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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Gender Stereotyping in Reception Class

29 replies

NumTumDeDum · 11/06/2013 22:45

Went to visit dd's new school yesterday. Had lunch in the hall, then the children went to meet each other in a classroom whilst the parents supposedly had a tea and a chat.

Lunch ended up being a boys table and a girls table. Not pre determined but like sheep the parents sat that way with their child. The tea and chat turned into a parenting class, which we were not told beforehand, and frankly I found patronising. During the talk the teacher came around with name slips on which she was writing each child's name so that they could practice it. Quite why this was necessary is another matter altogether. These slips had pictures on them. I chose a rocket, which elicited oh that's unusual from the teacher.

The talk culminated in a suggestion to put little notes in your child's lunchbox and the woman had printed out suggested notes. She then asked each of us whether we wanted boy or girl. She remembered I had a girl, presumably because of the rocket and automatically gave me one of those. It was full of pictures of tinkerbelle and flowers and said things like 'I put some fairy dust in your lunch box today because I love you'. I asked what was on the boys sheet and was told it was mainly football related. The head was present throughout this.

I very much wanted to pick her up on this but decided against it at the time because I had a very restless 6 mo and dd needed to be collected. I don't think this should go unchallenged. Dd already says things to me along the lines of I can't do that, that's for boys.

My question is, what do you think would be the best way to go about it?

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SugarandSpice126 · 11/06/2013 23:59

I can't believe some teachers, of all people, can be so ignorant.. I would definitely challenge. Do you think you could talk to some other parents who might agree, and those who generally would want to discuss ways to make sure things aren't so split by gender? You could always do some quick research to show that such attitudes have been proven to affect the way the children grow up to think about 'boys' and 'girls' things and therefore what they can and can't do. Have had a quick google and there is quite a bit of research on this.

If you can pick up any other examples like this that might also be good, and you could list them all when you arrange a meeting with the teacher/head if necessary. It is so important at this age that children aren't forced into the girl/boy boxes, so I hope they do take it seriously..

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SugarandSpice126 · 12/06/2013 00:03

I can't believe some teachers, of all people, can be so ignorant.. I would definitely challenge. Do you think you could talk to some other parents who might agree, and those who generally would want to discuss ways to make sure things aren't so split by gender? You could always do some quick research to show that such attitudes have been proven to affect the way the children grow up to think about 'boys' and 'girls' things and therefore what they can and can't do. Have had a quick google and there is quite a bit of research on this.

If you can pick up any other examples like this that might also be good, and you could list them all when you arrange a meeting with the teacher/head if necessary. It is so important at this age that children aren't forced into the girl/boy boxes, so I hope they do take it seriously..

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SugarandSpice126 · 12/06/2013 00:04

Sorry double post, not sure how!

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steppemum · 12/06/2013 00:21

I think I would write a nice letter to school, support and challenge

eg

thank you for the parents session yesterday, we really appreciate the effort the school makes to welcome new parents (yaddah yaddah)

I did notice that they was more gender stereotyping than I would have expected in this day and age (give examples)

I have always encouraged dd to see all toys and opportunities as being open to boys and girls. I do trust that this is not something that occurs in the classroom, and that equality of opportunity in terms of gender, race and disablity are reflected in classroom practice as they are in your prospectus.

Thank you again for the opportunity to meet the teachers, the classroom looked very interesting and dd is looking forward to sept.

etc


I always find that those sort of letters get a good response form school. Positive, supportive, clear point backed by evidence in the middle.
I bet you will find it is changed PDQ.

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steppemum · 12/06/2013 00:24

when I did my teacher training (way back in 1991) we were always encouraged to do nothing by gender. So don't say 'boys line up' and then 'girls line up' but use some other means.
I actually find (some) modern parents and teachers more stereotypical than 20 years ago, not sure why, but I think the pink frills clothes companies have a lot to answer for

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WoTmania · 12/06/2013 09:56

I think Steppemum's letter is well worded and to the point. Something like this would immediately put me off a school and I would definitely want clarification that it wouldn't be the norm when they were actually at school.

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EskSmith · 12/06/2013 10:45

Wow I am shocked at that from a teacher! The prospect of sending my children into that environment would make me uncomfortable. You really must address it.

I think Steppemum's letter is really really good.

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5madthings · 12/06/2013 10:48

This would have really pissed me off! I have a boy who would love the fairy stuff and hate the football stuff!

I agree with steppemums letter as a first course of action.

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UseHerName · 12/06/2013 10:51

hmm Hmm I wouldn't be happy

link them to this

www.tolerance.org/publication/gender-doesnt-limit-you

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burberryqueen · 12/06/2013 10:55

silly woman, what about the boys who hate football or the girls who are interested in a bit more than 'fairy dust' - disgusting actually but i am sure steppemums's letter would be more effective than anything i could compose.

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YoniMatopoeia · 12/06/2013 11:02

This would make me completely stabby.

Yes send letter.

This stuff is just fucking relentless isn't it?

