33 SES 13, Reflections on Gender Studies - Towards a Feminist Pedagogy
Gender consciousness among teachers and students can facilitate the emergence of an important change in schools and society. Teaching has a long history of being a feminized profession internationally with women constituting the majority of the labour force (Coffey and Delamont, 2000; Grumet, 1988). The cultural stereotype that makes teaching and working with children a ‘soft option’, which requires childcare rather than teaching, demanding emotion (a feminine trait) rather than intellect (a masculine trait) is a dominant discourse in schools (Skelton & Francis, 2009; Drudy, 2008). Increasingly, research in China has paid attention to gender issues in education, with several studies revealing the challenge facing rural girls in educational attainment and mixed results in the urban schools (Rong and Shi, 2001; Cheng, 2009; Zeng et al, 2014;). In this sense research in China is dominated by research in gender stereotypes, teachers and parents’ gender expectations, with limited focus on how schools facilitate the construction of the long held gendered assumptions (Cheung, 1996; Yu & Xie, 2010; Yu et.al., 2012).
It should be noted that, although progress toward gender equality has been made during the past decades in China, gender stereotypes relating to gender roles and gender attitudes are still intractable (Cheng, 2009). The relevant causes are complex, but one of the common reasons is the cultural discourse and paradoxical social perception, and the traditional Confucianism, which still has a strong influence on Chinese people's social attitudes towards women and girls. However, the younger generation of teachers (post 90 or generation Ys) are alleged to have less of a sense of hierarchy in the workplace and more of a sense of individuality, compared to older generations (Ding-cai, 2011). Moreover, the post-90s generation in China grew up within the one-child policy era, rapid economic development and Internet popularisation, which are associated with the make of a more democratic and modern environment.
Against this background, the study sought to investigate the formation of secondary female teachers’ gender consciousness through the following questions:
What levels of gender consciousness exist among the new generation of Chinese secondary school female teachers?
How does gender consciousness develop among these teachers and what factors play a key role in the formation of gender consciousness?
How do teachers’ gender consciousness or lack of it influence teachers’ interaction with learners?
To understand the formation of gender consciousness, Downing and Roush (1985) proposed a five-step developmental model of feminist identity development. This model plots feminist identity development from passive acceptance of traditional gender stereotypes toward active commitment to feminist ideals. The first step is passive acceptance, during which the individual could be unaware of, or ignore any form of cultural or otherwise discrimination against her and her role of being a woman. The second stage is revelation, where a crisis is formed when a woman is constantly challenged by prejudices. As the challenge continues, women begin to doubt the reality of the dominant culture and cannot be oblivious to sexism anymore. This betrayal facilitates a gradual shift towards embeddedness, the third stage. Here, women desire to escape from the dominant culture and find similar women with whom to develop a close relationship. It is during this stage that they may take women’s studies or courses that “depict the oppression of women” (Gerstman and Kramer, 1997: 328) which may instigate the withdrawal process from the dominant culture. The next stage, synthesis, women would reintegrate female attributes into dominant patriarchal society, valuing the positive aspects of womanhood. The final stage is active commitment, which is defined as an active commitment to effective social change, aiming at creating a future that transcends gender.
The study employed a feminist research approach, which focused on women，for women and with women, engaging with methodological breaks such as investigating with narratives of data that represent women’s own experiences of daily lives (Doucet and Mauthner, 2006). Feminist research approach not only enabled the provision of some insight into the lives of participants, but also helped to understand the relevance of each of their stories to the context and to each other. Seven female teachers between the ages of 24 and 27 participated in the study through life history interviews. These teachers were selected from one urban secondary school in China. Interviews were conducted in June to July 2016, where each teacher was interviewed two to three times. The first interview was through telephone and collected data on their life history experiences from their childhood background and experience of family, education, culture, love relationship, which lasted for one hour individually. The same question outline was applied to everyone. However, since life experience and personal life stories were involved, the interviewees were allowed to tell stories they thought were important to them. The second interview used telephone as well and mainly asked questions on their current gender practice in classroom, staffroom and other spaces. It also included some relationship with their family, community, like their parents’ response to their job option as teachers. The last part of interviews was emailed interview with open questions, aiming to collect the respondent's self-reflection, which was more subjective and reflexive. As self-reflection could deconstruct one's practices and it could evoke individual's consciousness raising (Naples and Sachs, 2000), the email interview was arranged after finishing two telephone interviews，and some questions asked before were re-examined in this part where necessary. Interviews were conducted and transcribed in a Chinese language, and translated only for writing purposes. Data was analysed through the process of coding borrowed from grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). In this process, data are broken down, examined, grouped into different conceptual categories and compared.
