CHAPTER 8: GENDER COMMUNICATION IN
By Manica Hing
Education has a
crucial role in creating
inequalities and is
influenced by the
values, and norms, of
through education is
not value free.
gender/sex, race, class,
and sexual orientation
exists in educational
A BRIEF HISTORY
During the early 1800s,
British public schools
taught boys how to be
In regards to women’s
education, before the
1900s, only White
women from wealthy
families could get a
In the early 1900s,
accessible to people
other than White,
upper-class boys and
girls, such as poor
EDUCATION AS A SOCIAL INSTITUTION
The institution of education
continues to teach
gender/sex after a long
history of related practices.
assumptions, such as sex-
based brain differences,
remain part of the
curriculum but in the form
of the hidden curriculum.
The hidden curriculum
refers to educational
practices that implicitly
assume a White, male,
middle-class standard for
both the teachers and the
Education has influence outside of
the classroom. The institution of
education influences work,
government, family, and media.
These institutions influences each
other, including the institution of
For example, in the U.S., it is
believed that more education is
linked to more/better job
Title IX of the 1972 Educational
Amendment Act makes it illegal for
schools that are funded by the
government to discriminate on the
basis of sex.
The law made a major difference in
that it required schools to offer
more equal opportunities for both
females and males. One of the
results is that more girls are
IT’S NOT ABOUT SEX DIFFERENCE
Epistemology is the study of
knowledge. How do humans
know what they claim to know?
The institution of education
acknowledges information or
“truths” that are consistent with
Knowledge is perceived.
Education contributes to
knowledge construction by
influencing the way people think.
People have different thinking
processes and therefore acquire
knowledge in different ways.
processes can be
gendered/sexed, classed, and
TEACHER AND ADMINISTRATOR INTERACTIONS
Children are commonly separated by
teachers and administrators by sex.
Sex segregation occurs in the classroom,
in the halls (boys and girls standing in
separate lines to go to the cafeteria), and
on the playgrounds.
Teachers have the tendency to divide the
class by sex for educational and
extracurricular activities. This practice
also poses a problem for transgender
and intersex children, who do not know
which side of the divide to go to and have
the teacher decide for them.
Sex division encourages boys and girls to
view each other as opponents. It also
reinforces the notion that boys and girls
Children constantly learn about gender
differences from teachers and
administrators, but most of the lessons
are given implicitly.
Sports are seen as opportunities for boys
to perform their bodies into masculinity.
By participating in sports, boys
intrinsically learn how to exert their
bodies to convey dominance, power, and
For girls, participation in sports helps
build character, confidence, and
However, due to the predominant cultural
perception of athleticism as a measure of
masculinity, girl athletes tend to feel the
pressure to maintain their feminine
identity by putting on makeup, doing their
hair, painting their nails etc.
Sports can be liberating for both boys and
girls. Although, school sports have been
and continue to be sex segregated.
Gender/sex bias is also in educational materials
including textbooks and assigned literature.
Textbooks primarily focused on the
accomplishments of White men and often ignored
the contributions of women and minorities.
Educational texts also commonly portrayed men and
women in traditional gender roles. Typically, men
were associated with careers and possessed
masculine qualities, such as aggressiveness and
competitiveness, and women were often associated
with relational maintenance or caretaker of children
and were more likely to be described as being
affectionate and caring.
In terms of literature, stories with male characters as
the protagonists are more prevalent in the
curriculum than stories with females or racial
minorities as the main characters. This is evident in a
range of texts, from children’s storybooks to novels
read in high school.
Textual representationsof gender/sex becomes
more balanced at the college level.
Curriculum is also gendered.
Cultural perceptions of masculinity
and femininity have influenced the
gendering of subjects. For example,
home economics is a subject that is
considered a feminine domain because
the classes involve activities that are
associated with femininity, such as
cooking and sewing.
Literature and language arts classes
are also seen as more on the feminine
side of the gendered education
spectrum compared to classes such as
industrial shop classes, which are seen
as masculine. Mathematics and science
are also seen as masculine subjects.
Gendered curriculum sends the
message that boys are better in math
and science and girls are better at
reading and writing, and therefore to
increase the probability of success,
boys and girls should be encouraged in
their respective subject areas.
Discrimination based on gender/sex are
not just experienced by students. There is
also a gender gap in the number of
women and minority faculty. They also
experience discrimination as they are in a
profession that is dominated by White
Women and minority faculty often face
challenges and obstacles when it comes to
employment opportunities, promotions,
and positive evaluations from both
administrators and students.
Students, in particular, tend to be more
critical of female and minority professors
than White male professors.
Traditionally, good professorship is
associated with masculinity. Thus both
women and men professors who are
perceived as feminine have more difficulty
being credited as good professors.
The gender gap in education alludes to the
gender wars metaphor. Gender differences
induces gender battles.
The results of a national survey indicated
that many girls received less attention from
their teachers than boys did, and yet
according to other sources, boys often
receive harsher punishments for school
misconduct than girls. Boys are also
suspended more often than girls and are
more likely to get involved in crime, alcohol,
Despite the lack of attention from teachers,
girls tend to do better in school than boys,
especially when it comes to reading and
writing. There are also more women in
college than men. Women now represent
over half of college students in the U.S.
Intersecting factors, such as race and class,
also have influence on boys’ poor behaviors
and academic performance.
