Summary of Learning: A Closer Look at WGST

This is my final post for my Women’s and Gender Studies project. To help me visualize my learning I created a word cloud of my most common words and the focus of my posts.

First of all, I want to try to make sense of my project. As an aspiring teacher, I feel the need to address the problems that hypersexualization cause, as well as the systemic oppression of females. I wanted to extend my learning about issues regarding sexuality, gender differences/gender equality, etc.. I also want to be able to teach tolerance, teach inclusively, and teach about diversity. Because of this, I tried to focus on issues that impact females more than males. I also spent some time providing information about MMIW for ELA 20 and A30.

I decided to do a culminating activity to help gather my thoughts and this video below is the result. I used the sheets of paper in “Amanda Todd” fashion, not only because she was part of my project, but also because I wanted my words to “speak louder” than my appearance.

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Teaching Intersectionality of Race and Gender in ELA A30

As I mentioned in my previous post, teaching with a Social Justice pedagogy is important to me. During my Internship, I had the opportunity to teach a sub-unit on First Nations peoples, specifically on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. We learned about stereotypes, the causes for such a high number of women in this particular group of people, the lack of awareness, etc..

As before, I have included my unit overview (FQ) and outcomes (Unit Overview Chart). These documents show which outcomes and indicators I used, as well as the literature and activities I used. I was given 8 class hours to complete this unit, so that is why it is limited. However, with my knowledge gained from Women’s and Gender Studies 100, I think I will be able to increase my selection of materials so long as I have time within the course. On a side note, before I introduced my first piece of literature, I asked my students if they had ever hear of the term Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Many of them had, but didn’t understand the big deal. Part of this misunderstanding came from not knowing the facts. When I asked if they had heard a number attached to MMIW, many stared at me with blank looks. Some guessed “a couple hundred, maybe.” One student (out of two classes and 51 students total) said 1,200. We talked about how this number was problematic because many sources have conflicting numbers. This is because some sources are using different time frames (i.e. since the 1950s, since the 1980s, since 2000). Obviously, the more recent that a source uses as the starting point, the less women will be counted. Additionally, part of the problem is that the acronym MMIW counts missing women. People argue whether these women are actually missing or don’t want to be found by their families, a.k.a. they have severed ties and therefore are not missing. From my WGST 100 class, I learned that this number is also complicated because of jurisdiction between different police forces. Some police wait a designated period of time before declaring an Indigenous woman missing or murdered. Also, there is a difference between suspicious murders. The number that my professor gave us for MMIW was much higher than I had ever previously heard in any of my research. 4,000. 4,000 FNMI women fit the category of missing or murdered in Canada alone. This number makes me very emotional and, for me at least, reinforces the need to teach young students about this topic.

I started my unit by using the website “Who is She” and selected one of the family submissions (“Panamick-Ense Family”), which appeared as a free verse poem. I chose to use this site as it was a brand new site that was only up for a few months before I started my unit. The only pitfall of this site was that because it was so new it didn’t have an extensive list of resources. The poem also helped students understand and relate to the loss of Indigenous women to their families and communities. On the same day, I had students read the article “Violence Against Indigenous Women and the Case of Cindy Gladue.” It contains mature subject matter, so it is your choice whether you want to include this article or replace it with another that discusses MMIW. I chose this article because I wanted to shock my students with the horrendous violence committed against Cindy Gladue. Afterwards, I had students work in groups of 3-4 to discuss the commonaltites of these works and complete a chart that I call the “What Chart.” Essentially, this is a three column chart that asks three “what” questions: What (is the issue), So What (why should people care), and Now What (what can be done about this issue).

We also looked at the poem “The Onondaga Madonna,” in which I lead the analysis. We spent quite a bit of time talking about the virgin/whore dichotomy and looking at the ways that the Indigenous woman was sexualized. Of course we looked at the colonization aspects, but I wanted to focus on how from contact on, Indigenous women have been sexualized and thought of as an “exotic other.” This is a dangerous concept and has contributed to the number of women who become MMIW.

