Feminist Club Highlights Gender Divide

By Denebola
Published: November 2007
By Idun Klakegg
The image of Rosie the Riveter, a female factory worker during WWII, has long been a symbol of women’s empowerment. Recently, signs featuring Rosie have appeared around the school, encouraging people to join the newly formed Feminist Club.
Founding member Marta Sicinska said she started the club to fight stereotypes and spread awareness.
“We want to educate,” she said. “There are still double standards.”
Members of the Feminist Club usually read and discuss articles, watch YouTube clips, and plan trips or fundraisers for women’s shelters at the meetings.
“Most guys I told [about the Feminist Club] said: “What? There’s no inequality!” one member said. “We’re not man-haters,” she added.
“There’s a popular misconception that we want superiority, but that’s not the case. We want equality,” Sicinska said.
There is a common stereotype that boys’ brains are wired for math and science, while girls tend to excel at English, history, and foreign languages. The accuracy of the stereotype has recently been a subject of controversy in education circles.
In South’s math department, 52 percent of the students taking honors math are male, and 48 percent female.
“These discrepancies, however, are not all that dramatic when you consider that four percent of those students is essentially a seven student difference between males and females,” math department Head Steven Rattendi said.
Even in Curriculum II, where there are 10 percent more females than males, it is only a 12-student difference out of the 115 students.
In the science department, the difference is really seen in physics, according to Department Head Charles Hurwitz.
“There are some differences, but they are very subtle. You have to go looking for them,” he said. “Physics drops off in juniors and seniors. If a woman is interested in medicine, she needs to take chemistry to understand biology. Then she generally switches to life science, while boys stay in physical science.”
Hurwitz added that although there are gender discrepancies in South’s science department, they are much less severe than in other schools.
“A person studying the difference came in and observed science classes, and said the results were completely different from other places. The women were much more engaged in science than in many other schools,” he said.
Hurwitz believes that female interest in science has a lot to do with upbringing. “Parents do a good job empowering their daughters’€girls come here empowered,” he said. “It is the people themselves who change, as another subject catches their eye.”
Honors English classes, on the other hand, are “female dominated,” according to English Department Head Frannie Moyer.
“Because guys don’t like to speak up in class, certain stereotypes are formed. The irony is that in the books in the curriculum, there are almost no female protagonists,” Moyer said. “On one hand, we want books with strong female protagonists, but on the other hand, we are trying to get more guys into the program.”
Moyer wondered what the impact of single gender classes would be.
“It would be an interesting experiment,” she said. “Boys might be more relaxed in a segregated class and participate more.”
While Moyer expressed interest in single gender classes, she ultimately believes integrated classes work better. She thinks single gender classes would create a comfort zone, but that people learn better slightly outside their comfort zone. She also said that people learn from hearing both the male and female perspective, and a mixed class is “more enjoyable to teach.” It is also more true to life, as there are no segregated classes in real life.
Both Moyer and Rattendi believe these types of discrepancies are the result of society rather than innate ability. “Society doesn’t honor the fact that males enjoy literature,” Moyer said.
“The problem is less about ability and more about societal influences,” Rattendi said. Gender lines are especially clear in some elective classes such as preschool, woodworking, and business.
“The gender lines are especially clear in business class, as business is associated with men,” Feminist Club member Ayelet Reiter said.
Gender differences are jarring in Newton South’s Child Education Program. According to senior Taylor Gold, who is doing a Major in Child Education and working in the preschool upwards of a dozen hours a week, there has never been a male major in Child Ed and the program maintains a strong female majority.
“Of the 30 or so kids who take Child Ed,” she said, “maybe six of them are guys. I think a lot of people think that working with the preschoolers isn’t manly, which is ridiculous because it takes a lot of energy to work with the kids.”
Gold is one of four Child Education majors this year, all of whom are female.
“There were two [majors] last year, and there’ll be maybe five or six next year, and they’re all girls,” she said.
Most people seem to agree that the stereotype of boys being better at math and girls having brains made for English is just not true. Still, the statistics show that some classes at South are made up according to stereotypes.

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