Title IX Can’t Change Classroom Stigmas

In 1972, Title IX was revolutionary. It allowed young women access to education and athletics that had previously been withheld from them. On Saturday, Title IX turned 40, and while women might be able to take the same classes and have the same athletic opportunities as men, we still have much to do in fighting against the gender norms in sports, and even more to do when it comes to fighting the social stigma that comes with “girl classes” and “boy classes.”

According to a piece on NPR, high school classes are still gendered, regardless of who can take them. Typically, shop and auto classes are for boys and parenting and fashion classes are for girls. In an interview with Zoe Shipley, a 15-year-old girl who has a passion for mechanics, she told NPR that she’s glad Title IX has allowed her the option of exploring what she loves. She said, ”It’s just kind of cool to learn how to fix a car or learn about it,” but she also admitted that she was teased quite a bit for being the only girl in the class. ”They would call me grease monkey. I’m like, so what? At least I have the option to choose what I want to do, you know what I mean?” she said.

Title IX may have given her the option to take the courses she wanted to take, but we still have far to go if we are to make classes totally inclusive for both genders. Some of my female students have openly told me that they have shied away from taking classes filled predominantly with male students because they were either afraid of being teased or constantly flirted with. Others have told me that their parents or those doing the scheduling have assumed that, since they are girls, they’d rather take female-centered electives like parenting or cooking classes rather than others that might be offered to them. It’s not just young women who face this stereotype either. Young men are similarly teased, judged, or pushed toward certain elective classes according to their gender, as well.

If we are going to realize the full extent of the benefits Title IX can give us, we as a society need to consider the stigmas associated with certain classes. Pushing our young men and women into classes based on their gender doesn’t do anyone any favors. Even if we don’t push students, simply suggesting that girls like one thing and boys like another can be damaging. Instead, allow young people to pursue their interests regardless of the gendered assumptions our society seems to accept.

As educators, we have an even more daunting task ahead of us. We need to encourage students to follow their passions regardless of gender, but we also need to be aware of what is going on in our classrooms, especially if we teach a typically gendered subject. Young men and women who are teased or harassed because they are seen as the odd one out in a classroom can suffer dramatically in the face of such adversity. As teachers, we need to be aware of this and combat it in our classrooms. Teaching acceptance is the first step toward changing society’s attitude towards gender and gendered classes.


Related Stories:

Title IX at 40: Changing Lives Daily

Title IX Builds Female Leaders

WNBA Honors Legacy of Title IX

Photo Credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University

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Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago

I'm shocked! I didn't know that still forty years ago women were denied education in the US. (I thought the US was a civilized country, but probably I was wrong...)

Ken W.
Ken W.3 years ago

Its past time !!!!!

Nicole Pauline Sedkowski
Nicole Sedkowski3 years ago

Great article! Here's hopeing for equality on all fronts in the future!

Meghan F.
Meghan F.3 years ago

Robert F. I find that gender roles are social constructs as they change anywhere from subtly to wildly from culture to culture around the world. While studies have found that children -do- have a sense of whether they are male or female (or neither or inbetween) this doesn't mean they're born loving monster trucks and barbies respectively. Raise a child somewhere else in the world and their beliefs about what is proper for a man and a woman to do will be different. This makes me believe that we should stop impressing certain behaviors on people from a young age.

Robert Fitzgerald

Gender roles are very real deep-seated emotional and psychological states that define who we are as men and women, and until we understand their importance in our lives and where they come from, we will always struggle with inequality. We can redefine these roles toward equality and respect between us, but first we need to understand just what we are dealing with. Seeking gender equality in a man's world is only part of the solution. What is needed is to reconnect with the immense power of the feminine.


Jen Matheson
Jen M.3 years ago

Thank you for this article. I can't believe that girls are still being tased about taking shop. I can only imagine what the poor boys who take Home Ec feel like.

Maria Houser Conzemius

The Iowa City Community School District is so elitist they've closed down their home-building program and many shop classes. Ironically, students who fail to buy into education and get into trouble are taught trades in prison.

James Wilcox
James Wilcox3 years ago

"Parenting Class" should be a part of the health program for all students.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thanks for this article.

Kath R.
Kath P.3 years ago

Most of the schools I know of these days don't have gym, shop or home ec