Voices of Youth

Voices of Youth: Addressing Gender Stereotypes

By Plyfaa Suwanamalik-Murphy 

Today’s ushering of a new decade brings forth a time to reflect and analyze the education system. Modern society brings in a new era of aspiring for gender equality, but the presence of gender stereotypes still clearly exists in the learning materials presented to students.

At a young age, children are susceptible to manipulation and influence from their parents, adults, and community. From “STEM gender stereotypes from early childhood through adolescence at informal science centers” McGuire, Luke, et al., states that “from as young as two-years-old children understand gender labels and begin to develop ideas about gender groups that are generalized in the form of stereotypes shortly afterwards.”

This goes to reveal the outstanding problem that exists today. The concept of gender stereotyping is a never-ending cycle due to the generalizations imposed by us at a young age, with parents, adults, and communities that have been taught by an education system that has only stressed negative gender stereotypes. In turn, these three influences may unconsciously pass the type of thinking that was imposed on them to the next generation of children, adding to the cycle.

When reflecting on this problem, there seems to be one noticeable source, the education system. While I understand this is not the only reason why gender stereotypes still exist as well as gender inequality and biases, this seems to be the main reason. Although education has made leaps and bounds into modernization and has worked to develop a thinking of equality, the materials it presents doesn’t adequately represent this claim. Education, while a source for the growth and development of children, helps explain why gender stereotypes burden children at such a young age. 

With a focus on how children encompass gender stereotypes to carry within them throughout their lives, the education system can be re-evaluated to provide a foundation for students that stresses the values of gender equality and realization of gender stereotypes.

A large majority of young children attend school, making them susceptible to the manipulation of teachers, textbooks, and the education system. These children then grow up, passing the values they learned in school to the next generation of children adding to the horrible cycle of reinforcing gender stereotypes. While the education system has demonstrated growth in the past decades for the representation and inclusion of all, the main reason why gender stereotypes and imposed gender roles flourish so much in school is because of the materials used to teach students. The teaching materials used today provide a stubborn obstacle to the further improvement and reality of gender equality.

In “Gender Equity in the Classroom,” Rebecca Alber notes that “education researcher Kathleen Weiler found that male-dominant curricular materials are prevalent in schools throughout the United States.” She also references a nationwide study, “Sadker, Sadker, and Zittleman state in their nationwide findings that male characters continue to dominate and outnumber females two-to-one in curricular materials.” With Alber’s sources, it is clear that the tools and materials used for teaching still present an environment for the curation and growth of gender inequality and stereotyping that still flourishes in modern society. Although many schools in San Francisco have made an effort to commit to gender fairness through the use of texts and resources, inaccurate and stereotypic treatment of gender still occurs often and exists in the teaching materials in use today. 

Looking ahead to a new year, hopefully, with a re-evaluation of the education system, public schools can push forward with the goal of establishing and reinforcing gender equity in the classroom. This includes a mindful curriculum, with schools offering a haven to students, with teachers enlightening and bringing flourishment to their students in a positive environment where they teach the realization of gender stereotypes, thus resulting in the deconstruction of gender inequality and setting the foundation for the growth of a society that gives a small, very small glimpse into a utopian world. 

Sources Cited:

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0193397319300930

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/gender-equity-classroom-rebecca-alber

Plyfaa Suwanamalik-Murphy is a Sunset District native, a homeschooler in her senior year and SF Youth Commissioner for District 4. You can contact her at faamurphy@gmail.com.

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