Moving along to my last piece in this sub-unit, I chose to teach the Helen Betty Story through a graphic novel (The Life of Helen Betty Osborne: A Graphic Novel). Since my Grade 12’s (A30) had read Sugar Falls the previous year, instead of pre-teaching different ways to read graphic novels, I spent only a portion of the time reviewing this information, such as textual features. It was actually quite nice that my students had read Sugar Falls the year before because The Life of Helen Betty Osborne: A Graphic Novel is written by the same author so they were familiar with his writing. My questions for this text moved beyond simple feature analysis to textual analysis and how their knowledge of the unit changed as they learned more about this topic. To view my assignment, view it here: The Life of Helen Betty Osborne Questions. If you are interested in how I assessed this work, leave a comment below!

As with Sugar Falls, I bought this text (well, the new version shown below – the version displayed in the image above is no longer available). As a teacher, I strongly recommend using this piece. My Grade 12 students appreciated this piece and proved that they were not too old for graphic novels (which is a common reason that teachers don’t use them in the upper levels). As with Sugar Falls, students appreciated that they could see the emotion in the characters and visualize the story, rather than simply having information thrown at them.

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Teaching Intersectionality of Race and Gender in ELA 20

Social Justice is an integral part of the Education program. We are constantly using critical lenses and theories to examine our positionality in society, and how that gives us privileges, especially for myself as a white, middle-class, heterosexual, Christian female. Since my program strongly encourages this Social Justice pedagogy, it has been a subject that has become very important to me. Before entering this program, I was not aware of my privileges. Now, I simply want to make sure that my students receive the same education that I did in university.

I included my Unit Planning for a unit in ELA 20 so that you can have a preview of the literature I taught during my Internship. I like to use a variety of genres for my literature. In this particular unit, I used nonfiction, short stories, poems, and graphic stories/novels. This unit also has a substantial amount of First Nations content. I suggest laying a strong foundation for a classroom that is respectful to discussions of race and privilege, as well as giving a foundation of knowledge. I brought in an Elder to speak with my class. He spoke a lot about the dynamics of family and how Residential Schools disrupted the natural cycles of family life and the responsibilities of Elders, parents, and children. It was very beneficial, especially when we used Sugar Falls.

Before I talk about Sugar Falls, I want to talk about my Annotation Lesson. The pieces I used to teach this reading strategy come from First Nations authors. One focuses on Residential Schools and how the speaker was affected throughout his life from his experiences there, that is until he overcame the emotional, physical and spiritual effects. The practice piece is by Louise Halfe and goes back further into the colonization history.

One of my favourite pieces from this unit was a graphic novel called Sugar Falls. This story documents the true experience of a young girl who is forced to attend Residential School. It begins with a relatable moment for a majority of students: a reluctant student is asked to complete an assignment on Residential Schools. Sometimes students are reluctant to talk about First Nations peoples and the different ways that they have been oppressed because they do not know much about it or because they are uncomfortable with Canada’s dark history. The student interviews a Residential School survivor named Betsy. Betsy’s story is one that shows not only the devastating effects of Residential Schools, but also how Residential Schools affect the family life. Betsy is not simply abandoned, but forcefully thrown out by her mother and left to fend for herself in the cold wilderness. This is a topic that is absolutely vital to discuss with students beforehand. You see, Residential Schools have intergenerational affects. Because Betsy’s mom was also taken to Residential School as a child, when she became a mother she didn’t know how to actually be a mother. However, Betsy was adopted into a family, that is until she was taken away to school. Betsy shares her experiences in the graphic novel (I won’t spoil anymore!).

I have several reasons that this was a favourite piece within this unit. First off, it’s a graphic novel! The format makes the material more accessible to students. Plus, the graphics convey the emotions and makes the pain relatable. Also, it has this issue about how the schools affected families, mentioned above. In addition, this story is connected to Helen Betty Osborne. Betsy was friends with Helen, and eventually changes her name to Betty in memory of her friend. I bought this graphic novel for myself and I highly recommend it! The majority of my students quite liked this piece and thought that it enhanced their understanding of Residential Schools.

Included is my assignment for this text: Graphic Text Analysis for Sugar Falls. I did a lot of pre-teaching about how to read graphic novels, and the assignment mostly assesses these features and how students recognize them. Leave a comment below if you are interested in how I assessed this assignment.

