Growing up female

You know how much it sucks when you live your whole life trying to be a responsible and caring citizen and true to yourself and all that jazz and you find out that you were basically conforming all this time?!?

This week’s topic in education is gender equality. Here’s some quick facts: after puberty, girls find it no longer socially acceptable to be “tomboyish”, they learn to be docile and let the men take the lead. Girls become more distant from their parents. They face unhappiness with their body. Boys get more attention than girls in classrooms even when the teacher is trying to be equal (the ratio is somewhere from 5:1 or 3:1). Boys believe that their opinions are valued and are not afraid to call out answers or make mistakes. Girls usually assume the feminine pose in class (legs crossed, arms crossed, hunched) and are afriad of being embarrassed for getting a question wrong. Girls think that they are less likely to succeed in math and science…a competence drop follows the confidence drop. If girls pursue the sciences, it is usually biology. Girls are chatised for being a “classroom disturbance” but similiar behavior from boys elicits a “boys will be boys” response.

After reading this, I feel very angry. I resolve to be much more participatory in lecture and not give a flying fuck if I get something wrong. It is also shown that students who are expressive in school and have their opinions acknowledged are more likely to enjoy learning. No wonder girls do so much better in all-girls schools vs. a co-ed enviroment while there is no significant difference for boys in single sex or co-ed learning environment.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out Peggy Orenstein’s School Girls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap and Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. The former is a case study at a Weston Middle School, it is so sad to see how differently a self-described feminist female student acts in the playground (boisterous and loud) and in the classroom (passive and quiet). The latter is profiles of several girls that the author sees as clients (she is a psychologist).

To go along with that, I consider myself a compassionate person and a proponent for basic worker rights. That’s why sweatshop labor is so sickening to me and I can’t believe that some of it occurs right here in California. That being said, I still shop at places that use sweatshop labor because like the gullible consumer I am, I am lured in by the bright and shiny things at super low cost (on a student’s budget).

When my mentee rattled off to me the reasons why she hates A&F (while I was wearing an A&F top): loud pop music, overwhelming smell, their racist/lookist policies, their use of sweatshop labor, and the oversexualization of their advertisement, I couldn’t help but redden. I had been told and by a 12 year old girl at that. She’s right though (no offense to those who are addicted to A&F). To set a good example, I swear not to purchase A&F again. It took the words of a child to make me realize how hypocritical of me it was to denouce racism, lookism, and sweatshop labor and then to shop at a store that helps propogate those very same things. But, I can understand why people want to shop there. I actually really enjoy the experience…I always feel really girly when wearing A&F and I guess there is a bit of brand-strutting. Realizing that I want to shop there to feel girly just makes me sad that what happens to girl in middle school happened to me. I was forced to conform to the typical “girl” stereotype.

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