Monthly Archives: March 2013

Should Single-Sex Schools be banned for the Gender Divide?

Guest Post:
For years and years we have seen a gender divide in classrooms and outside of classrooms both indirect and direct. A solution to that was thought to create single sex education, meaning having all girl schools and all boys’ schools, separating gender stereotypes and creating a safe and comfortable environment for both sexes. However, in some cases single sex education heightened the gap between boys and girls creating an enhancement of stereotypes.

In an academic classroom setting boys were still often being taught in a more regimented and structural way while girls were taught in a more nurturing and passive way. This segregation of teaching methods only expanded the gap between the genders. If anything it pushed girls to act in a certain stereotypical feminine way and boys act in a stereotypical masculine way. There is little wiggle room for individuality.

In a three-year California study conducted from 1998 to 2000, 12 schools from northern California through to southern California where observed and interviewed. Over 300 parents, teachers, and students ranging from middle school to high school were interviewed about single sex education. Research found that, “Gender stereotyping, harassment, and other problems common in co-education do not necessarily disappear in single-sex schools”. Elizabeth Zwerling, WeNews Correspondent, discusses the findings behind this particular study, creating a lean away from single-sex education.

Gender roles were more prevalent in single- sex education and schools contrary to many beliefs. “Students received mixed messages about gender. While both were told women could be anything they want, girls were made aware of restrictions on their behavior reinforced through expectations about clothing and appearance. Boys were led to assume that men are primarily wage earner, that they should be strong and take care of their wives who were emotionally weak”. This strong statement signifies the ongoing assumptions of what girls and boys should be and most importantly is expressed mainly in schools. Shocking claims from this study hint at a downfall in single sex schooling that was not anticipated.

Many may think this type of education decreases stereotypes however it is the separation of boys and girls in the first place that increases these characteristics.  For example, in the show Glee, Kirk leaves the co-educational High school to then enter into an all boys’ school because of the harassment and constant disapproval and name calling from the anti gay bullies. Soon after joining the all boys’ prep school, he still was ridiculed by his peers at the other school calling him ‘fag’ and ‘preppy’ which was the exact reason he wanted to get away from that school to begin with. At that time in the show very few people there were accepted as homosexual. This is an example showing students in school now that single sex education should solve all harassment issues but in some cases that does not work through the constant abuse Kirk still deals with even at an all boys’ school.

Although evidence has proved that single sex schools and education create a larger gender gap, other evidence has proved the opposite.  Myra and David Sadker, authors of the book, Failing at Fairness, visited several private single-sex schools interviewing students and teachers, observing classes in action, and then reporting all of their findings captured in an all-boys and all-girls school. Before the study, Sadker questioned the importance of single sex education and if these schools would be around another decade. Contrary to their belief, David states, “for girls especially, they offered an academic refuge, a place to free voices too often silenced in coeducational schools” (253). Their evidence showed that girls were finding it rewarding based on self-esteem, academics, and stepping away from stereotypical feminine norms. Research even concluded that women’s colleges attain more degrees in nontraditional fields such as economic, life science, physical science, and mathematics than women who attended coed colleges.  This data is quite different than the findings above opposing it yet let’s readers create their own opinion and interpretation.

Regarding boys in single sex education showing fewer evidence of success, there were still advocates that argued that boys benefited from all boys schools. Sadker says, “Free of gender role expectations and less concerned with impressing girls, boys were more willing to enroll in nontraditional courses such as language and the arts without fear of ridicule. Many male alums recall that sexual stereotypes seem to fade into the background in these boys’ schools” (254). For many this is hard to believe being that when a group of boys gets together they tend to abuse other boys of lower self-esteem and power. However, in this case, these common stereotypes are dropped.

From these pros and cons the big question still stands, are single-sex schools and classrooms better than coeducation?  Looking back to when coeducational school first became part of the picture was in the last 1900s after Title IX came into play; a law prohibiting many forms of sex discrimination in public schools. This forever changed the fate of single- sex schools.

Girls started enrolling in more challenging courses that were often only sought out by males which led to the market forces eliminating single- sex schools. Because with girls and boys enrolled in the same class, single sex classrooms and education seemed outdated. Private Ivy League Universities started to open their doors to women such as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia ending three centuries of discrimination. If this was the end of sexism and the gender gap in school then why now are public schools striving to create single sex classes or schools?

Picture (Harvard then single sex)
Picture (Harvard now co-ed)

Starting in 1996, the number of public single sex schools jumped from 5 to 30. What is the cause of this? This is where gender segregation comes back into the picture fueled by political and social trends. Ultimately leading back to Sadker’s argument and evidence proving that single-sex education has come back in full force helping decrease sex discrimination. So where do we stand now?

