Assessment 3: Major Essay Overview
Assessment Item 3. Essay 2500 words 50%
The assignment requires the completion of an essay based on the outline (and taking account of feedback) you prepared for Assignment 2. The standard essay format is to be followed: • Introduction • Body - arguments and discussion • Conclusion • Reference list
If your essay is substantially different to the Assignment 2 outline and you have not discussed this with your lecturer it will not be accepted.
The essay is an opportunity to focus on one or a combination of topics from the unit content and demonstrate your depth of reading, understanding and engagement with theory.
You can use the essay as a basis for initial reading and analysis for a future thesis topic. Or an opportunity to explore in greater depth an area of theory you have been familiar with. Alternatively, an opportunity to explore an area of theory you have had no familiarity with prior to this unit.
The important thing is that the essay focus on theory and demonstrate your understanding of the place of theory in understanding the social.
Feminism and Education
Having been born and raised in India, which is ranked as a developing economy, I personally experienced instances where the male child received more favors at the expense of the female. These scenarios were not only exhibited in education, but many other spheres of life. This includes households where sexist approaches to girl’s educations were valued thus negatively impacting the self-esteem of the girls and women involved (Bhatty, 1998). Disparities in creating opportunities for women have since been the leading reason why the society has continued to be patriarchal in nature. By hindering women to make personal decisions, explore opportunities and create their own form of self-awareness and identity, the Indian society has curtailed their emancipation thus putting them at the mercies of men who are perceived as being dominant in every aspect. The worst part is that these beliefs tend to be passed on to the next generation through their parents (van Hek, Kraaykamp & Wolbers, 2016). For instance, a typical Indian household believes that the man is the head of the household. Since parents are role models to their children, girls learn to be submissive without challenging the status quo, just as their mothers, and tolerate oppression from their husbands. This practice can be blamed for the lack of a gender neutral curriculum and the continued incongruence in education. Other factors that have contributed towards inequality in education include ethic, psychological and cultural factors where self-proclaimed masculine societies such as India suppress women and discourage their empowerment through education (Gilbert & Gilbert, 2017). It is upon this basis that this essay critically analyzes feminism and education while evaluating reasons behind such inequalities in education opportunities between male and female.
Feminist Theories and Education
Feminist theories on education are focused on understanding and explaining causes of gender inequality in the educational system and their repercussions on the society. Just like other institutions where women are marginalized and oppressed, the education system has been identified as the sole reason for prolonged inequalities. According to statistics by UNESCO, the world has more than 862 million illiterate women. This populations represents two third of all the illiterate people in the world, with the number of women expected to increase especially across Asian and African countries. These countries have a long way to go, when compared to Western countries such as the USA whose struggle against inequality has seen the country achieve considerable progress. The process begun with women movements leading to the enactment of the 1972 Education Amendments declaring that discrimination of educational programs on the basis of gender and sex was illegal. The legislation also discouraged disparities in earnings for female and male college graduates. As much as these legislations were enforced, the USA still faces cases of unfair pay which favors the male. This statement highlights the deep rooted culture where men and considered more deserving of some opportunities and advantages than women.
Haberland and Rogow, (2015) add that when women are exposed to inequalities in the educational system and at the work place, it makes it relatively harder for them to achieve equal rights. Basically, the lack of financial independence makes them dependent on men which ultimately stifles their bargain for equal rights. Given that the society continuously puts women at disadvantage against their male counterparts, feminists have been motivated to introduce three feminist theories aimed at explaining the root cause of inequalities in the educational system and evaluate ways to promote rights of women to equal education. The three basic theories are radical, socialist and liberal. Liberal feminist’s theory focuses on concepts such as socialization, discrimination, sex roles and equal opportunities for male and females. The theory encourages feminists to alter long standing social practices, enactment of equality legislations and change of attitude towards females. Critics of the theory have however noted its shortcomings such as reluctance to confront patriarchy and unequal distribution of power.
Other disadvantages of the theory include conceptual limitations which hamper its application. In addition to liberalist feminist theory, there is the socialist feminist theory which analyzes role of school and education in promoting gender division, especially in capitalist economies. It majors on social cultural reproduction but gives lesser focus on resistance to gender based behavior patterns. The theory has been classified as being mainly theoretical rather than practical. This implies that it has an insufficient empirical founding and it is equally over deterministic. The third theory is radical feminists who concentrate on male monopolization of culture and knowledge. The monopoly is later observed in sexual politics in institutions of learning.
