Voices of girls

Emotional Australian girls
With strong voices
That are painfully true
And real, oh yes,
Real Australian voices
Fighting for the right
To be free from voices
Of patriarchy – men’s and women’s
Voices telling girls
Who to be
How to stand
When to speak
These girls have stopped asking
How it came to be
They just know it is
And they don’t like it anymore
It’s time for change
As able as any sunburnt son of Australia

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The role of schools in gender stereotyping

In 1972 Betty Levy published an article in Feminist Studies on the role of schools in gender sterotyping of girls. This week I want to discuss the observations made in this article and compare them with some more recent observation of gender-stereotyping of girls. Gender stereotypes are culturally-ingrained ideas about appropriate behaviours for females and males but this promotes inequality between the sexes and can set young people up to expect and accept power-imbalances within relationships.

The feminist critique of gender roles requires the study of how and where these roles are learned. Schools are important social institutions that play a key role in elaborating and reinforcing gender roles.

Children learn gender roles at an early age – it is one of the earliest concepts they learn.

As children grow their awareness of ‘appropriate’ gender role behaviour becomes increasingly more stereotyped.

Masculine activities are more highly valued than feminine activities – girls are allowed to do some masculine activities but boys cannot do feminine activities.

Students learn by observing how teachers treat each other, by the prizes they receive at school, or how teachers reward or discipline behaviour that adheres to accepted notions of gender, in particular preparing young women for their roles as daughter, wife and mother.

The gender role training of girls involves less tolerance for aggressive behaviour and greater encouragement of dependency.

Schools are an effective instrument of social control because of the functions they play: custodial care, social role selection, indoctrination and education.

Young people typically buy into these gender stereotypes and are often unaware of when and how stereotypes impact on their behaviours and choices.

Girls are so well trained in their gender roles that they continue to put domestic duties above their professional roles, a key reason why women do so many more hours of housework than men.

Gender differences arise through the interaction of biology and a child’s social environment. Schools affect gender differentiation through both teachers and peers.

The feminist objective is to make sure each individual can realise their potential and isn’t restricted by gender stereotypes, either the ones they have learned themselves or those forced on them by others.

It is sad that nothing seems to have changed and the same tired gender-stereotypes have only become more entrenched.

Girls who sit quietly are ignored, boys who act out receive more attention.

Ice in her heart

Rubies and pearls
Adorned the queen
With her high cheekbones
And upswept hair,
Ladies in waiting
Attending her every need;
Behind closed doors
Mad delirium raged
At heroes and fools
Vying with intrigue
Before she turned
Them into eunuchs
With blood on the floor
The young queen
Went riding each morning
Snow thick on the ground
Ice in her heart

Searching for a female revolution

Tomorrow I am setting out
on the fairytale freeway
in relentless search for lost paradise,
just woman, the road and nature;
escaping the angel in the house,
swept by excitement – revolutionary words,
that rage with hunger in the gathering storm

Imaginary world

A creative approach to life adds happiness
Speaking to the emotions in my imaginary world
Having a voice for further inspiration
To explore outside the stock roles for a woman
Escaping heterosexual marriage and Cinderella plots
Or Sleeping Beauty trapped in a thicket
Uncovering all of their personalities
For new beginnings and fresh endings
No mere passive objects of desire
Actions not determined by gender

A night at the opera

A night at the opera
/ seductive heroines meet their death
/ stabbed, poisoned, strangled –
/ drive to madness by men
/ abused, tormented –
/ while audiences rise to their feet
/ for the final aria soars sublime
/ fleeting heroes weave their slow plot
/ against female power and strength

Nefertiti

nefertiti

The beautiful one has come
In the image of feminine perfection
Timeless power beyond beauty of the real woman
Lying in her secret chamber where her other face is hidden
With its wrinkles, creases at the corners of her mouth
A bump on her nose – young child on her lap,
Imperious gaze.

My heart aches for Australia

My heart aches for Australia
Beats with sorrow
For the women that walk the streets
When night time falls
Luring men to their fate
For she is nature
And men need to rise above
Soft maidens and wine
To reach their angels
Waiting patiently at home
Expecting him to be faithful
With aching hearts

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