**I do teach about Helen Betty Osborne in ELA A30! That will be my next post, so be sure to check it out!

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Finding Beauty in Reality Television Through Cosmetic Surgery (Reflection)

Alice Marwick’s article titled “There’s a Beautiful Girl Under All of This: Performing Hegemonic Femininity in Reality Television” leaves a reader feeling that they have a better understanding of both reality television and why some people, typically women, feel they need cosmetic surgery. Marwick provides personal testimonies from women who have appeared on the television show “The Swan.” These testimonies show how the women perceived themselves and their problems, and what solutions they feel will miraculously change their lives. Marwick provides a clear analysis of the effects of plastic surgery on women’s perceptions of themselves, which will be shown here through summarizing the show, talking about “improved” women, and how justifying the need for plastic surgery occurred. However, does cosmetic surgery actually liberate or empower women, or make one feel “better” for changing her appearance?

The reality makeover show that Marwick focusses her analysis on is called “The Swan.” The basic idea of “The Swan” is a beauty pageant with a winner at the end of the season. Each episode two women would tell the panel of experts why they wanted to be on the show, otherwise known as their testimonies. This panel of experts included a life coach, personal trainer, therapist, a cosmetic dentist, and most importantly, two male plastic surgeons. In their statements, the contestants, whom Marwick notes are always female, express what makes them unhappy about their bodies, and the limitations they feel have been caused due to their appearances. Marwick also notices that the interviews are over-dramatized by becoming “heavily edited” and adding, “melancholic music, childhood photos, and . . . standing in the rain” in order to “further the dramatic and ideological aims of the program” (p. 255-256). At the end of their transformations, one of the two competitors is selected for a position in the finale, where a winner would be chosen. The winner of the pageant gained “the ‘most expensive prize package ever rewarded on a beauty pageant,’ including a spokesmodeling contract with NutriSystem, a trip to Thailand, and a 10,000 dollar scholarship” (p. 254). Marwick also thought that the show’s creator, Nely Galán, produced a “program in which participants received plastic surgery as part of an extensive physical self-improvement regime including fitness training, hair styling, and fashion advice . . . the female participants, ostensible ‘ugly ducklings,’ received extensive cosmetic surgery and dental work, rendering them ‘glamorous’ but unrecognizable” (p. 254). Each contestant’s account tells of underlying problems that are seemingly solved by plastic surgery, and therefore allowing the woman to become proud of herself and show confidence.

Following this further should show that cosmetic surgery will “improve” a woman by making her feel powerful. This sense of power comes through an improvement on self-confidence, self-esteem, and a false sense of security. It is false because it takes away from her true physical appearance to transform it into someone else’s idea of “normal” and “beautiful.” These women become projects that need to be improved by using such phrases as, “it looks like we’ve got a lot of work to do” (p. 254). This idea of being a project is enough to make any person feel like they do not deserve to be called human, and it depersonalizes females by turning them into “objects to be worked upon” (p. 264). She also has found that some writers illustrate “cosmetic surgery patients as ‘successful, empowered women . . . who take the best possible care of themselves,’ rather than ‘insecure, weak predecessors’” (p. 253). This would mean that women who choose not to seek cosmetic procedures do not take care of themselves and are insecure, which is clearly not the case. A woman should not feel that she needs cosmetic surgery in order to have self-confidence, and that she will become any “better” for it.

However, it is true that many people think that if their appearance is enhanced they will be “better.” This idea is shown from the contestants and panel of experts to the media that displays these types of reality shows. The panel of experts twist words by saying they are using the operations because “surgical alteration [is] a means to access the true self, which has been compromised and physically suppressed” (p. 261). These people truly think that plastic surgery will solve other problems in their lives, and as Rachel Love Fraser rationalizes, “‘how you feel about yourself physically does play a part in how you react to the world and your environment’” (p. 261). Marwick (2010) states that there are many ways to justify the surgeries, such as saying that simply giving women a choice to have the operations will liberate and empower them (p. 253). She also notes that surgery is “as a conduit to personal mental growth that will create a superior personality in addition to altering the outer surface of the body” (p. 261). In the end, if cosmetic surgery needs to be defended in so many ways, can it actually provide a person with power?

Reality shows, plastic surgery, and the justification of surgery do not make a woman “better” for changing her appearance, nor does it establish any real self-esteem or self-confidence, as Marwick shows throughout her article. Still, the article leaves unresolved questions and forms new enquiries. These include how these women feel after the show is over and they return home to become “normal”. I wonder why the experts cannot stress diet and exercise as a healthy lifestyle change instead of makeover procedures? How does the choice to have plastic surgery affect the patients’ families, and especially those with influential children? Another important question is why the experts, including the therapist, cannot help with mental issues like depression to give a better body image?