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UptoapointLordCopper · 12/06/2013 11:04

There will be those who believe that boys and girls are somehow inherently different. I wrote a very eloquent (Hmm Grin) post about this once but can't find it again. Perhaps if you do come across this attitude it would be worth pointing out even if they believe that there are some traits that are more prominent in boys or girls the individual variations must be so great as to make this meaningless. Where does it leave the girl or boy who likes fairy dust and football? In short, by stereotyping and not treating children as individuals you risk letting down almost everybody. Also, stereotyping this way encourages children to form into antagonistic groups. Surely we do not need more antagonism in the world! One hopes to see school policies that encourage cooperation instead of antagonism, that encourage children to see similarities and have empathy, rather than to see difference.

Unless, of course, they look into kids' knickers to check their genitalia before they allow them to do anything. Grin In my book if you don't need to do this you don't need to point out their gender.

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom · 12/06/2013 11:28

Yes, I would be raging. I think Steppemum's letter is really good. I would have to hold back on the crossness to add in the support!

It's not just about boys sheets and girls sheets is it? Even the most sports-mad child isn't necessarily crazy about football. I have two girls, and since neither DH or I like football, at reception age they are far more likely to be interested in other sports. As well as the gender stuff, it really isn't helpful to put children in one of two mightily limited boxes.

That recent AIBU thread about the children's parties said 'what a silly thing to worry about'. I was trying to explain that it was the relentless drip, drip, drip of gendered boxes that drives me crazy, but lots of people just couldn't see it. This is another example of that.

I'd think about trying to arrange a meeting with the head. You could always slip her a copy of Cordelia Fine Grin

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Bue · 12/06/2013 12:01

WTF is going on in the world today? This kind of bullshit gender stereotyping didn't exist when I was in reception in the early 1980s!

Very restrained and effective letter from steppemum, I think.

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NumTumDeDum · 12/06/2013 12:56

Thanks everyone. To be honest the whole event made me stabby, so I wasn't in the best mood when we got to the overt stereotyping.

Unfortunately I didn't get my school of choice, this was the next best option but they've only just come out of special measures. I haven't got a choice about moving her, we are on the waiting list elsewhere but not holding out very much hope. Given that we are likely to have to stay, I don't want to ruffle too many feathers but equally I see no reason why children should be pigeonholed and divided in such an unnecessary way. I like the letter but as I've only limited examples I think I will hold off until the next visit next month when I will be able to add more examples.

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grimbletart · 12/06/2013 13:33

This goes back to a point I made in another thread somewhere.....

My kids were born in the 60s and 70s and there was far less of this gender stereotyping nonsense then. It seems to have exploded in the 90s, 2000s as the pink shit started.

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom · 12/06/2013 13:37

I agree grimble. It wasn't around much when I was a kid in the early 80s either. Then marketers cottoned on to how many hand-me-downs you could prevent by gendering every toy and item of clothing.

But it's all genetic you know

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MorphandChas · 12/06/2013 14:48

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Thisisaeuphemism · 12/06/2013 18:52

Great letter steppe mum.

Crazy stereotyping.

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FreyaSnow · 12/06/2013 19:16

The boy bit seems worse than the girl bit. If you don't care about Tinkerbell it's fairly easy to find other topics that you can have in common with other children. If the school is going to assume that boy= football that is part of setting up the stereotype that proper boys play football which is a massive, visible social activity that dominates playground space. It pushes out boys who don't like it and sets them up for bullying.

DS has no interest in football and didn't have problems at primary school and played with lots of boys and girls doing other stuff because football and gender stereotypes were not pushed by the school, which also produced many talented female footballers.

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NumTumDeDum · 12/06/2013 19:23

MorphandChas. I'm sure it's lovely idea except for the fact most can't read at that age. But that wasn't the point of the op. I was taken aback at the overt stereotyping.

As for lunch, since you ask, we had school dinner and were the last to sit as everyone else had a packed lunch. So we sat in the two empty chairs.

Yes the talk included a section on healthy eating. It was also about talking to our children and how we should eat at the table with them. I'm not against parenting classes btw. I would prefer however that if you are being asked to attend a parenting class this is disclosed upfront and not billed as a meet and greet. I was disappointed that the emphasis was on things that the majority of parents do automatically rather than on what the school expect from the children and what sort of things we can expect them to be doing in reception and how we can best support that.

And back to the issue, I await the transition day with interest.

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Pozzled · 12/06/2013 19:32

OP, I would write the letter now. You say you don't have many examples of stereotyping, but the fairies vs football one is such a huge issue that IMO you have more than enough reason to complain. It would also give them the opportunity to think about what they are saying before the next session.

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MorphandChas · 12/06/2013 21:24

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Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom · 12/06/2013 21:27

Morph - I don't think anyone was doing down the idea. It's a lovely idea. It's the gendered stereotype execution people are complaining about. I would totally appreciate the dinosaurs/stars/balloons idea on the slips.

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MorphandChas · 12/06/2013 21:34

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