Mixed gendered expectations of the girl as the only child in the nuclear family; All participants in this study, except for one, came from only-girl families. Their answers to the question about their parents’ attitude towards them as girls were mostly positive, but noticeably about their mothers and less about their fathers. However, a bigger difference in attitude towards participants as girl-children was seen amongst the older generation, their grandparents, who still held strong preferences for grandsons. Lack of sex education and awareness of some gender stereotypes in teenager education; The majority of participators felt little about gender differences in the primary school before they entered adolescence. After they went to secondary school, body physical changes pushed them to realise the gender difference. They viewed their school environment as sexual repression, where talking about sex was strictly taboo, and having a love relationship is strictly forbidden as well. The role of university life in the awakening of gender consciousness University experience was often regarded as meaningful in the participations’ identity evolution, where: (i) through studied courses, gathering spaces created a community, where they made friends with classmates and even teachers; (ii) studied courses provided space for independent thinking and traditional and radical identities emerged; (iii) through social media, communication with peers became an important element of the formation of gender consciousness, including the relationship with peer friends, and lovers. Practice as a teacher and self-reflection during work Teachers believed that they were progressive, but they appear to lack agency and still held to traditional stereotypes. They still tell “boys to help girls with heavy loads because one day they would be fathers and husbands and must learn to be real men” and they tell girls not to be “too aggressive but be gentle”.
Cheng, H. (2009). Inequality in basic education in China: A comprehensive review. International Journal of Educational Policies, 3(2): 81-106. Cheung, F. M. (1996). Gender role development. In S. Lau (ed), Growing up the Chinese way: Chinese child and adolescent development, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 45-67. Coffey, A., & Delamont, S. (2000). Feminism and the classroom teacher: research, praxis, and pedagogy. London: Routledge Falmer. Ding-cai, Z. (2011). Psychological and behavioral characteristics of the post-90s college students and the strategies for educating and managing them. Journal of Higher Education Management, 5, 022. Downing, N. E., & Roush, K. L. (1985). From passive acceptance to active commitment a model of feminist identity development for women. The Counseling Psychologist, 13(4), 695-709. Doucet, A., & Mauthner, N. (2006). Feminist methodologies and epistemology. In C. D. Bryant, CD and D. L. Peck (eds), Handbook of 21st Century Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 26-32. Drudy, S. (2008). Gender balance/gender bias: The teaching profession and the impact of feminisation. Gender and Education, 20(4): 309-323. Gerstmann, E. A and Kramer, D. A (1997) Feminist identity development: Psychometric analyses of two feminist identity scales, Sex Roles, 36(5-6): 327-348 Grumet, M. R. (1988). Bitter milk: Women and teaching. Amhest: The University of Massachusetts Press. Naples, N. A., & Sachs, C. (2000). Standpoint epistemology and the uses of self-reflection in feminist ethnography: Lessons for rural sociology. Rural Sociology, 65(2): 194. Rong, X. L., & Shi, T. (2001). Inequality in Chinese education. Journal of Contemporary China, 10(26): 107-124. Yu, L., & Xie, D. (2010). Multidimensional gender identity and psychological adjustment in middle childhood: A study in China. Sex Roles, 62(1-2): 100-113. Skelton, C., & Francis, B. (2009). Feminism and 'the schooling scandal'. London: Routledge. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: techniques and procedures of developing grounded theory (4th end). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Zeng, J., Pang, X., Zhang, L., Medina, A., & Rozelle, S. (2014). Gender inequality in education in China: a meta‐regression analysis. Contemporary Economic Policy, 32(2), 474-491.
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