My little basket
Eyes on the ground
Ring twirled around a finger
Not uttering a sound
Until he grabbed my wrist
Seizing my arm, my shoulder
Through the flimsy summer dress
The heat of his body
Wild and thrilling breaths
Before the ring was on the ground
Thrown at his feet
By bruises black against soft skin.

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Blood

My period starts
In the most inconvenient places
Instead of enjoying my holiday
I am constantly worried about leaks
No white jeans but lots of running
To the bathroom flinging
Threadbare granny undies into the basin
To rinse the blood from my hands
Fatigue and headaches
Spending the whole day in tears
Until I am finally outside myself
And remind myself this is not
A monthly curse but renewal

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

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.

Temptress

 

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The temptress of men
Of spiritual and emotional power
Where friendship turns to love
Until both are lost

The Moon and Venus

The Moon and Venus combine
In a secret tryst – he takes her hand
And draws her to the bed,
Her pure white dress tumbles to the floor
Offering to his parched lips, he draws beside her
But she turns her curls away from him
He kisses her hand, wooing her back to the pillow
Dreaming of what he most desires
In a language that is strange to her
Before he is submerged by feminine ingenuity
Where her knowledge is written in the story of women
Her body is still but her soul feels the endless night

A smile hides the pain

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A smile hides the pain
A gift softens the heart

Walk away and calm down
Before the negativities magnify
Into truth

Write it down carefully
Until you are ready to speak
In a small voice

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

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