References

Marwick, A. (2010). There’s a beautiful girl under all of this: Performing Hegemonic femininity in reality television. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 27:3, 251-266.

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Growing Up In a Sexualized World and What To Make of It

First of all, I know that this is a taboo subject. I debated long and hard before beginning this post. I started once and deleted it. I’m an educator. Anything I say can and will be used against me, read by my employers, students and parents of students. Talking about sexualization could be a risky subject.

“I started once and deleted it.”

I stopped because I feared that this could impact me negatively. If that doesn’t say how much educators are afraid to say something in case they get it wrong or have their name attached to something “bad” then I don’t know what does.

But here I am, I made my mind up that I am going to write about this, risky or not. My ECS 200 class required a community volunteer section, and the program I worked with was Planned Parenthood Regina (PPR). When I began working there I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know how to interact with people about this topic because I am an educator. My view shifted over time to I need to be able to discuss these issues with my students, regardless of whether I teach a Sex Ed class or not, because I am an educator. The fear that I would say or do something wrong became replaced with the fear that I might miss out on a discussion that could help these adolescents. Whether or not I talk about it in my classroom, the world my students live in is one with hyper-sexualization. Children are increasingly leaving their childhood behind earlier and earlier to become sex objects. It changes society, and it affects the behaviours of my students.

Photo Credit: oc_layos via Compfight cc
Ads feature women dressed like this to sell everyday items

Whether or not I talk about it in my classroom, the world my students live in is one with hyper-sexualization. Children are increasingly leaving their childhood behind earlier and earlier to become sex objects.

The link to the video that was shared in class today can be found here, or watched below.

I took a lot away from this video. I was taking notes while I was watching the video because some of the ideas were shocking to me. Here is a list of the quotations with my comments:

  • “Pop culture is fast becoming porn culture” due to the sexualization of celebrities and society in general. This is a concept that we are familiar with in every day life. You go to the store and the magazine rack is filled with headlines meant to attract readers through sexualization. Ads on TV feature women with unattainable features – and they are unattainable because the majority of them are photoshopped beyond recognition and come complete with a professional makeup artist. Music artists, both female and male, are being sexualized because “sex sells.” The females are wearing skimpy, revealing clothes while men wear clothing that suggests a more masculine figure.
  • “[Miley Cyrus] has to be visible in a society that is hyper sexualized… You have two choices in a hyper-sexualized society: to be F-able or invisible.” Looking back we have all seen the rapid and drastic ways in which Miley Cyrus transformed herself from a children’s actor to a teenage pop culture’s music idol. It actually disgusts me that media makes regular women feel so inferior to other women because of the way that they are sexualized. Especially at this young age girls should not be made to feel that the only kind of attention they can get will be in response to sexualizing themselves.
  • “Their (adolescents) tolerance for sexuality is very, very high… should there be a level of shockability?” This quotation references the way that society and our culture has made everything we encounter relate to sexuality in order to increase sales. It is as if the media cannot be bothered to come up with a new or original way to sell products outside of sex. Because young people are exposed more and more to this kind of behaviour, it is less shocking for them.
  • “Girls are often showing up (to school) dressed in a highly sexualized way.” Short-shorts, mini-skirts and crop tops say it all. Enough said.
  • “There is one way to be female in this culture and it is a way that sets them up for all sorts of abuse.” The idea that females have to be provocative in order to be a woman (and there is a difference between being female and being a woman) is what began that whole idea that “if women dress like that, they are asking for it.” The “it” here being sexual harassment in one form or another. Just as no guy or man deserves to be diminished by their masculinity, girls should not feel pressured to make their femininity public.
  • “As girls are bombarded with images that reinforce their value as sex objects, boys learn that is just how to treat them.” This was a big issue with me. It is now a top priority in parenting that parents teach their kids to respect themselves (targeted to girls) and to respect others (targeted towards boys). But it can’t just end there. We as teachers need to make sure we reinforce ideas of equality and justice.
  • “Teen girls can’t help but get the dominant message in pop culture: act sexy for boys.” This is a strong message directed to young people, and both guys and girls alike expect this sort of sexualized behaviour from others as well as themselves.
  • “Pornography was shaping the way I thought about my body before I even knew what pornography was.” The context of this quotation was from a young girl who basically remembers that she started shaving her legs because it was a social norm to look good for guys.
  • “Everything is saying promote yourself, flaunt yourself, exhibit yourself”
  • “To kids, private is increasingly public…online.” Adolescents show so much of themselves online – both personal details and intimate photos in some cases.
  • “If every photo on your camera or phone was instantly sent to mom and dad, would you take as many photos?” This is food for thought. I would like to use this phrase with my students some day, perhaps as a journal entry to see how kids respond.
  • “In spite of living in a hyper sexualized world, girls still hold out hope for the happily ever after ending.” Girls still want guys to be romantic and sweet, and in return guys want to be romantic but “even if they crave romance, porn may rob them of their ability of it” (last quotation directed towards guys). Because sexuality is so prevalent in our society, young males are finding it increasingly confusing as to what romance is and how it is different from a sexual encounter. There is little understanding on how to separate the two (sexual objectification and romance) in order to build a meaningful relationship.

