G is for Gender

| May 4, 2014

G is for Gender

I would like to take a second and contrast Merriam-Webster’s definition of “gender” with Wikipedia’s definition:

Merriam-Webster defines gender as:

  • the state of being male or female
  • grammar : one of the categories (masculine, feminine, and neuter) into which words (such as nouns, adjectives, and pronouns) are divided in many languages

Wikipedia states that:

  • Gender is the range of physical, biological, mental and behavioral characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, the term may refer to biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity.

I was quite surprised to see Merriam-Webster’s definition to be so broadly exclusive of gender roles and identities that fall outside the male/female dichotomy.

The topic of gender isn’t really something that’s talked about a lot in schools. Like things such as race or class, gender is something that is meant to be accepted but, often times, somewhat ignored. The “color blind” attitude toward diversity is translated into a “gender blind” approach to curriculum. However, I think these are both mistakes.

Quite obviously, like a student’s class or ethnicity, a student’s gender will affect them. How they identify themselves, what notions of gender and gender roles they have been taught and seen in the media all affect how and what a student learns.

I don’t have any preconceived theories about what role gender plays in education (yet), but I do believe it is something to be addressed, rather than ignored. I think schools need to open themselves up to the diversity of “gender” and what that means for traditional schooling (and how it needs to evolve). As some of my earlier posts have indicated, I strongly believe in feminism which proposes that traditional gender roles be questioned and systems of oppression demolished. Rather than shy away from this task (because it’s too “controversial”), we need to embrace the radical opportunity to educate a future generation that accepts and empowers all peoples.