Radical feminism intends to prioritize girls and women by establishing separate sex groups and empowering them on their rights. As much as this is the case, the theory has been criticized for methodological weaknesses as well as its excessive focus on biological reductionism. Even as these theories have sought to unearth underlying factors that contribute towards inequality in different spheres of life, they are made subject to same pressures that have in the first place created inequality. This includes; oppressive power structures, diversity among women where some are seen as superior in terms of race and class, and likewise, there is a tension between universality where, contrary to feminist thoughts, some women perceive themselves as inferior and thus, have no objection being dominated by their male counterparts. Even as this is the case, Adams and Pierre (2000) acknowledge that understanding the primary reasons for inequality in education opportunities between female and male could help create a more balanced society.
Forms and Reasons for Inequality in Education Opportunity between Male and Female
Bauchspies and Potter, (2015) acknowledge that there are sex differences in education. This is a form of discrimination in the local and global education system that affects both women and men either during or after their educational experiences. The boy child is mostly favored by the system thus turns out to be more literate than the girl child. This is a trend across most countries with some showing higher sex differences than others. Mills, (2016) adds that even though there are situations where both sexes may have similar educational levels, structural barriers have been erected in form of glass ceiling curtailing the ascension of women to higher managerial positions. The masculinity culture portrayed across countries with masculine cultures make men to be afraid of women leaders and this is the reason why their efforts to rise to the top are always opposed and frustrated. As supported by the liberal feminism theory, there are different ways in which sex discrimination is practiced in education.
The educational system is structured in a manner that it achieves cultural and social reproduction. The system is so biased that it inequality patterns are experienced from preschool and even elementary schools after which it is passed on to colleges and institutions of higher learning. This is evident in the awareness of gender roles based on stereotypes of who women or men should be. This statement is equally backed by the gender schema theory by Sandra Bems who reports that children learn through observation and imitation of behaviors of other humans around them. As a result, children pick up the strongest perception of gender from their parents and people around them. This propagates a gender stereotype where children not only attain but also practice gender cues as learnt from their social environment. Since the process happens in the early stages of the child’s growth, the gender stereotypes become embedded in their behaviors. Such children grow up reinforcing notions that the men and women are different and that men are the superior sex. These stereotypes continue to be exhibited in the life of the child in the form of hidden curriculum, linguistic sexism and dominance of heteronormativity. These three forms also pinpoint the main reasons for the existing inequality in education.
Research by Katherine Clarricoates and Rodgers both affirm the assertion that the educational system promotes gender stereotypes through a hidden curriculum. Comments expressed by the teachers showed that the curriculum favored men in subjects like sciences and geography while women performed well in languages and other areas that required communicative knowledge. In addition, the findings showed that boys were more aggressive and adventurous than girls. On the contrary, girls were nurturing and caring than the boys. The gender schema theory comes in handy in explaining how the attitude shown by teachers towards male and female sexes, and their division of gender appropriate activities creates gender differentiation. This becomes manifest in the gendered educational interests shown by these students. This implies that as much as gender discrimination is not visible in the official curriculum, teachers tend to create a bias which is known as hidden curriculum. Such gendered educational interests are therefore propagated based on the teachers underlying gendered behavior and believes which makes them to favor boys at the expense of the girl child. This labelling creates a self-fulfilling prophesy where boys gain a stronger self-esteem and continue to dominate over their female counterparts not only in behavior but also in academic performance. For instance, the use of harsh tone when addressing boys and soft tone for girls tend to nurture defiant and independent spirits in the former and passivity in the latter sex.
Linguistic sexism is the second form of sex differentiation ad discrimination in education. This concept is associated with the use of grammatical forms and words that denigrate girls and women while emphasizing the superiority of boys and men. This seen in the way teachers and other curriculum materials refer to animals perceived to be masculine or dangerous as ‘he’ while motherly animals as ‘she’. Such references create a damaging impression on children. The same scenario can be said of the names referred to boys when they perform tough tasks. They are often referred to as assertive, adventurous and rough while girls are referred to as bitchy or fussy. The terms used for boys amplify their positive masculine behavior while that used on girls derogate their behavior. This creates children that are gender stereotyped.
