the circular runner

Is this still a man’s world?

In teaching & education, Uncategorized, writers & books on June 9, 2010 at 9:26 am

Another update on my advanced comp class–the critical thinking class that meets on Tuesday and Thursday nights. This week, we tackled gender. We were looking at the question of what it means to be a man or woman in our society. To do this, I assigned three readings. Two were short articles that dealt with body image and with ideals of beauty. The authors in both cases asked the question: what should we look like in order to be considered fully male or female. But I wanted to go deeper, so I also assigned a chapter from Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. The protagonist in that book is a hermaphrodite who starts life as a girl (at least externally) and then transforms (through hormones and operations) into a male (again, at least on the outside). So here’s the interesting point: as a warm-up prompt I asked the students to tell me which gender they would prefer (if they could choose it). I first asked them to pretend they could choose for themselves, and then I asked them to choose for their first child. I told them to forget the novel for a moment, that in this situation, they could actually choose the gender of a completely “normal” boy or girl.

Out of twenty student, all but two said they would pick boys. “Men have it easier,” they said. “Men can protect the family.” “Men are role models.”

What does it mean that a group of twenty students (almost all in their 20s) are saying this? I’m not blind to the fact that equality for the sexes is still not a reality, but still, you’d think that at least when it comes to the opportunity to live, that we’d have a little more of it. Odd.

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  1. Liked this post a lot. Kind of amazing to hear that, actually. Fascinating how deep-seated some assumptions can be–in this day and age of gender empowerment, there’s no reason for such male-oriented preference.

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