Burning the bra - the battle for gender equality begins with us

Guest Post by Ben Jackson

As a proud 21st-century type male nothing thrills me more than archaic feministic views. Don’t get me wrong… I appreciate that women did their time having been considered the lesser sex, but now that the shoe is on the other foot I don’t like it! As a minority in education, the Male Educator, is not too dissimilar to the legendary and elusive Yowie, they are both hairy and have bigger feet than you. Some of us reading this may have been lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of or even directly work with ‘the token male’.  So why has the Male educator allowed himself to become extinct, and How could the use of appropriate gender-neutral language in early childhood now, prevent a continuance of inequality for both sexes?

We as educators are, albeit subconsciously, fueling gender stereotypes across Early Childhood and perpetuating the evolution of uniformity for the genders.  Whilst we continue to battle against greater influences such as the roles parents and guardians select to play, as teachers in Early Childhood, we do have prolific opportunities to guide alternate gender thinking in children.  From the language utilised, to the learning spaces and materials which furnish them.  Children observe their own parents gender roles in the home but those attending a daycare setting witness educators of these settings recording a greater opportunity for influence.  Our settings hold a tremendous authority in developing appropriate gender significance. It cannot be avoided how the family unit will interact; this element is outside of your control as an Educator however by empowering positive messages around gender roles students will be less likely to perpetuate those stereotypes and aid an end to the prejudice cycle.

To teach gender equity, the first steps emerge as understanding self-worth and the maintenance of respectful relationships with peers. How many of us who have had the opportunity to work with a male educator expect them to assert their ‘authority’ over unruly schoolies or run the BBQ at an event or how many of us have put a call out in a kindergarten room for some strong boys with big muscles to lift the heavy table?  We are fundamentally robbing women and girls of their own right to equality in these scenarios.  Additionally, what we are unwittingly doing, is cementing those negative gender stereotypes onto impressionable minds.   Discontinuing the use of these gender labels takes away the excuse we unknowingly create (Scantlebury, 2009).

Looking to the likes of the O’Doherty report which encourages that boys are craving a place in education and if a reform of pedagogy is not reached it will continue to be to their own detriment.  Having become social commentary through the media, the energies put behind addressing an equilibrium for female students has seen a decrease in effectiveness for male students. Are the poor rates of academic success in regards to fundamentals for both early childhood and primary schooling of boys, resulting in an absence of males continuing onto higher education?  In conjunction with an overcompensating education model, it seems that our philosophies on gender stereotypes are irresolute. The change that is required is how we view gender roles.

Unpacking the way we look at and utilise males in education is the initial step towards finding a solution.  As a male Educator, I never wanted to be a brilliant Male Educator but simply a brilliant educator.  Can we start by celebrating the differences between genders in place of berating them? Tit for tat isn’t a constructive solution to this argument. We can all learn a great deal from one another instead of holding petty grudges around what we might be missing out on.  As a 21st-century type male, I’m taking out and waving a white flag for unity. Help be the difference and destroy intolerance by acknowledging the power of one! Men used to be from Mars and Women from Venus but we are all here on Earth now.