There’s so much talk nowadays about gender. Binary, non-binary, fluid, female, male, the list seems never ending especially when the majority of us have been brought up knowing only two and those two have been so separated that we find it difficult to see how they can merge.
A few weeks ago there was an incredibly interesting programme on BBC One investigating if a gender neutral classroom would aid a child’s learning, the clip above is taken from this programme.Now I won’t lie and say I wasn’t sceptical about this to begin with as it’s so ingrained into our attitudes towards gender that they should be separate and even as quite an open minded 19 year old I still think that. Spoiler Alert; my mind was changed.
This programmes showed how making small changes in a classroom can increase confidence, help children express emotions and breakdown gender stereotypes all in a one-r! Our society is full of little niggles of discrimination and its not until you think about them that you notice them. The pupils in the Primary 3 class took a short test to evaluate their thoughts and abilities to be able to track their progression throughout the experiment. The first thing that was “abolished” so to speak was the teacher using separate pet names for boys and girls to encourage the children to stop seeing each other as different, something so simple made a huge difference on the children’s mind set. One of the actions to be taken that really interested me was that positive slogan were put up around the round further embedding the fact that boys and girls are the same into the everyday lives of the children. “Boys are funny”, “Girls are clever”, “Boys are sensitive” and “Girls are strong” were just a few of the positive messages but this was done with the aim of improving the confidence of the girls in the classroom. During the initial test they found that the girls in the class were underestimating themselves about their performances and achievements while the boys managed to accurately predict their performances. I just found this so interesting as I couldn’t think of their upbringings being much different between boys and girls but through media and the world around us girls as young as 7 thought so lowly of themselves.
In our workshop we were shown the clip above and I just think this clip really encapsulates how our society views gender. Whether or the not the adults meant it, they automatically were drawn towards the stereotypical choice of toys and even in some cases they were deciding the children liked these better. It was so interesting to see how the adults unconsciously made these decisions even though they were actually playing with a child of the opposite gender.
Slowly but surely our society is beginning to see the problems that these gender stereotypes have created and while it won’t happen tomorrow, we are on the way to a more equal world referring to gender.
The Values: Self, Society and the professions module is not one I thought I’d ever find myself doing. At school I mainly studied scientific subjects as I found myself on the numerical side of the 50:50 Maths vs. English divide. I truly believed that this was because I was better at Maths and Science than I was at having to write a story but as I work through this module (which ends with a 2000 word essay that I am far too intimidated by) I think that might not be the case.
We were asked this week during our Values workshop to discuss if we had had any thoughts during the module so far that where difficult or posed questions to us that our lecturer could maybe help with. The only thing that came to my mind then was that I’d never actually thought about how I was feeling when discussing sensitive issues, why? Because I don’t like thinking about myself. I’ve come to realise that the reason I’ve always preferred maths over English is because I couldn’t bring myself to write about anything personal (something I’m slowly trying to rectify with this blog). Being able to reflect your own thoughts and views in writing and putting it out the world is difficult but I think is certainly something I can build on.
I walked into our first lecture of this module and had no idea what to expect. We kept being made aware to the fact that this module can be quite personal, depending on how much you want to share, and to be respectful of others. I think as this module continues we will all find it a bit easier to open up to each other and reflect on our views and it challenges us.
For example, we were shown a clip of a speech the Irish drag queen Panti Noble wrote in response to some homophobic comments during the run up to the marriage equality vote in Ireland. In this clip Noble says that everyone in that room is homophobic as well as herself, an extremely controversial opinion but one I agree with. Noble makes her case by saying that none of us have fully accepted the LGBT+ community as there is still a stigma around it, we all see it as different. While some of us may see it as good difference and others bad we still see it that way and Noble proposes that is what makes us homophobic. This statement really challenges you to think about how you see the world as after a brief discussion with a few peers around me we discovered that even while not meaning to we treat people differently by either noticing them more or making base judgements before thinking them through. What I found really interesting was the way Noble called herself homophobic as she proposes that because she tries to ‘butch up’ or act differently around certain people to please them she is homophobic. Its definitely an interesting discussion and one I might look further into in the future.
During the workshop last week when we were asked if any questions had been raised due to the module our whole group went silent and no one really gave any input. I believe that this input is challenging us more than we know and hopefully, with time, we will be able to talk more openly about these issues society has with itself.
I, like most people I hope, don’t think of myself as a racist. I define a racist as someone who makes decisions or judgements based on their preconceptions of someone and I don’t put myself in that category.
However, during a lecture the other week we spoke about conscious and unconscious bias and I really like these terms. I think we all do possess an unconscious bias and to an extent a conscious hidden bias as I certainly catch myself making a comment to either a friend or just thinking something that if said to the wrong person could be offensive. I believe that thinking these things doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a racist. In our society we are surrounded by sayings, attitudes and behaviours that can alter our perspective on topics such as race and ethnicity. I’m sure we all had grandparents that would use a term that certainly wasn’t politically correct but you would know that they wouldn’t mean it as a derogatory term, or if they did it would most likely be because that’s what they were brought up saying. We all possess this unconscious bias that we accept as normal but other may not.
Nowadays we are much more open and that is a fact. The next generation seem to have really embraced every walk of life you’ve heard of and probably some you haven’t. At the beginning of our lecture covering this topic we were asked to note down a few words that showed our understanding of Racism, ethnicity and discrimination, my words were
colour country pride preconception nationality community
bias sexuality gender bigotry hurtful self doubt
After a some thought and considering the ideas covered in our lectured I stand by my initial thoughts but would add a few more in such as fear, embarrassment and suspicion. I feel I have a further understanding of racism but not enough to truly understand it and I don’t think anyone really can. One thing I can say a that I took away from these lessons was a sense of confusion. I don’t know if I will ever be able to understand how people can treat other people with such disgrace. We are all human after all. While I may have a few rogue thoughts every now and then I really do believe everyone is equal which apparently is not everyone’s thoughts if we refer to recent events around the world.
To end on a light note, there is a song from the musical Avenue Q that I feel really encapsulates everyday bias. It touches on unconscious bias and I think, no matter open minded you are, everyone can relate to this.