Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Girls: Girly, and Otherwise

In college, my schedule was of paramount importance; I would take classes I wasn't ecstatic about to ensure the beauty of a perfectly synchronized day. 

Required to take a psychology class, the only one that fit wasgulp—Women's Psychology. Ugh. 

My professor ended up being a young gal, rather than a zealous relic of the Women's Movement, who, thankfully, did not harp on female degradation at the hands of male overlords.  

The term "gender" is regarding the "masculine and feminine attributes assigned to males and females" (courtesy of Wikipedia), as opposed to their scientific status of male and female; in one class, she mentioned how placing young boys and girls together in schools reinforces gender stereotypes. 

I raised my hand, and as soon as I said, "I went to all-girls schools" approximately thirty heads snapped about to gawp at me. Turning fuchsia, I described how my high-school classmates were rather unaware of gender-specific behavior. Some played basketball every recess, or climbed trees, while some remained more typically feminine. But that was their choice, rather than bowing to expectations; if anything, the tomboys were the popular ones. 

Girls in general are often discouraged from pursuing higher education in sciences and math, whereas my BY classmates went into speech therapy or nursing; I was then able to inform my rather impressed professor that most of these girls (from a supposedly male-dominated society) had no barriers in their path.

A few years back the NY Times magazine had an article exploring the merits of educating boys and girls separately. Boys and girls learn differently, and by separating them they could be taught better. 
In the way their attention is gained, how they interact, how they respond to stress, boys and girls differ. One woman's son did a complete turn-around after being enrolled in a boys' school.  

For us frummies who were segregated at school, don't we notice the differences in teachers' tactics with boys' rebbes as compared to girls' morahs? Additionally, in an all-girl high school, topics can be discussed with less inhibition, without male snickers. 

These schools are trying to raise the standard for the inner-city children who have cultural standards in male-female relationships. In co-ed schools, one teacher describes, the concept of a civilized date without "expectations" from the girl is laughable. By separating the sexes it becomes a "date" rather than a "hookup." 

Ha! Separation of the sexes actually results in chivalry! Why do you think our guys don't proposition girls on our dates? Nothing like a little fear of the unknown to bring out respect.   

Those who objected to this article on gender segregation in education had predictably PC responses: It does not advocate tolerance, it is sexist, there are no differences between boys and girls. 

A letter to the editor was sent in regarding the article, and the author described her observations of a Lubavitch girls' school: 
I was fascinated by Elizabeth Weil’s article because I have studied an all-girls’ school in some depth. During graduate school, I lived among the Lubavitcher Hasidim, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; I’ve recorded my findings in a book. I spent many days observing, in the girls’ high school and post-high-school seminary. Despite my reservations about same-sex schools, I was deeply impressed. In this ultra-Orthodox community known for its stark gender roles, the girls’ ability to adopt stereotypically male personas struck me. Many girls became noisy instigators, impish troublemakers, charismatic schoolwide leaders — niches that disproportionately may fall to boys in coed schools. The boys were not around to usurp these roles, so the girls snatched them up.
I don’t believe that single-sex schools are best for all students. Coed schools have their own benefits. But I am delighted that an option once reserved for private and parochial schools is open to growing numbers of public-school students.
Cambridge, Mass.
This woman was surprised to find, amongst observant Jews, who are, according to the world at large, sexist, freedom of gender roles. Due to separation in education, girls' personalities are allowed to develop without concern of societal expectations. 

There are some children, like my nieces, who entered the world riveted by the color pink, their brothers drawn to anything with wheels. Sometimes, it just is that boys will be boys and girls will be girls. 

But when my nephew chose to push a dolly stroller about the house while singing "Macho Man" at the age of two, not even his "macho" father freaked out. Gender stereotyping in the toy industry is in healthy force, but it ends up that we observant Jews, who are accused of belittling our women (it does get pretty old after a while), actually raise our children with less gender stereotyping just by putting boys and girls into segregated schools. 

To conclude: Ha ha.    


tesyaa said...

There's a middle ground. Kids in separate sex schools should have the option to socialize with the other sex outside of school hours. In the frum community that's either discouraged or impossible. (And don't tell me about one's brothers friends who are always stopping by the house; that's usually the barest minimum of contact).

I'm also wondering about how single-sex education works for gay teens.

Anonymous said...

Actually, studies have shown that the after school mingling would be one of the bigger issues. Anyone serious knows that non-co-ed schooling is the way to go. The issue is that many feminist hate the idea. It is a topic I researched rather heavily while in school.

The Beckster said...

I agree with Tesyaa. I believe in non-coed education, but also rally for socialization between boys and girls in the Ortho community. An option should be open for healthy interaction between the genders.

tesyaa said...

I actually don't have a preference for single-sex or coed education, based on my own experience and that of my kids. The institution itself makes more difference than whether it's coed or not.

FrumGeek said...

I must say I disagree. If I had been able to hang out with girls in my early high school years, I'd have done some terrible things. I'm glad it only became an option for me in Israel and beyond, when I had matured enough to start thinking with my head, and about consequences.

The Professor said...

I disagree as well. To have girls portrayed as aliens is one thing, but for boys and girls to just be kept separate is the right thing. There is nothing "healthy" about "healthy interaction". I never had any "healthy interactions" with females and yet work perfectly fine with quite a few of them on a daily basis. As long as "look down and away when a girl gets near you" isn't the approach taught, keeping boys and girls apart is the way to go.

The Beckster said...

Um...Professor: By "healthy interaction" I mean being able to properly socialize with a girl. Nothing more and nothing less. Rigid seperation isn't so grand either. I went to an all-females school my whole life. I'm talking from personal experience. I believe in seperate education, but NOT in acquiring "OMG, you talked to a boy...you're a major rebel!" attitude.

FrumGeek said...

Trust me, it's better that way. Perhaps it would be better for girls to be allowed to socialize with boys at a young age, but for men, no good would come from it (and there's the potential for an adverse effect when it comes to girls as well). Better they be kept separate until after high school where THEN it becomes perfectly acceptable for them to interact. I managed just fine.

The Professor said...

Socializing sounds really nice in concept but never ends up being that simple. The "omg a guy told me good shabbos while walking home from shul" stigma is stupid. That should be dropped. Nothing further than that though.

Princess Lea said...

I am all for kids being able to study without distractions like wondering which item in the wardrobe will catch a special someone's eye.

As for proper socialization, after graduating from high school, then one learns, the same way one learns about a whole lot of other things that exists out there. That's the great thing about us humans: We can catch on real fast.

tesyaa said...

I am all for kids being able to study without distractions like wondering which item in the wardrobe will catch a special someone's eye.

Ha! Everyone knows that girls dress for each other, not for boys. A boy can't tell the difference between Prada and Forever 21.

Princess Lea said...

I should have mentioned that while I do not enjoy sub-par polyester, I am pro-uniform. :)