I remember in psychology class back in high school, we learnt about the education of children and the way advertisements and commercials affect children and their perception of who they are and what is acceptable in society.
Why is this relevant? Wollstonecraft talks about the education system, or lack thereof, for women during the time which she wrote The Vindications. She talked about how women were constructed by men, in that their education stemmed from the desires of men essentially wanting trophy wives, disregarding women’s humanity and seeing them as objects. Nowadays, of course, this has radically changed as education throughout the majority of the world is seen as equal where men and women are allowed to undertake in whichever field they choose. However, as learning is a lifelong process, the education of children is significant in their development into adults.
The reason I am bringing psychology into this is because mainstream education in the form of schooling is not the only way in which girls can be objectified and disregarded. Humans take in their surroundings, and the objectification of females in advertisements shine a light on the fact that the inferiority of women has now shifted from mainstream education into an everyday sort of education. Ads of the perfect women (thin, toned, blemish free, etc) are found all around and simply seeing this every single day can have a negative effect on young girls. Needless to say, women still have a ways to go in order to truly become equal to men.
Now on the other side of the argument: males, boys in general, might be experiencing some difficulties in mainstream education. I’ve come across an interesting TEDtalk about re-engaging boys into learning because there has been a trend of boys dropping out of school in recent years. One interesting point that the speaker points out is the expectations for boys to behave like girls in a classroom setting, where boys are told to “be more like the girls” and sit quietly and listen to instructions. This seems like a reverse of what Wollstonecraft may be referring to in her time, when education was targeted to males. Now, early education seems to value girls more than boys simply for their characteristics (girls are quiet and calm while boys are loud and fidgety). I guess this empowers girls in someways, saying they are the model students in classroom settings simply because of their stereotyped nature of a calm demeanor as opposed to boys, but doesn’t this then disregard boys and their nature?
Oh, the balance of gender equality, so easily tipped to one side or the other.
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I really like your point here about how education extends beyond school, so we have to think about how people are educated by things like the media as well. And yes, it’s hard not to agree with the point that there are still quite a few problematic images of women in the media, unrealistic images that are impossible to live up to because no one actually looks like that.
And I didn’t really know that about boys and primary education, though now that you mention it I do see that it makes sense. Having a boy who is now in grade 1, who doesn’t like just sitting there listening to the teacher but who’d much rather be “doing something,” I can certainly see it from a personal point of view. And it does make sense to say that this seems to be tipping the balance in the other direction. If I remember correctly, I think that even at the university level women tend to do better in terms of marks and graduating than men (at least in N. America). At least, this article from the New York Times says that was the case in the US, around 10 years ago. And this article from Inside Higher Education suggests that this is still the case (though again, the data may be limited to the US). So perhaps the gap in schools extends all the way from primary school through to university.
On another note, could you reactivate the plugin that allows commenters to check the box to get an email if there are replies? Go to “plugins” and activate “subscribe to comments.” Thanks!
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