The third form of discrimination is dominance of heteronormativity. This is mainly a challenge to achieving gender equality in elementary schools since they are dominated by heterosexual stereotypes. The practice is a norm in most countries in both developing and developed societies. Heterosexual stereotypes are created by the fact that females and males tend to be attracted to each other and vice versa. This concept makes it hard to achieve gender equality. The Education Reform Act of 1988 enacted in the USA was aimed at addressing heteronormativity and helping increase opportunities for diversity of genders by ensuring that both girls and boys studied similar core subjects. By doing this, the government sought to demystify heterosexual relationships while promoting an open minded approach to homosexual relations as a way of promoting gender equality. Students who fail to conform to the heterosexual expectations of the society are often marginalized and bullied by other students. As much as this is the case, it is observed that both female and male gender are victims of such bullying. Grumet and McCoy, (2004) therefore clarify that dominance of heteronormativity is mostly exhibited in high schools where students are required to select courses of their choice. It is during such moments that inequality in education is manifested as female and male children tend to prefer some gendered courses to others. This choice leads to different occupational and educational path which furthers the existing inequality. Trueman, (2015) laments that females avoid scientific and mathematic courses which makes them ill-equipped to fight against a consistently patriarchal society.
Serres, (2016) presents a divergent view arguing that cultural norms have been a leading reason for inequality in education opportunity between male and female. As evident with my personal narration in the introduction, the society believes that women should be caring, nurturing and motherly. Their place has been reduced to the kitchen, with additional tasks being that of sexual labor and marital tokens (Kremer, Brannen & Glennerster, 2013). The deep rooted cultural factors impact ethnic perception of women which ultimately influences their psychology. These factors collectively change the gender identity of boys and girls. In fact, Yuval-Davis, (2006) notes that cultural barriers associated with sexism have promoted diminishing self-esteem and traumatization of girls. Such a perspective influences the gendered division of education, with boys being privileged in education and girls being miscellaneous, which causes a similar division in labor in the future (Mills, 2016). Some societies such as India have cultural practices where the men determine whether girls can be allowed to study or not. This culture contravenes universal laws seeking to achieve equality in gender and offer equal opportunities to both girls and boys, women and men.
The fourth reason as argued by McCullough, (2016) is patriarchy. This is the prime obstacle to the development and advancement of women. As much as the level of control of women is dependent on the society, it is certain that men control most aspects not only in the lives of women but in the society. Patriarchy prioritizes men while limiting the extent to which women can be successful. This is the reason why women have been left to feel inferior or to assume a secondary status. Serres, (2016) clarifies that the term patriarchy refers to the power relationship between women and men in any given society. The word describes a male dominated society or family. Psychologists have noted that patriarchal ideologies often exaggerate existing biological differences between women and men by making the former are always dominated by the latter. This believe has been made so strong and powerful that women themselves seek the consent of men to be dominated. This is best achieved through the church, school and other institutions which emphasize the need for male domination. Because of this, patriarchy is more like a system of social practices and structure that oppresses women, exploits and dominates them (Trueman, 2015). Mostly, there is a belief that men were born to lead and dominate over women. On the other hand, women are taught to be submissive.
In conclusion, this essay uses a personal narration to shed light on the plight of women and girls in education. It is acknowledged that the position of women in the society has for a long time been subjected to men’s opinions and decisions. This is exhibited in three primary forms of sex discrimination; hidden curriculum, linguistic sexism and dominance of heteronormativity. There is an additional reason associated with cultural factors and patriarchy which discourage women from taking initiative and controlling their destiny. The essay upholds that equal access to education and having the ability to be judged and encouraged throughout one’s educational journey fairly and with no bias is a crucial issue in growing a healthy self-esteem, building up an inner spirit of healthy competitiveness and acquiring the ability to follow one’s path through life, ignoring subjective and unnecessary influence. Unfortunately, girls and women are often deprived of such a chance because either they do not have as an equal access to education as boys or the curriculum that is taught is highly male-centrist. Subsequently, even if girls have and adopt the choice to go to school, what they will study there will not be cut out for them as much as for boys.
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