To show an example of both how sexualization is used in our society, and how I would show it in the classroom I have included this final video. If we switch the gender roles it shows students how ridiculous society’s expectations of young women are. While the video still sexualizes women, it is nothing compared to the role reversal that the guys experience (and women in a lot of videos and media).

We would never ask a man to take his clothes off, parade around and perform for women, but girls are expected to do it everyday.

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Sex Ed or Sextortion, You Decide

Imagine you had the choice to educate others about their digital online presence. Now imagine that somewhere out there is a young girl who is being blackmailed to take photos of herself and send them to the predator or face the consequences. Well, you do, and this actually happens more and more often. Sexual extortion (a.k.a. sextortion) of minors is becoming more prevalent. This is the story of Amanda Todd and how her digital citizenship cost her her friends, respect, self-worth and unfortunately eventually led to her untimely death.

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

Amanda was in Grade 7 when she began to use her webcam and go onto live chat sites to meet new people with her friends. But even before exploring this venue of the Internet, Amanda already had an active online presence. Watch CBC’s rendition of her story here.

The video that this show alludes to is entitled My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self-harm, in which Amanda uses flash cards to describe her story of sextortion, bullying and struggles with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

Amanda flashed the camera while unknowingly a viewer took a freeze-frame (screenshot) and posted it to a porn site. Then the link was sent to all of her Facebook friends, including her mother. Returning to school she became “slut-shamed” and called nick-names like “cam whore,” “porn star”  and asked “Are you doing this on a regular basis?” She was embarrassed and began to have anxiety and depression because of the regular bullying and teasing within her school.

Amanda and her mother went to the police to notify them that a blackmailer was asking for more videos and threatening her. The extortionist told her that if she did not send him new videos of her performing for him, then he would send the picture of her exposing herself to everyone she knew. This would be the second time, but for a new crowd because Amanda was constantly moving and changing schools to get away from the bullies. It was the second notification to RCMP in 6 months of blackmail. Soon after they contacted the police, the school was sent the photo so they contacted the police on Amanda’s behalf as a minor.

During the document the host says, “Her parents told her to stay away from the sites that would cause her trouble, but Amanda wouldn’t…or couldn’t.” Amanda seemed to have a craving or need for attention but was unsure of how to fulfill it, so it came out negatively. At school she faced problems with ADHD and being laughed at from her previous mistake, so she turned to online crowds and individuals for friendship. This is not uncommon in modern society. The adolescents most at risk for being taken advantage by someone online are those who are not able to fit in at school. They turn to social media sites and chat groups to make friends and feel better about themselves. Unfortunately for some teens they are being targeted by others who want to take advantage of young people. The host says to an officer “When you first started it used to be that the ‘creepy old man’ on the Internet was 65, now the ‘creepy old man is 25′” responded by nodding and saying “Or younger.”

“You can edit yourself”

What shocked me the most, and this was very much the intention, was when the host compares Amanda’s online stalker and blackmailing situation to that of a girl being stalked in a park. The police would suggest to stay away from the park, but would still try to find him. Here is the clincher: “Where else would they tell a teenage girl that the best option is for her to protect herself?”

