relation to physical education. Both articles state that we live in a patriarchal state, which is ruled by hegemonic masculinity: an “authoritative, tough, heterosexual, brave, adventurous, assertive, strong and competitive and in possession of public knowledge” (Bhana, p 329).
My original conceptions shifted completely. One of the teachers in Bhana’s article “doesn’t see gender as important for ‘the little ones’” (p 331). This statement especially shifted my thinking because I thought discussions about gender was more productive in older grades. Then I realized how important it is to begin modelling the dismantling of the patriarchy at a young age. I do realize how ‘extreme’ this sounds- are we turning our students into anarchists? However, the article ‘How to talk to Little Girls’ by Lisa Bloom makes a strong argument. She argues that instead of reverting straight to ‘oh look how cute you are!’ when talking to little girls, try asking ‘what’s your favorite book?’ I have used this technique, and its true- girls AND boys become very engaged when their self-worth is based on more than just their looks. Little steps such as this one are all it takes to combat the superficiality of societal norms.
I did not realize that subjects such as math, arts, and in this case, physical education could be gendered. Even though I already knew that physical education was somewhat geared towards males because of the definition of masculinity, I did not realize the high level of masculinity that PE holds. Sports are used as outlets for energy, and this program has taught me that boys tend to house a lot of energy. The format of PE puts students’ bodies and physical competency on display for each other. Students who do not possess strong physical literacy skills, especially boys, are targeted and ‘othered’. Perhaps this is why it is important that teachers are diverse. The stereotypical PE teacher tends to be the ‘beefy male