“For women,” what does that mean? Many can assume that means it is an object or being that is designed for women specifically, right?
As someone who has been a student for most of my life, there are a few things I’ve noticed regarding the curriculum and the patriarchy behind some of them and their meaning when they state “for women” in their course names and descriptions.
Throughout my experience as a student, there were a few classes K-12 that were catered toward women such as wood shop for women and strength and conditioning for women. My first impression when I saw classes like this in high school was “That’s great they offer that so now I don’t have to worry about boys around me while I workout,” or “wow now I can fully lean into the class without fear of being the odd one out in a very male-dominated class.”
However, looking back, those classes were designed because of how men made women feel and not for the honest-to-goodness sake of women and making them feel comfortable.
Currently, I am in a class called “self-defense for women.” In this class, we learn how to strike if a male attacker were to come at us one day. At first, I was like thank god they offer this class so we women can be prepared if a man ever tries to attack us.
Thinking back on it I began to realize that this class is created for women because of the fact women are known to be preyed upon and attacked in our society by men. I’m not saying these classes are bad but rather interesting that the curriculum singles out a certain gender and is altered to fit the current social climate.
Having gender-specific classes reinforces the gender binary, which contradicts the Diversity, equity, and inclusion mission statement on our campus. Although I know these classes are available for men, not many are likely to join due to the name and the fact that the name says it’s “for women.”
The same applies when it comes to references that were used as insults during recess like “you throw like a girl,” or “man up.” These phrases that were normalized when we were kids not only perpetuate stereotypes but also are harmful to a child’s self-image. Using that type of language only adds to the patriarchy and the narrative that men are superior to women.
Write to Julia Lin at firstname.lastname@example.org