The economic condition of a school also
affects the quality of education students
receive. Financially healthy schools can
purchase improved educational materials,
facilities, etc. which can lead to better
Single-Sex education refers to educational
programs in which male and female students
are taught separately.
Ex. Students can attend either an “all-
boys” school or an “all-girls” school.
One of the objectives of single-sex education
is to help students with social issues, such as
low-self-esteem, drugs, teen pregnancy, and
gang violence. Students also do not have the
distractionof attraction. In other words,
students do not have to be concern about
being attractive to receive attention from the
other sex, which permits them to focus in the
Catherine McAuley High School (Portland,
Maine): The All-Girl Advantage?:
SINGLE-SEX EDUCATION (CONT.)
However, single-sex education also assumes that
males and females think differently due to
differences in the structures of the brain and
therefore require different learning approaches in
order to maximize their educational experience.
Other Issues With Single-Sex Education:
Single-sex education assumes that sex equals
gender, and all girls are feminine and all boys
Higher academic performance is not just due to
the sex segregation. Instead, improved learning
is due to a number of factors including
improvement in teaching strategies, smaller
class sizes, and more access to extracurricular
Single-sex education also essentializes
gender/sex and does not recognize it as an
issue, which is a problem in of itself. It also
reinforces gender stereotypes.
Also, school is suppose to prepare individuals
for the “real world” and the world is not single-
Boys and girls have a tendency to group themselves based
on sex, race, and class, even when playing a game together
like kickball or foursquare.
Boys participate in more physical activities because boys
are taught to exert their bodies as part of their gender
performance. Girls, on the other hand, participate in more
lenient activities, such as jump rope, because girls are
taught to guard their bodies, which perceptually limits
Within their same-sex groups, boys pressure each other
into masculinity and girls pressure each other into
Sadly, children who do not conform to gender and/or
group expectations are often ridiculed and subjected to
name-calling (i.e. sissy, gay)
Peer pressure heightens as children become adolescents.
Middle and high school students often feel intense
pressure to become part of a group.
School culture perceives that having a girlfriend/boyfriend
boosts one’s status among peers. For some, attractiveness
becomes a priority. Such attentiveness, particularly for
girls, sometimes leads to low body image, which can then
lead to eating disorders.
Bullyingcan be defined as “physical,
psychological,and/or verbal intimidation or
attack that is meant to cause and/or harm to an
An estimated 20%-30% of students experience
bullying in a given school year (190).
Bullies tend to be males and often come from
troubled families, especially when they come
from a home where they are exposed to drugs or
Also, children who have witnessed physical
violence at home are more likely to become
bullies and be more physical in their bullying of
others. Those who have been bullied may also
become bullies themselves.
Anti-bullying laws and school policies have been
established across the country in an effort to stop
bullying, although more research is needed to
create more effective laws/policies.
Unfortunately, it usually takes a tragedy to call
attention to the negative effects of bullying (e.g.
Columbine High School)
Sexual harassment refers to unwanted or
unwelcome sexual advances/behaviors.
The results of a study found that 4 out 5
students from grades 8-11 (85% of girls and
75% o f boys) have experienced some form of
sexual harassment (191).
Girls and racial minorities are more likely to
experience sexual harassment than White
males. Homosexuals, bisexuals, and
transgender students are also more likely to
be harassed than heterosexual students.
A major problem is that most students view
harassment as “normal” and so most incidents
do not get reported., which is worrisome
because unwarranted bullying and sexual
harassment can evolve into violent criminality
and domestic violence.
Victims of bullying/harassment have exhibited
self-destructivebehaviors, such as
experimentation with drugs, sexual
promiscuity, and cutting. Some have even
SEXUAL VIOLENCE ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES
Sexual violence includes sexual assault,
stalking, verbal and visual victimization
(ex. crude sexual comments, sexist
remarks) and stalking.
Researchers predict that between 1/5
and 1/4 of college women will be victims
of sexual assault (193).
In approximately 90% of the cases of
sexual assault the victims knew their
attackers (AAUW). Therefore, sexual
assault by a stranger is relatively rare.
Alcohol abuse is a common factor in
incidences of sexual violence. At least
half of all violent crimes involve alcohol
consumption by the perpetrator, the
victim, or both (193). Alcohol has also
been used as an excuse to make attackers
seem less accountable for their actions
and places more of the blame on their
Gendered education is oppressive and constrains
Bias tied to gender/sex as well as race, class, and
sexual orientation also limits the educational
curriculumand contribute to social inequalities.
Teaching strategies should accommodate multiple
perspectives and recognize the complexities of the
Educational liberation requires us to eliminate bias
in order to emancipate and enhance education.
Uphold a gender-sensitive model in which girls and boys
can learn to appreciate one another and work together.
Adopt a gender-relevant model in which misconstrued
gender assumptions are directly addressed by the
teachers in attempt to dispel them.
Promote interactive learning. Teachers and students
should become more involved in the material by
relating it to personal experiences. This alternative
method makes both educators and students feel more
connected to the material.
Teach educational materials with sex-inclusive
DeFrancisco, Victoria P., and Catherine Helen
Palczewski. Communicating Gender Diversity: a
Critical Approach. Los Angeles: Sage Publications,
Catherine McAuley High School | All Girls Private
School | College Preparatory – Portland, Maine. N.p.,
“AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881.” AAUW:
Empowering Women Since 1881. N.p., n.d. Web.
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