Gender divide in schools

(54 Posts)
Juno77 Mon 20-Jan-14 15:09:12

This has come off the back of a thread, not a TAAT though.

It seems a lot of people on MN have children who have birthday parties and only invite children from school of the same gender.

My DS has always had mixed parties; when he complies his guest lists he seems to have a fairly even number of boys and girls, and he gets invited to leads of girls parties(he is 9).

There doesn't seem to be this gender divide that I keep seeing on MN.

So I wonder. Is this a parental influence? A school influence? Or just the luck of the class group you are in?

Enb76 Spain Mon 20-Jan-14 15:13:42

I think it must be partly parental. My daughter is going to various parties and some are strictly gender divided. One is a sparkle fairy party, just five girls going and it's craft based glitter and glue stuff, another is a wild west party for boys and girls, my daughter wants to have a deadly 60 party and will invite some boys and girls (10 max) she's not just friends with girls so she wants a party that both can happily go to, she realises at 5 that boys don't want to go to parties about princesses. I would encourage mixed parties in general.

Juno77 Mon 20-Jan-14 15:16:40

I find it really odd.

Why would someone only invite girls to a sparkle fairy party? Unless their child wasn't making friends with the opposite gender, in which case there must be a reason, and I am inclined to agree it must be the parents influence.

PS - your daughter sounds great - DS would love a deadly 60 party!

purpleroses Mon 20-Jan-14 15:21:23

It depends at least partly on your child I think.

My DD is 10 and has always invited boys and girls to her parties - and plays happily with either sex.

DS however invited girls until about age 5 or 6 (and before that they were really just my friends' children who he played with out of school) But after that he's really had no interest in inviting girls. Friendship patterns beyond 5 are really formed during school and I don't think you have very much influence over them as a parent.

Juno77 Mon 20-Jan-14 15:27:15

So you would argue it's a nature/nurture divide?

Some children are naturally drawn to befriending the same gender, and some aren't?

Certainly in your case it would appear on the surface that there are no environmental factors; presumably both children have been brought up in the same environment.

I wonder (and this is not about 'you' specifically) if you are treating your son differently from your daughter? Somehow your DS has the feeling that girls are not welcome at his parties. Could this be that he genuinely prefers to play with boys, or has he had societal influence that boys are better than girls and don't need to play together? Or that it is okay to exclude girls?

Picturesinthefirelight Mon 20-Jan-14 15:35:10

It's my thread that started this

Ds up until the age of 8 invited both boys. & girls but usually only 1 or 2 girls ever showed up which made it awkward as the boys tended to leave them out

This year he is inviting all boys as the girls in his class want nothing to go with him, I think he gets on their nerves (ASD)

Dd never invited boys as most of them were horrible to her. However now she is in secondary in a specialist school where all the children share a common interest (dance & drama) she is friendly with boys again.

Juno77 Mon 20-Jan-14 15:39:52

Hi pictures grin

So, I wonder why the boys were leaving out the girls? Your DS aside, the other boys seemed to be displaying this behaviour as well, I wonder why?

What is making boys act differently towards girls?

Obviously there is also the issue that you perceive the girls in his class to have been irritated by him. But why were the girls irritated by him and not the boys? Was he treating them differently, or were they taking his behaviour differently than the boys were?

This is a general question, not meaning to pick on your DS at all!

I can't say as my DS has really shown a preference towards either gender. His best friend at school is a boy, but usually when I go to pick him up (ASC) he is playing with a different child. Both boys and girls, or a mixture. I've never seen them do an activity that wasn't mixed?

purpleroses Mon 20-Jan-14 15:43:04

I think I've treated my son and daughter similarly, and have always loosely encouraged (but not pressured) them to play with either gender.

But the experience of having an older brother is quite different to having a younger sister - My DD has always looked up to DS as big and exciting, and wanted to join in with his friends. Whereas DS has never wanted to play with DD and her friends - even though they'd love to play with him.

I'm sure DS feels he's allowed to play with girls from my angle, but it may be that at school it's less acceptable to include girls amoungst his peers. This is true both ways though - DD has certainly faced some difficulties in maintaining her friendships with boys during the last couple of years. She gets other girls teasing and saying "you've got a boyfriend...are you going to kiss your boyfriend?...." She now keeps her best friend who's a boy quite private - they skype each other for hours on end and play out on the street together, but I gather don't have much to do with each other at school to avoid teasing sad

Juno77 Mon 20-Jan-14 15:48:31

It sounds like a lot of this comes from the other children at school then, rather than at home.

I wonder if this is society (media/advertising etc) that is making children believe they are inherently different and shouldn't play together?