A year after the sextortion started, her anxiety and depression had grown so much that she began to self-harm by cutting herself. Her bullying was so great that people would tell her they would throw a party if she died. So Amanda created her video (link above) as a response. Her mother states, “Her video was not a suicide video but a release. She wanted her story out there, especially to the people that were harassing her” (from CBC’s documentary). Amanda was standing up for herself in a world that endlessly tormented her, and she was also bringing awareness to cyber-bullying, bullying in her schools, and physical assault from her peers. Amanda had planned to get a tattoo with the motto “stay strong” to remind her of what she had in life before she cut herself again. Unfortunately, she passed away from self-harm before she got it.

After her death, 20 officers were assigned to her case. At the time that the CBC made this document, the host mentions that the investigation was still on-going, and the police made no comments. However, in January 2014, police arrested a man in a case involving multiple victims in the Netherlands, UK, and Canada. A few months later they charged the 35-year-old man identified as Aydin Coban with indecent assault, extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography for his alleged activities against Amanda Todd and other child victims, both male and female. Click here for a CBC article with a copy of the transcript from one of Amanda’s interactions with this man and brief follow up, including an arrest.

So where does this fit in with Digital Citizenship? The better question is where doesn’t it? With this many connections it is hard to find a good place to start.

Photo Credit: Ken Whytock via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ken Whytock via Compfight cc

Digital Access: From a young age Amanda had access to electronics and the Internet. Her early days recording herself signing to music was a precursor of her ability to navigate online. Through her parents she was able to access the Internet on her own laptop and was then given a webcam.

Digital Communication: Amanda was navigate different sites, chat rooms and social media sites like Facebook. Any communication that occurs online or through electronics is part of Digital Communication.

Digital Literacy: When it comes to this section, Amanda was pretty literate with the sites she used, but perhaps did not understand each sites full potential (i.e. that someone could screenshot her flashing the camera), which leads into Digital Law and Digital Rights and Responsibilities. Amanda would not have rights to the image that was taken without her consent. In addition, each person is responsible for their electronic deeds and actions. Ultimately Amanda’s extortionist was caught and arrested, but this is not the case for all online predators.

Digital Health and Wellness: I think that this section fits in with Amanda’s experience because she became focused on her online self-image. The documentary notes that “Amanda was getting transfixed by her image on the screen.” I think this happens to a lot of people. We are constantly checking how we look before our image is captured to make sure it is taken “just right.” In Amanda’s case it appears that she was not balancing her online self-image and it became unhealthy for her.

Digital Security: This section is simply about taking pre-cautions and preventative measures while on electronics to guarantee your safety whether it be from personal information, banking information, videos and images or hackers.

Amanda most likely did not have a sufficient understanding of all of these concepts, as do many of our young teens. As a feature teacher, I plan to discuss issues like these with my students so that my students will be aware of the dangers of the Internet. I don’t want to create fear or prohibit use of the Internet, but I think it is extremely important for parents and kids to know what can go wrong. Speaking of parents, click here to see which apps pose potential dangers for kids that parents should be concerned about. If your child has this app, I would strongly recommend sitting down and discussing Digital Citizenship.  The clip below shows teens starting to explore ideas of Digital Citizenship based on seeing Amanda Todd’s video.

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Social Media Max via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Social Media Max via Compfight cc

“Her impulsive gesture was immortalized on the website for anyone online, anywhere”

“She knew that she did something wrong, but she also knew that there was nothing she could do anymore because the damage was already done”

“In the age of the Internet there are online predators that can make sure you pay for a mistake for the rest of your life”

“For many kids the Internet is an endless popularity contest where popularity is measured in how many likes or views you are getting”


Before you take off, I would like to share a last important message from the documentary “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd.” If you need to report online abuse please go to a site like cybertip.ca, or if you need to find out more about online predators check out cbc.ca/fifth.

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The Search for Gender Equity Regarding Literacy in the Classroom

 

Amanda Keddie and Martin Mills wrote an article in 2007 that discussed concerns about teaching gender equity to students, titled “Teaching for Gender Justice.” I chose this article because I thought it had an interesting feature in that it did a study and interview on two opposite teaching methods about gender issues. The article then made comparisons based on the two styles of the teachers. The study takes place in Queensland, Australia. The article points out that there is a discrepancy between the literacy ability of boys and girls. It lists several foundations that contribute millions of dollars to programs that would enhance the education of boys. Keddie and Mills state that placing boys as a special group does not address the problems; rather, it only makes the gender disparity more obvious and harder to fix because of the promotion that exists (para. 5).