The answer to this question eventually ends with us as future educators and parents and the ways in which we can do about the gender gap between boys and girls. Andre Boyd, a South Carolina middle school teacher explains, “ As educators, our efforts should not be driven by how we can separate students to minimize distractions but by how we can bring all students together to maximize learning. In my experiences, students tend to learn better when teachers learn to teach better-regardless of the gender of the students”.  In addition, Kristin Maschka, a best-selling author and a consultant in organization development and change leadership, says, “For every problem for which “single-sex” is given as an answer, there is an alternative. For example, “in a co-ed class boys are called on more often” can be addressed by teaching teachers how to use random selection strategies to call on students”

To sum it up, it is up to each individual student and parent to determine which schooling is best for their own personal benefit. Maschka also says, “Sometimes the reasons given to support single-sex environment sound more like ways to simplify things for teachers and to avoid addressing the reality of social interactions and existing gender stereotypes in adolescent children”. There are pros and cons to both ways of educating a student or group of students therefore the students and parents and even teachers should answer questions about the quality and equality of schools before choosing the best fit for themselves. Sadker suggests:

-Does the school honor each student’s learning style and experiences, or does it assume that all members of a group learn and behave in the same way?

-Observe classes. Whether single-sex or coed, are some student’s dominating and other silent? Are there different teaching and learning styles? Does the classroom feel like a safe space for all students?

-Look at the bulletin boards, the hallways, and classrooms. Are both genders represented and honored in a wide array of roles and accomplishments? Is there stereotyping?

-Ask current students what their thoughts on their school system are and if they have found it a comfortable and fun environment to learn in.

Comments Off on Should Single-Sex Schools be banned for the Gender Divide?

Filed under Uncategorized


Guest Post: by C. Stave

“If a woman is objectified, she is made less than human. Once she is less than human, violence toward her becomes more acceptable.”-Kate McGuinness

According to Kate McGuinness, women can be objectified in five different ways: “(1) interchangeability; (2) reduction to appearance; (3) being an instrument for someone else’s purpose; (4) inertness or passivity; & (5) capacity to being violated or lacking bodily integrity.” The media uses all of these techniques to steal the identity or worth of women, and reduce them to the levels of femininity that are effective in the purpose of said media.

Television shows and movies often box women into a role or purpose that is useful to the males in the show, or in some way useful to the viewer. Music videos and song lyrics can also be extremely objectifying of women, especially as sexual objects. The focus here will be objectification through advertising.

Advertising is a form of mass communication and is used to “encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience” (Wikipedia). Women are too often a tool of this manipulation process. This dates at least as far back as the 1800s.

This advertisement from the 1890s wants to encourage its audience to “drink Coca Cola,” as the sign explicitly requests. While a pretty women has very little to do with the carbonated beverage, she is shown daintily enjoying a cup. She is the tool being used to encourage this behavior in the advertisement’s audience.

Many interpretations can be made about this dated advertisement. While it would be difficult to argue that there is anything offensive about this image, it is undoubtedly strange that it would be so simple to choose nothing but a pretty girl to show off this product.

Now days, it can be difficult to find an advertisement involving a woman that is not offensive in some way. Whether the advertisement is for men, women, or both, if a women is used to manipulate the audience, she is more often than not, objectified. Sometimes her body is replacing an object or an object is replacing her; other times she is merely reduced to the worth of her appearance; in others she may be an instrument being used by someone else (often a man); she may be a lifeless specimen of passivity; or it could be that she is being taken advantage of or is missing physical respect for herself or from others.

In the first example, this woman’s body (minus her face and head) is covered in mud, as a car or truck might be, with the words “wash me” written on her stomach. This relates her to a dirty vehicle that needs cleaning. Since her head is cut out of the picture, she has no identity, and it is difficult to interpret her emotions. She is merely a sexy, dirty truck in the shape of a female body.

In the second example of interchangeability, the woman’s body literally takes the place of a beer bottle. The bottle’s labels then become her clothing, with her stomach exposed. The curves of the bottle are the curves of her body. Her entire body is then being held in the hand of a man. Again, there is no identity here, only a feminized beer bottle.

In the third example, the woman has her face. She is sleeping next to a man, and both are naked. This infers that they had some sort of sexual encounter the previous night. The only thing that objectifies this woman is the sticky-note on her forehead with “Jade” written on it. Under most interpretations, this is to help the man next to her remember her name when they awaken. If she had more value to him than a sex object, he would have no trouble recalling her name.
Reduction to Appearance:

In the first example of reducing a female to her appearance, a girl’s perfectly sculpted midsection is shown. She is supposedly on the beach of Australia, but has no identifying features; she’s just a pretty girl’s torso. The caption of this image is the worst part. While this woman is labeled as beautiful, she needed the help of a low carb “body beautiful bar” to be skinny and sculpted. This is not to mention her flawlessly toned skin. The caption should say “keep Australia’s women in the box of what is considered beautiful.”

