Miss Representation, Shaping Youth, and Me

My latest guest post is up over at Shaping Youth. This one is about Miss Representation, young children (mostly mine), and The Paley Center screening I attended, along with Shaping Youth's commentary on Miss Representation's latest efforts in conjunction with the Superbowl. Here's a preview of my piece:

Gender is the latest hot topic around here.

For almost a year, my preschool aged son has said on occasion, “boys are girls and girls are boys.”

He has told this to friends in class, often girls, who have gone home and told their mothers, thinking he has told them a funny joke.

He also thinks that “kids” means “boys” but not “girls.” He has asked me to explain this to him but I’m not sure he quite gets it yet. Only very recently have questions about different pieces and parts on girls and boys come in to play. He also recently asked me if he could “milk a baby” when he grows up. I’ve hesitated to say too much because the innocence of not knowing the difference between genders is one I’d like him to hold on to for a while. While I don’t want him to be ignorant, I also don’t want his rapidly firing synapses to process anything through a gender lens before it absolutely must.

Please head over to Shaping Youth to read more and let me know what you think. And check out Miss Representation for information on the great work they are doing.

The Invisible War

It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - a day on, not a day off. This year, like the few previous, I have planned to dedicate the day to service, particularly since I am no longer employed full-time by a national service organization. I did not make it happen today.

So, in the spirit of what Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us - about equality, service, and human rights - I would like to share this video that was brought to my attention by the folks at Miss Representation, a documentary film-turned-campaign "that seeks to empower women and girls to challenge limiting labels in order to realize their potential."

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who wrote, directed, and produced Miss Representation (2011, find a way to see it if you haven't), is a producer on a new documentary called, The Invisible War, Official Selection at 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The film brings to light the prevalence of sexual assault in the military. 

I do not want to say too much before seeing the film or doing any research beyond the trailer, but that such large scale atrocities are taking place within the United States and its government agencies - particularly one created to protect us - devastates and angers me. I hope this film is the beginning of a louder, more effective and efficient movement to eradicate this particular disgusting injustice.

nothing to do with math

Seriously? I frequently read articles that make me upset or make me want to at least write a blog post, but then, more often than not, I don't write something, mostly because I'm afraid of sounding like the opinionated, judgmental person that I am, and it would take too long to write something that sounds well written and well thought out, and even though only two people read this blog, I want to sound good, and I don't want to be judged back. Well, today, I'm writing.

Yesterday, the New York Times had an article in the Sunday Style section (perhaps the only plus I'll give it is that it was in the Styles section), called The New Math on Campus: When women outnumber men at a college, dating culture is skewed. The source of this problem, it seems, is simple: "women tend to have higher grades; men tend to drop out in disproportionate numbers; and female enrollment skews higher among older students, low-income students, and black and Hispanic students." And kudos to the (male) reporter of the story for so respectfully recognizing the upside to this for a moment: "In terms of academic advancement, this is hardly the worst news for women — hoist a mug for female achievement. And certainly, women are primarily in college not because they are looking for men, but because they want to earn a degree." But, at least for the women in this article, that last statement doesn't appear to hold true.

The article goes on to quote young women, academically successful women, stating obvious things like how, in addition to outnumbering the men, so many of the men available are not worthy, so the pool from which to choose is actually even smaller than it seems. The following quote was the clincher for me:

“A lot of my friends will meet someone and go home for the night and just hope for the best the next morning,” Ms. Lynch said. “They’ll text them and say: ‘I had a great time. Want to hang out next week?’ And they don’t respond.”

Even worse, “Girls feel pressured to do more than they’re comfortable with, to lock it down,” Ms. Lynch said.

As for a man’s cheating, “that’s a thing that girls let slide, because you have to,” said Emily Kennard, a junior at North Carolina. “If you don’t let it slide, you don’t have a boyfriend.”

Really? Are we still here? Are we still, as a species, more worried about finding the right guy - at the young age of 18 - and so fearful that we won't that we're willing to be quoted in the New York Times saying things like this? Is this only a Western idea? And can we really blame men for keeping us down and holding us back and keeping that glass ceiling in place when we take something like being the majority of college educated people in this country and turn it into a weakness? Are most women still going to college with the ultimate goal of finding their husband and not getting an education and a degree? Can we draw a line between these attitudes and a future generation of embarrassed wives a la Sanford, Edwards, Woods, and countless, nameless others? Or is that going too far? When and how are we going to teach women to respect and worry about themselves as much as and more than the way we do about men and the love and affection we may or may not receive from them?

I know my questions aren't all really questions, but it's the only way I could get some of this out without losing my mind. And I am fully aware that in today's world I am considered one of the very luckiest of women, with a husband (who I did not meet in college) who makes the self-respect thing easier than most, with a family (his and mine) who (mostly) consider us equals, and support our "shared parenting" lifestyle, but when is that not going to be considered lucky?

I'm going to go do my best to do my part...raising a white male to know and understand that he is going to be given privileges because of his race and his gender for the rest of his life, but he must know why and to do his part to make that not the future for his kids or theirs. And, if #2 is a girl, the work will likely be harder, but I'll start by hoping she never feels compelled to be part of (or worse, write) an article like this.

Teaching Teachers to Teach

B sent me this interesting op-ed in Sunday's NY Times about what teacher education programs should look like. I am not sure many people would disagree with the premise - I certainly don't - but implementation is the key and there's a lot of there there. Having gone through a teacher preparation program at an institution that definitely looked down its nose at teaching and that got half of this right and half of this wrong, I'm not as hopeful as I want to be at our collective ability and initiative to make this happen and quickly enough. How do we do it? Who is going to step up and take this challenge?