by Clara Smith, Rebecca Harris, and Katherine Fischer
A shorter version of this article appeared in the Mar. 22 issue of Hi's Eye.
Gender-based stereotypes today affect how males and females perform in school, whether it be caused by self-perceived abilities from stereotypes voiced outside of the classroom or lack of participation in the classroom, according to education.com.
This report is relevant to WHS students: in a survey conducted by Hi’s Eye last year, a large majority of students reported gender-based stereotypes in student life.
Clash in the Classroom
According to the guidance department, females at WHS are more likely to enroll in higher-level English courses and males are more likely to enroll in higher-level math and science courses.
Physics Teacher Mr. Josh Garodnick said that Physics I is around two-thirds to of three-quarters female. However, it is the opposite in Physics Honors.
Garodnick said: “[That trend] can’t be [happening because] females aren’t good at science.”
He added that middle school may be where this gender divide starts.
EIS Science Teacher Ms. Kristi Houghtaling said that she doesn’t notice a difference between the two genders in her Gifted and Talented class.
However, she said that she thinks girls are less confident in her regular eighth grade science classes because of “the expectation that girls will achieve in science is much lower than [the expectation for] boys [and because] there may be a perception that it is ‘uncool’ to have a true interest in science among the girls.”
From Halls to Stalls
In the survey of WHS students, many reported that the ways in which students interact are largely influenced by the stereotypes associated with gender.
Sophomore Andrew Malacrea said that one stereotype is that “women are mostly just good for cooking and cleaning.”
Additionally, some WHS students reported that females are stereotyped based on their clothes. Said alum Jason Isbit, “Girls who wear revealing or sexy clothing are often considered slutty.”
Junior Samantha Gruskin said, “I always thought that you were supposed to just dress in a manner that respected the school...but [the WHS dress code] is definitely aimed [toward] girls.”
She added, “Boys don’t get called out on [inappropriate dress] because there’s so much stigma surrounding the way girls dress.”
Furthermore, Farabaugh said that many old stereotypes still hold true, and that “promiscuous girls are still demonized and promiscuous boys are still lauded.”
In addition to dress, students reported that gender-based stereotypes manifest in arts programs.
Sophomore Kaelyn Smith said that some boys “won’t go out for theater or subjects in the arts because they’re afraid of being looked at as ‘gay’ or ‘weird.’”
Some surveyed students said that gender-based stereotypes exist in the physical education program as well. According to Physical Education Teacher Ms. Lindsey Ginex, females participate less when playing a co-ed game than when playing a single-sex game. She added that females are more scared that they will get hurt when playing contact sports with males such as football.
Senior Brittany Fogel reported a stereotype that “girls can’t play sports,” but Ginex said, “I don’t think that boys are better at gym [than girls].”
WHS and Beyond
Gender stereotypes follow students not only through high school, but also into college and professional careers. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, in America, there are more females attending college than males; however, according to naviance.com, math- and science-based schools, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have a higher percentage of male students than female students.
Furthermore, according to bls.gov, males make up 75 percent of the employees in computer- and math-based jobs and 86 percent of the employees in architecture- and engineering-based jobs across the nation.
Yale University student and 2009 WHS graduate Amanda Chang said that in college, she “went against the stereotype [that males predominantly excel in the maths and sciences] and decided to start college as a female Computer Science major.” She added: “Often, I would tell people that I was studying CS, and they'd be shocked. Multiple times, they told me their surprise was due to the fact that I was a girl.” In today's learning environment, the perpetuation of these apparent stereotypes may be a major setback, as they hinder students from reaching their full potential. Said Farabaugh: “When you have a long-term inequality, you need to have an enforcement issue to deal with it.”