Asking children if their gender-opposite friends are their 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' is another point. Is this just something that stems from seeing parents/adult friends in couples, and assuming this is the norm?

Juno77 Mon 20-Jan-14 15:49:27

It's sad that they won't play together in school to avoid teasing.

I wonder why children are 'teased' for having an opposite gender friend? I think I am missing something grin

ErrolTheDragon Mon 20-Jan-14 15:49:54

I suspect that one of the reasons for single-sex parties is that it's a simple way of limiting the numbers without favouritism. (of course the fact that splitting this way seems 'fairer' is itself questionable!)

At DDs primary, the sort of parties where you could have lots of people (playbarns, hall-with-entertainer, bowling) were usually everybody but others with limited numbers were more likely to be split on gender lines.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Mon 20-Jan-14 15:54:11

DS is turning 9 this month. Until this year he's always had mixed parties and the overwhelming majority of the parties he's been to have also been mixed; it's just over the last year or so (8th and 9th birthdays) that there have been more invitations to boys-only parties and only really this year that invitations to girls' birthday parties have started to dry up. This year there will only be boys at DS's birthday celebration but that's because he's not having a party but is inviting a handful of close friends to the cinema and out for pizza afterwards, and his closest friends at the moments are boys.

DD1 is 6 in a couple of months and has only ever had or been to mixed parties.

purpleroses Mon 20-Jan-14 16:10:03

The teasing has definitely got worse in the last year or two - Y5/6. Before that DD played quite a lot with the boys at school - she likes their more active style of play, and wasn't so into sitting around chatting and falling out with each other (which is what she tells me the girls like to do).

The girls who tease know full well that my DD and her friend are just friends - they're not asking if he's her BF because they actually want to know if he is - it's like they do it because having a boy who is a friend once you're more than about 8 years old seems to be some sort of taboo. They're telling my DD that it's not allowed to have boys as friends any more. It is a real shame as she used to play with the boys to avoid all the girly falling out and teasing, and then finds she's getting teased because she plays with the boys. Maybe they're aware that it's not that long til they will start having proper BFs and feel my DD shouldn't be allowed to get off to a headstart confused

Single gender is the easy/lazy way to limit numbers, especially in the DDs school with combined years.

Because they alternated being taught with the year above and the year below there tended to be friendships across year groups and more likelihood of getting on well DFs siblings.

After some of the boys were very rough with an older family friend at her 6th birthday, she refused to invite the boys ever again. As I say this made enough space for girls including siblings across three years and this worked really well because everyone got on well with someone else there and lots of them could share lifts.

DD1 is nothing like as sociable and tended to smaller arty parties. Her very best DF at school in Y5/Y6 was a boy, who we took on a day out as he decided coming to a girls B'day party was a bit awkward.

EmmelineGoulden Tue 21-Jan-14 09:30:57

Single gender I'd often also reinforced by the school. I have frequently seen teachers at my children's school split the kids into boys and girls when in the playground and in a couple of the classrooms the kids's draws are split into girls and boys (and colour coded red and blue too). One area of the playground is officially designated for boys only on one day of the week and girls only on another. My kids are only reception and haven't been subject to any of this yet, but it is still clear teachers frequently think in terms of a gender divide. Also, when they go to secondary the vast majority will get places in single sex schools as that's the way the schools are around here.

Juno77 Tue 21-Jan-14 09:51:02

Seriously?! shock

If my DS school were gender segregating, I would first take him out of there, and then complain to ofsted. That's outrageous.

Gender is one way to limit numbers if you are trying to be fair. Also, I've noticed that many of the girls in my DCs classes only want (or their parents only want) to have the girls at their parties. The boys in general have whole class parties, or only invite a couple of friends.

It also depends upon the child. DS was happy to have whole class parties, but he only wanted to invite boys home for a play / sleepover etc. Although he did insist one girl was invited to his football party as he knew she loved football.

DD on the other hand plays with everyone, and invites boys and girls home. It really doesn't matter to her. When it was time for her to have her first party at school she asked to have a party where we had lots of different activities (craft things; her brother ran a football game; face painting etc.) as she said she wanted to have things everyone could enjoy.

I do despair at the number of cupcake parties DD has been invited to - They seem to be the most boring parties ever - 2 hours of decorating one cup cake, no games, no running around, just sitting quietly.

Juno77 Tue 21-Jan-14 10:30:22

'Gender is one way to limit numbers if you are trying to be fair.'

This just seems like a contradiction to me. It's anything but 'fair'.