The second example shows a women standing in her bra, with large, round breasts. She is definitely within the socially constructed box of beauty; everything about her is without flaw. She would be reduced to nothing but her appearance even if it wasn’t for the caption, but those words take it to the next level. Her lack of the gender-role talent of cooking is of no matter, because who would care about that with such great breasts in their face?

The last example here deals with the “enhancement” of the female body. Not only is the skinny, small-breasted version of this girl looking downward, while her enhanced self is proudly facing up, but each version of the same girl is labeled with an old and new version of a Nikon camera. This could overlap into interchangeability, but the focus here is the enhancement of her breasts in the “new” version of body.

Being an Instrument for Someone Else’s Purpose:

This first advertisement shows nothing but the women’s lower face, with an emphasis on her mouth. The sides of her perfect lips have been injured. By what? A man’s “XXL” penis. Her mouth must heal after being used and harmed as a tool for male sexual pleasure.

            In the second image, it is difficult to determine what is being sold. It is a shoe advertisement, but what are really being bought is women. There are four beautiful women standing flirtatiously in a vending machine, waiting to be chosen by the man standing outside. After being purchased, the girl will surely be more excited about his shoes than getting out of a “chilled” box.

Even when an ad is advertising a positive movement, the woman can be objectified. Here, Pamela Anderson is advocating for PETA with her body. Her body parts are sectioned off and labeled as if she was being related to a cow or other animal that human often consume.

Inertness or Passivity:

This first image of passivity could be offensive in many ways. There is one woman, and four men. The girl is being held down by one of the strong men, and she is looking away from his face while he stares down at her. The other men are standing at the side, patiently waiting their turn, perhaps? Or maybe they’re just watching.

The next image is of a man, awkwardly wearing a suit on the beach, standing over a plastic-like woman. She is secured under and between his legs, while he proposes the idea that they have a drink. She does not appear to have a choice in the matter. She is lying down, nearly naked; vulnerable in comparison to the fully dressed, upright man.

           The final example of passivity and inertness is a confusing advertisement. It might be selling shoes, but it consists of a naked woman and a single shoe. The caption states that the viewer should “keep her where she belongs.” It is unsure if “her” refers to the shoe or the woman, but she best not get out of her place.

Capacity to Being Violated or Lacking Bodily Integrity:

The final category of objectification begins to show where objectification can lead. The first image is an advertisement for vodka, but it is also advertising the idea that some girls do not go down smoothly. This is left to the viewer to interpret, but most would agree that it infers that the female in the image is not as willing to sleep with the man as she should be. Belvedere, though, she will do whatever the man wants.

Once again, this last advertisement has the good intentions of starting a positive movement. This anti-smoking ad is relating smoking to oral pleasure and sex slavery. The woman’s eyes are at belt level, looking up fearfully. The cigarette seems to be emerging from the man’s pants. The caption (not included in the image) is “fumer c’est etre l’esclave du tabac” or “smoking is to be the slave of tobacco.” This woman is not only the slave to tobacco, but to a man who is pushing her head downward with his hand. The ad suggests that this act of slavery is negative, but it is still an image of a female being violated by a man, and this sexual act has nothing to do with smoking.

Some advertisements are more blatant than others, especially outside of the United States. However, all of these advertisements are advertising more than just the product or movement. These images surround us on a daily basis. The slowly and subconsciously brainwash us to believe these ads place women where they should be; into the box to which they must adhere.

This box involves decreasing women to be of no more worth than an object, an object that must be beautiful, flawless, skinny, curvy, and lifeless. An object that is available to others to use to their liking, especially sexually. An object that best remain passive, or be violated regardless. An object that has no personality, no values, no passions or dreams.

The objectification of women is profitable and entertaining. As many say, “sex sells,” but so does violence, power, and dominance. These advertising methods manipulate an audience to buy the product or follow the movement. But do they? Is anyone really going to quit smoking because a girl is subjected to the notion of sexual slavery? Is anyone going to become a vegetarian because Pamela Anderson is related to a cow? Do people buy these products merely because these women’s identities are stolen and replaced with inert sexuality? Perhaps.

On the other hand, the box of femininity is being sold. Young girls and boys are growing up in this society with these images brainwashing them to feel inadequate if they do not fit into these boxes of passivity or dominance. Not only women are affected by these advertisements, and this is merely a slice of media. A slice among a whole system of manipulation and brainwashing.



Comments Off on Objectified

Filed under Uncategorized