It's amazing that so much of a kid's school day is wrought with conflict. Whether it's school dress codes or the curriculum itself, schools can often perpetuate gender stereotypes without even knowing it. Which is exactly why one dad's viral letter about sexism at his daughter's school should make you proud. School administrators and educators: Take note.
Stephen Callaghan posted the letter that he wrote his daughter Ruby's school when she came home and told him about an upcoming field trip. For boys only. He wrote:
When Ruby left for school yesterday it was 2017 but when she returned home in the afternoon she was from 1968. I know this to be the case as Ruby informed me that the "girls" in Year 6 would be attending the school library to get their hair and make-up done on Monday afternoon while the "boys" are going to [a hardware store].
Yes, you read that right. The girls were going to get all glammed up in the library and the boys were going to go look at tools and get to take selfies in wheelbarrows or whatever it is 12-year-olds do at a hardware store. Both of those activities sound fun, but Callaghan's point was that everyone should get to do what they want. Or at least do something that wasn't forcing kids into gender roles.
Callaghan closed his letter by writing, "I look forward to this being rectified and my daughter and other girls at the school being returned to this millennium where school activities are not divided sharply along gender lines." Can we get a round of applause for this dad? People on social media responded so positively to his letter that Callaghan and Ruby responded with a follow-up. He wrote:
Ruby and I would like to thank you for the great comments of support. At 12 years of age my daughter is starting to notice there are plenty of people prepared to tell her what she can & can't do based solely on the fact she is female. She would like this to change. So would I.
With all of the news these days about sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, it can feel like it's impossible to change the status quo. But calling out sexism when you see it is the first step to enacting change. Not only did Callaghan make the school rethink its gendered field trips (hopefully), but he definitely showed his daughter that calling sexism what it is when she sees is definitely the way to go.
That's empowering AF. And really, what were they thinking when it came to makeovers and tools for each group of kids? There had to be some other, just as inexpensive ways to amuse the kids for a few hours. You know, like going to a science museum or a library. Even on Mad Men, they all just took the kids to a farm. Teaching girls to put on lipstick is outrageous.
In a study published by Accenture earlier this year, 57 percent of teachers admitted to subconsciously stereotyping girls when it came to classroom activities and teaching them STEM subjects and activities. These subconscious perceptions about what girls and boys enjoy and are capable of has real life consequences.
According to the same study, 50 percent of girls in the 7 to 11 years old age group find math and science "enjoyable," but by the time they're 11 to 14 years old, that number drops to less than a third of girls.
Girls and boys aren't inherently better at or interested in certain things, it's all about how much exposure they have. So splitting the boys and the girls up to go do different activities is definitely not the way to close the gender wage gap, the gender gap in STEM, and sexism altogether. What happens throughout the school day is a lot more important than we realize sometimes. Good on this dad for calling out the school. Hopefully he'll inspire other parents to do the same.
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