The study shows that a male teacher, Brad, and a female teacher, Jennifer, both find ways to address the issue of engaging boys in schoolwork. Brad uses a friendly approach that shows he is involved with his students outside of the classroom. However, this approach also forces him to establish who is the “alpha male” in the classroom, and exploits negative behaviour to the girls in the class. While he manages to engage the boys in the classroom, he becomes unsuccessful at engaging the girls, as well. Jennifer’s approach shows her students that there are stereotypical ideas of what it means to be an Australian male, and that it is okay not to conform to that image. She shows that male dominance is harmful to both the males and females in the class. She uses her readings and curriculum materials to teach about gender equity through critical analysis of the text. She also “challenge[s] the relations of entitlement or privilege associated with traditional masculinity […] such as the tendency for boys to dominate” (Jennifer’s philosophies and practice, para. 1). The article concludes by implying that while Brad had good intentions, his way undermined students and Jennifer’s was preferred because she taught her messages with critical texts, discussed male dominance and addressed stereotypes.

The main idea that arises from this reading is that gender equity can be addressed both professionally and unprofessionally, and that it is important to recognize that it marginalizes groups of people. Keddie and Mills claim, “Affirmative gender politics […] in working to valorise gender specificity, tend also to [re-inscribe] essentialised constructions of masculinity and femininity and homogenise multiplicious identities associated with, for example, sexuality, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity” (para. 5). This means that promoting gender differences can marginalize people because it forces males to identify with certain masculine ideologies, such as being a heterosexual man with a dominant attitude. Gender differences also allows them to overlook any privileges received based on gender, which can lead to more privileges based on race and social status. Keddie and Mills also point out that one image that is associated with masculinity is underachieving in academic areas, because “working hard and being diligent [are seen] as ‘feminine’ and ‘other’” (para. 8). The idea that a man can strive to succeed in school is not accepted as masculine in some places, and is stereotyped that only girls and people of other races can get good grades. The two methods in this study achieve a common goal of engaging the male students: “Brad does so by reinforcing dominant constructions of gender, whilst Jen seeks to problematize such constructions” (para. 11). Brad manages to gain popularity with the boys, and therefore interest, but it is Jen who discusses the subject with her students and engages them in critical analysis.

The idea that gender differences can marginalize people resonated with me because of the evidence shown, and personal expedience. The article says that Brad had a hard time connecting with the female students and engaging them, and that it became such a problem that it was required to have a female coordinator in order for the girls to relate. I remember my own high school experiences with popular younger male teachers. While it was easy for him to connect with the boys on his sports teams, the boys who were not in those extra-curricular activities and the girls sometimes found him hard to approach because of his attitudes. I feel that Jennifer’s stance on gender equity is more appropriate than Brad’s, and it sends a clear message on an important, yet often unmentioned, subject. That is not to say that I disapprove of all of Brad’s ideas. I agree with Brad that it is important to form relationships with students, and have respect towards one another. Jennifer also shows respect to students and their views, as well as challenging stereotypes, inspiring students to get past these narrow ideas, and discouraging behaviour that marginalizes gender differences. I think this is very important, and difficult to teach without the aid of critical texts, which she uses. It would be great to be able to balance Brad’s technique with Jennifer’s, so that students feel a connection and learn a valuable lesson.

I hope that when I am a teacher I can find resources that show male dominant privilege, feministic viewpoints, and challenge stereotypes. Since Jennifer taught English, which is my area of specialty, I am confident I will be able to find the sources appropriate for my lessons. In addition, I would like to take more gender-based classes that would teach me more about these viewpoints, and also how to incorporate them into my lessons. I looked at several classes and think that Sociology 212 would be an excellent choice because the course focuses on gender, femininity, and masculinity. Sociology 313 is another course devoted to feminism, and it would be helpful. A great collection of classes to take to learn more about gender equity would be Women’s and Gender Studies. I would like to try taking some of these classes because gender equity is still a major issue and should be addressed in classrooms. I think gender equity workshops would also be a good resource for learning more about this topic, and it would be beneficial for students to participate in a workshop and hear guest speakers. I would also like to invite an Elder into my classroom to bring connections with Aboriginal learning for students and discuss the important roles both genders play in their society.

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