It does seem that we are on a losing battle with equality when children are being told that they can only invite the girls/boys at primary school age because that's what's 'fair'.

purpleroses Tue 21-Jan-14 10:57:29

I guess Chrysantemum means that if everyone invites all the girls in the class to their DD's birthday (and the boys do likewise) then it's "fair" as everyone gets to go to roughly the same number of parties - whereas if they pick and choose their friends then the popular kids go to more than less popular kids. And presumably nobody can cope with 30 kids at a party.

But I'm not sure it quite works like that - there are about 15 girls in my DD's class which is more than I'd want for a party - and certainly as they get older and want sleepovers, etc.

But more importantly, it gives your child such a closed view on who they're "allowed" to be friends with - no boys, no friends from out of school, in other classes, etc - just the 15 girls in their class regardless of whether they actually like them or not.

I couldn't imagine holding a birthday party myself and inviting only my female work colleagues confused

I would say that my experience is that there's a lot less gender divide in schools than when I was a kid though - we would line up in the playground one line for girls, one for boys, boys names first on the register, etc, etc - whereas my DC's schools integrate pretty much everything.

I wonder if it's partly the mums who only have daughters who are just a bit nervous of boys?

It's not fair to say, Ok swimming pool allows 24 people.

That's your year group (22), plus your sister.

No you can't have 3 family friends DDs, the nice sisters from swimming or DFs from the year above below, because you have to invite 11 boys you don't want to and three or four who will wreck it for the more timid less competent swimmers (of either) sex.

That's not "fair" either.

And yes I'll freely admit I'm not mad on small boys and having seen some of those in DD2's class cheeking their parents, I had no wish spend money risking them ruining DDs parties.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Tue 21-Jan-14 11:20:28

But it's fair to say OK, swimming pool allows 24 people. That means once you've allowed for you and your sister, three family friends' DDs, the nice sisters from swimming and the couple of friends from the year above you have thirteen places left for your year group at school. Which of the 22 would you like to invite?

You don't get "Some children with brown hair were very rough with X once, so she refused to invite any children with brown hair ever again"; still less if you substituted "skin" for "hair". In most cases we'd actively challenge stereotypes that our children seemed to be forming for themselves, and encourage them to look beyond standard cultural stereotypes -- why is that not the same for gender? I await with interest a MN thread where someone says "we were trying to be fair, so we just invited the white children in DC's class".

Mind you, I still remember my mother's insisting that I invite some boys from school to my birthday party when I was in [the equivalent of what today would be] Year 6, and I really didn't want to. It wasn't that I didn't have male friends -- outside school I had several -- but I didn't much like any of the boys in my class and certainly didn't want them at my party. So I know it's not always cut-and-dried.

EmmelineGoulden Tue 21-Jan-14 11:31:59

Yes Juno, seriously. If I take them out of the school I have no way of getting them a better education at the moment so that would be a poor knee jerk reaction IMO. And ofstead aren't concerned with gender segregation of this sort, the most recent inspection was last year and they must have seen it. It wasn't mentioned in the report, the school is classed as good. I certainly saw plenty of the boys and girls names separated in classrooms when we looked around local schools, all of which are good or outstanding. I'm intending raising concerns when I feel they will be taken seriously. At the moment I don't think I will be seen as having standing since none of it impacts my children directly.

I don't like it, I'm just pointing out that children get this message from all over the place. As well as school you can see gender segregation supported in a lot of the media aimed at children. Magazines especially often picture pretty much just girls or just boys.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Tue 21-Jan-14 11:36:23

My primary school had a completely gender segregated playground once you were in the juniors and my parents had no idea until two of us had been all the way through it and the third was getting towards the top of the school. We'd assumed they knew so had never said anything, while it had never crossed their minds that a school would be doing anything quite so nineteenth-century in outlook (it eventually came up in casual conversation over dinner when we referred to it in passing and my parents did a huge double-take).

Juno77 Tue 21-Jan-14 11:57:13

I don't buy that at all.

If you can only manage 22 children, then you give your child a pen and paper and ask them to list 22 children that they would like to come. Telling them it's 'only fair' to invite just girls or boys is horrendous!

I just think that's awful. Why would you choose to gender differentiate your children? I can only assume this is done by the same kind of people who paint their baby boys rooms blue and baby girls rooms pink, and have cars for boys and dolls for girls etc.

It's a horrible, unhealthy attitude.

Emmeline I wouldn't let that go, to be honest. I think it is so pertinent in the upbringing of our children that we allow them to grow up believing that boys and girls are equal. If you don't think this segregation impacts your children then you are being very naive.

Children do get this message from all over the place, as you say. Media, advertising, etc. But this is NOT OKAY! There are campaigns against this, quite rightly, as it is brainwashing and indoctrinating children to the patriarchy. I am utterly shock that this is happening in your DC's school. And even more so that you don't think it is an issue sad

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