Freedom?

Lorber and Gould consider gender a restraining public performance. In high school, I was the only female in my AP physics class. One girl explained how she was not taking it because she felt intimidated by the gender discrepancy. Although I was friends with males in the class, they would crack jokes about how I should “get back into the kitchen” and single me out. Beauvoir’s words—“Thus it is that no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other against itself”—echoed what I had experienced as an outsider in that class (Beauvoir 33). This male dominated norm is still rooted in our culture. It is not easy for women to individually break free from this, especially when men still possess doubts about their abilities. Nevertheless, this table* demonstrates how the gender issue is not a one-way street with respect to the distribution of males and females in high school subjects. Akin to what Beauvoir illustrates—though she focuses on female oppression—a great deal of women (in, for example, a computer science class) as well as men (maybe in an AP art class) really do feel as though they are “the Other”: inferior and essentially do not belong.

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. (1949).

*Perry, Mark. “What Do AP Subject Exams Tell Us About Differences in Academic Interest By Gender?” Carpe Diem. Blogspot.com.  2 Feb 2012. Web. 14 Sept 2012.

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2 Responses to Freedom?

  1. victoriag8 says:

    Your reference to gender issues being a two-way street is interesting. In high school, I was excited to be in AP math, stereotypically perceived as male-focused; I found it empowering. However, my school’s art classes contained few boys; many male friends indicated taking them was emasculating and, instead, played sports. Or, they only participated in “manly” arts such as woodworking. I found high-level math or science didn’t make me seem or feel less feminine or more masculine: it was simply mildly unexpected. Meanwhile, many male peers were considered “feminine” if they enjoyed drawing (26% male according to table) or dance. I frequently heard jests tying class choices to sexual preferences. Conversely, my sexual preferences were not questioned because I was in AP math. Being identified as a “tom-boy” is not overtly negative, but is there a neutral term for more feminine males or do they revolve around sexual preferences? I therefore found it harder for males to be “the other” in my stereotypically “feminine” classes. There is currently a focus on involving females more in math and science. It does not seem, at least in schools I attended, that males are supported in the arts. It is indeed a two-way street. I initially thought it was harder for women, but is it really? I’d rather surprise people, than have my sexuality/gender questioned based on courses selected.

  2. samantham1907 says:

    I had similar experiences in my high school classes. Both my AP Physics and Calculus classes were male-dominated and I can definitely see how this can be intimidating. I think it is very interesting how this occurs. Obviously, it is not as if our schools aren’t allowing women to be in these courses. To men and to society, things are equal. Men can argue that anyone can be in the physics courses and no one is being denied the opportunity. However, today gender inequality isn’t as much about policies as it is about the underlying societal expectations. As you said, the male domination in the sciences is still rooted in our culture. Children growing up and going through elementary and middle school learn what is expected of them. Women interested in science are not expected. Not only is it unexpected, but it is argued against with biological claims. It makes sense that not many women will take AP Physics. We should definitely be advocating for more women to go into these fields, however, until we change these expectations and constraints, little will change.

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